Today I figured it was time to introduce one of the more controversial food categories to the blog – offals. The first example shall be a simple but delicious chicken heart stew, made the Hungarian way. While I realise many people might have second thoughts about eating various internal organs such as heart, liver, kidney, stomach, brain, etc., I think it is simply a matter of social programming and there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t consider, for instance, the heart of an animal an edible food. It’s fairly good quality protein after all. Open minded people ought to be much more adventurous (and self-critical) than simply following their social programming, and ought to judge food by its taste and nutritional value. Both of which are perfectly fine in the case of chicken hearts.
So I went down to the butcher and bought nearly half kilo of the stuff – the hearts of roughly 40 chickens, I estimated. What better cooking material to use with some death metal playing in the background?
Ingredients for 2:
- 400 g chicken hearts
- 50-100 g bacon, cut into small cubes
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tomato
- oil for frying
- 1 tbsp paprika powder
- 1/3 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- salt, to taste
As it so often happens, I started with chopping the onion. I also cut the tomato into tiny pieces. Optionally you can drop it into boiling water for a minute or so to be able to pull off its skin easily, but I preferred not to bother with it as I figured the tomato as well as its skin will almost completely disintegrate by the end of the cooking. I cleaned 2 garlic cloves and put them aside. I also cut the bacon to small cubes. Finally, I prepared the hearts for cooking: I washed them under the tap and cut the bigger ones in half lengthwise.
I put a large pan on high heat and heated roughly 2 tbsp of oil, then I added in the onion and bacon cubes and on medium heat, with constant stirring I fried it until soft. Midway I added about half tbsp salt to it – it helps the onion to soften faster.
When the onion was soft and started to turn golden I added the paprika powder. This is the heart of this meal, at least the way we like it in Hungary. I used fresh sweet paprika powder from the latest season. Optionally, you can add some hot paprika powder in addition to the sweet one.
Immediately after adding the paprika I took the pan off the heat until I mixed everything together. You ought to be careful when doing this as the paprika easily burns on heat, giving a bitter taste to the whole meal. I added 1 dl of water and put the pan back on the heat for a minute, still constantly mixing.
I tossed in the tomato pieces and the hearts and added enough water to almost cover the hearts. I brought everything to a boil then continued to cook on low to medium heat with occasional stirring. After 5 minutes I added more salt, 1/3 tbsp black pepper (change the amount according to taste) and crushed in the 2 garlic cloves. I covered the pan with a glass lid and continued to cook for about half hour more with an occasional stirring every 5-10 minutes or so. Also replace the evaporated water as needed.
The hearts can be tricky – sometimes they are completely soft after 25 minutes but sometimes they need much more time. It is up to chance, depends on the source of the meat really and this variety is most likely down to the way the chickens were fed. Don’t be bothered by a longer cooking time – it most likely means that you are cooking the hearts of chickens that were raised healthier. Hearts are supposed to be chewy. Just give them as much time as they need.
When testing with a fork revealed that the hearts were soft I tasted the juicy liquid around them and added the final touches to the spicing as needed. It ought to be rather spicy not just because we Hungarians like it that way but also because the hearts themselves don’t take in much of the spices, so the juice should have a stronger taste to balance everything out.
The final result was a deliciously smelling, nice stew in a spicy juice of strong red colour in which the bacon, onions and tomato completely disintegrated, forming a thick liquid. I served it with boiled potato that I run through a hot pan with butter and lots of dried parsley. It was a satisfying dinner for two.
With this meal I chose to share of my later discoveries, Omnium Gatherum, this melodic/progressive death metal band from Finland, and their awesome song The New Dynamic from their latest album Beyond (2013). Hope you enjoy it!