COEUR DE BOEUF – Beef Heart Stew

 Now that we have lots of beef, it will be easy to find recipes in La Cuisine to try.  As R. Blondeau says, “Beef is the base of our cuisine; if the flavor and quality changes with the cuts of meat used, it remains nutritious and enjoyable.”

Most of the beef from last week is still at the butcher where it is being hung and aged, and then will be cut and processed into steaks, roasts, soup bones, and ground beef.  But we have all the organs – the liver, heart, spleen, and kidneys.

This recipe calls for a beef heart and a calf’s foot (I used a cow’s foot instead – boned out, of course – it’s just the inside of the foot, not the dirty hoof).  Beef heart is rich in things that nourish our hearts, like B12, iron, selenium, and CoQ10.

I’ve seen so many recipes with unusual ingredients like this that say, “Find a good butcher.”  But most modern “butcher” sections of stores no longer get whole carcasses that they have to deal with.  They are shipped pre-cut sections of meat.  They might be able to trim off fat or grind up a roast, but that’s about it.  If you start asking for beef hearts or calves’s feet, they won’t be able to help you.  Local custom butchers, or farmers who direct-market their meat would be the place to look.

If you are a local, Dennis and Alicia Stolzfoos of Full Circle Farm sell high-quality local grass-fed beef heart.

If you can’t find a calf’s foot, I would suggest using some stew bones or marrow bones, oxtail, or a beef knuckle instead – something cartilaginous rather than meaty.

Another thing that might be unfamiliar are the instructions for larding.  I had never heard of larding until I read Jane Grigson’s French Pork Cookery book. Larding is where slices of bacon or lard are threaded through the meat.  It adds fat and moisture during cooking.  I don’t have a larding needle (I guess I should find one), and I skipped this step when I prepared this recipe.  It was still very tender and delicious.

If you are going to try larding, I should mention that you are supposed to lard it along the grain of the meat, so when the meat is sliced across the grain you get nice slices within the meat, rather than a big hunk of bacon or lard.

This recipe is in two parts.  The direct translations might seem complicated, but don’t worry – I’ve re-written it in a simpler and more approachable format below.  There is a very long cooking time with this – and I know long cooking times can seem daunting in a recipe.

These are my favorite kinds of recipes in the winter.  It’s actually quite quick and easy to brown the meat and get everything simmering slowly on the back of the stove, where it warms the kitchen and makes the whole house smell delicious. At the end of the day, when I am generally tired and don’t feel like being on my feet in the kitchen, the main dish is all ready, needing only a quick salad and bread (or cassava, which is what we have) to complete the meal.

beef-heart-stew2

COEUR DE BOEUF (Beef Heart)

Split a beef heart in half, without separating the pieces.  Pull out the blood clots from the middle, wash it, lard it, and prepare as for Boeuf a la Mode.
 

BOEUF A LA MODE  (Beef, Modern-style)

 Choose a nice cut of top steak or rump steak (culotte), well-shaped and not weighing less than three pounds.
Prick with lardons between the fibres of the meat, and thread them through and brown with butter on all sides.
Remove it for a moment, and arrange some slices of bacon or lard in the bottom of the pot, let them brown with a calf’s foot chopped into pieces, an onion pricked with a clove.  Add your beef back on top of the bacon or lard, surrounding the pieces of calf’s foot, pour over a glass of Bordeaux cognac, and put on the fire.
Season with salt and pepper, and add a cup of broth, cover and let cook over a low fire for seven hours.
Three hours before serving, add a half dozen of good-sized carrots in slices, or a dozen whole small carrots, and, an hour beforehand, two or three white onions.
This can be served hot or cold.
Hot, serve it arranged on a plate, surrounded by the pieces of calf’s foot, the bacon, the onions and carrots, de-fat the sauce and pour the juice over everything.
Cold, cut it while still hot into thin slices and lay them out in a ring on a plate, add the carrots, and pour the sauce over everything and let it chill/gel.
For family dinners, it is generally served hot, and then the leftovers are served cold in a later meal.
beef-heart-stew

 

Beef Heart Stew

1 beef heart
Several slices of lard or bacon for larding (optional), plus a few additional slices for cooking
1 cow or calf’s foot, boned out and cut into pieces (or substitute soup bones, oxtail, etc)
Butter for browning
3 onions
1 clove
1 cup of Bordeaux cognac (a brandy made from wine)
1 cup of broth (you can use water, but the final dish won’t be as rich or flavorful.  Type of broth is not specified.  I used what I had on hand, which happened to be chicken/turkey stock)
6 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
OR 12 small carrots, whole
salt and pepper to taste
1.  Slice open the beef heart without cutting the two halves apart, and pull out the clotted blood.  I also trimmed the top and cut out the heart strings.  Rinse thoroughly.  If you are larding it, prick it in several places on each half, always pulling the lard or bacon through along the grain of the meat.
2.  In a large stock pot, melt the butter and brown the beef heart on all sides.  While it is browning, halve an onion and stick one of the halves with a whole clove.
3.  Pull out the heart and set it aside.  Arrange some slices of bacon or lard on the bottom of the pot and let them brown with the pieces of calf’s foot (or the soup bones), and the onion stuck with a clove.
4.  When they are browned, add the heart back on top, surrounded with the pieces of calf’s foot.  Pour over a glass of Bordeaux cognac.  Season with salt and pepper, add a cup of broth, cover and let cook over a low flame for about four hours.
5.  Add the carrots (either the large carrots sliced into rounds OR the small carrots whole).  Cover the pot again, and keep cooking over the low flame for a couple more hours.
6.  Add two medium onions, sliced.  Cover the pot again and let cook for another hour.

7.  To serve this dish hot, arrange the meat and vegetables on a serving dish.  De-fat the sauce and drizzle it over everything.

To serve it cold, slice the meat while it is still warm and arrange the slices in a ring on a plate.  Add the carrots and other ingredients in the middle.  Pour the sauce over everything and let it cool (or chill in the fridge).

For family dinners, this is usually served hot, and then the leftovers are served cold for the next meal.

Notes:  This recipe was absolutely delicious.  Rose said she gave it six stars!  (Out of five, I think)  When I added the cognac, a delicious smell of vanilla and caramelized meat filled the kitchen.  The sauce was intense.  The meat was tender and full of savory, meaty flavor.  It was very rich and filling.

This recipe did not need much tending-to. With the long cooking time and not much liquid added, I kept checking on it to make sure it hadn’t cooked dry.  The liquid level actually increased the longer it cooked, and it ended up quite saucy at the end.

I was also skeptical about the instructions to de-fat the sauce, thinking that was an unnecessary step, but it ended up with a half inch of tallow on top (even without the larding), so I did skim it once I had pulled the meat and veggies out.  There are no specific instructions for de-fatting sauces that I have come across yet, but it seems to be a standard instruction.  Skimming with a ladle seemed to work well.  I prepared some to try cold the next day, and it was also very good.  The sauce is so rich in gelatin that it sets like aspic over the slices of cold meat.

{My grandmother, Claudia Meraud, was born in Nice, France.   She immigrated to the US after meeting my grandfather while he was stationed there as a US soldier in WW II.  We spent several summers together, just the two of us, living with her sister in Nice.  She passed along to me an old French cookbook titled  title is La Cuisine:  Guide Practique De La Ménagère by R. Blondeau, Chef de Cuisine.  It originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Lucie Thomas, who was a native of St. Marie-aux-Mines in Alsace.

This cookbook was published in the 1930’s, and was written as a practical guide for a household cook before the days of the fridge and the food processor.  The recipes are delicious, practical, and (of course) packed with good traditional nutrition.

I am creating translated versions of these antique recipes, re-written for the modern cook, and tested with home-grown and seasonal food.}

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