What better way to celebrate the day of love than to eat the actual symbol of love?
Two of my cousins took deer late last year and sent me the hearts at my request, which I froze for safe keeping. Deer heart is actually one of the leanest and tastiest parts of the deer – the first deer heart I ever had was from a reindeer, and it was smoked. While the flavor was good, the meat was a little tougher than most people would enjoy. This time, I decided to slice and pan sear the hearts fajita meat style. Cardiac muscle is VERY dense, so cooking the heart whole is not recommended, and tenderizing is a good idea if you’re not a fan of thorough chewing.
I recommend removing the pericardium and thawing the hearts in salt water to remove some of the gamey flavor – I’ve heard you can also do this in milk, or buttermilk, to further tenderize the meat, but I’ve never tried it.
To start, I sliced the thawed hearts in half and rinsed all the remaining blood out of the chambers. There’s more blood than you think in there, so explore the valves and chambers with your fingertips and be sure to rinse out as much blood as possible, unless you don’t mind it all over your cutting board. I sliced the hearts along the major arteries and veins. I removed and discarded all of these, along with the tough, fibrous ligaments on the inside walls of the heart. Lastly, I shaved the white fatty tissue from the outside surfaces of the meat.
I cut the chunks into thin slices and simultaneously melted butter in a very hot skillet. I added salt, garlic, and black pepper before dropping in my slices and searing them only for a minute, turning and stirring constantly.
I could’ve (and possibly should’ve) added mushrooms, onions, some herbs and spices, and some cooking wine… yeah. Whatever. I ate this, and only this, straight from the pan with my bare fingers once it cooled enough that I could touch it. Did I share some of it with someone I love? You bet! I gave some to Max and Lucy, my loyal canine roommates.