The focus of February tends to be Valentine’s Day, which means the realms of food and booze focus on dates or gifts: chocolates, assorted candies and sparkling wine. We decided to take a more metaphorical approach to the holiday by taking a more literal approach to the poetic seat of love – the heart.
In talking to chefs around the city, we learned that nearly every restaurant steers clear of serving beef or pork heart, and even smaller, less intense offerings like chicken and duck are a hard sell. Chris McKenna, culinary director at Taqueria El Camino in the Edmond Railyard, said he’s occasionally served duck hearts as specials at previous restaurant gigs, but most menus don’t offer them regularly because they don’t sell.
“No owner or chef is really that brave,” he says. “They sold well as a special to adventurous eaters, and the staff would order them because they’ve tried them, but people don’t usually eat outside their comfort level.”
Russ Johnson, chef-partner of Ludivine, has served hearts in the past, too. Ludivine is the kind of restaurant that takes nose-to-tail dining seriously, using every part of the animal out of respect, and because, frankly, those often-cast-off pieces are delicious when prepared properly.
“I’ve done beef heart Bourguignon and even lamb heart merguez (sausage), but organ meats are unconventional by most people’s standards,” Johnson says. “The heart is just a muscle, so it should be more approachable than kidney or liver, and it braises beautifully. I think part of the problem is availability, too; there is just one per animal, so even if you want to serve the whole animal, you have a portion issue.”
So, where can a bold diner find hearts in the Oklahoma City metro? To expand this for our vegetarian friends, we included artichoke hearts and hearts of palm, and, as with the animal hearts, the dishes are unique and delicious.
Hatsu (chicken hearts) at Gun Izakaya, 3000 Paseo.
The chicken heart skewer is a traditional yakitori dish, and Chef Jeff Chanchaleune’s is as good an introduction as you’ll find. To minimize the somewhat iron-y taste of heart, he uses a sweet-savory house sauce, a misting of sake and a blend of sea salt and house spices.
Artichoke hearts at Patrono, 305 N Walker.
Chef Jonathan Krell said he loves artichokes precisely because they’re hard to work with. “If you treat it right, it treats you even better,” he says. His artichoke hearts are marinated five to six days in olive oil, garlic, oregano and basil. That’s about how long it takes to soften the fibrous inner tissue – it is a thistle, after all. He breads them with flour, egg wash and seasoned bread crumbs, and then deep-fries them. They’re served with agliata sauce – an intense, garlicky condiment – and they’re as delicious as they are beautiful.
Hearts of palm ceviche at Frida Southwest, 500 Paseo.
One of the more creative dishes around OKC, Chef Quinn Carroll’s ceviche uses hearts of palm and kelp seasoning “to mimic the bite of fish. It also allows us to meet the demand for more plant-based options, and we’re happy to do that,” Carroll says. The dish is made with hearts of palm, lime juice, kelp seasoning, pickled onions, heirloom tomatoes, a coconut pepita “crunch” and an avocado puree. Omnivores can (and arguably should) get it with Serrano ham, as well.