Philippe de Champaigne’s painting Saint Augustine (1645-1650) presents the image of a burning heart in the theologian’s hand to emphasize his burning love of knowledge, truth and God. A smoking heart has much to do with a love of taste, and with that, a few words about taste from the Journal of René Redzepi:
The connection between eating well and ethical food production is implicit. Treating our produce with care is obvious to receive the finest tastes, but also indisputable if we are to provide the next generation with a solid foundation. We have to learn about our appetite, our taste, our bodies and our sense of good food, just as we have to learn about our environment, our planet and what is edible and what is not. A new curiosity, a new sense of exploration, a new appetite for the world—we are indeed gastronauts, not exploring the Moon, but Earth.
I love the idea of a gastronaut, turning the surface level of the planet into deep space. From depths of oceans, to roots in dark soil, to what forages and grows, to our pots and pans, to the knives and forks in a restaurant–this is the realm of the gastronaut, a profession requiring travel. A year ago, my family and I explored food halls in Stockholm, Hötorgshallen–a wonder to behold. Cafes, restaurants, butchers, fishmongers, purveyors of cheese, chocolate, bread, and the gatherings of flora and fauna from across the Baltic world including the glorious smoked meats, the tender pieces of moose, reindeer, bear, elk darkly ruminating in vacuum packages. I present, the smoked reindeer heart.
Heart remains compressed and more tightly woven together than a usual cut of meat, and it’s juicy, of course, with a taste of smoke. This is not be warmed up, but had cold, preferably matched with smoked bear, smoked eel, and blood sausage.
M.F.K. Fisher has precise thoughts on heart.
Another vital part of beef is the heart, which is not well enough known as a meat unusually rich in vitamins and minerals too. A large heart should be stuffed with a regular poultry-dressing, aromatic with fresh or dried herbs, and basted often with fat of rick stock in a slow oven until it is tender. The process is rather long, but is well worth it if you can fit other things into the oven at the same time.
Smaller hearts can be split, braised, and simmered in the oven or a heavy skillet with strips of bacon, until they are tender. Then put them under the broiler long enough to brown. (272)
So I bought a beef heart at Fiesta, brined it with allspice pods, bay leaves, brown sugar, cardamon, cloves, juniper berries, and salt for three days.
On the fourth day, when God keeps busy separating day from night, making the sun, moon and stars, I smoke a well-brined heart for many hours.
I then bring it in, let it rest overnight; in the morning slice thin strips, place in a baking dish, and smother with a BBQ sauce ripe with apple cider vinegar, black pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and vegetable stock. In it goes for a very low and long bake.
When I pull the heart out of the oven, the muscle has become quite soft and, of course, tangy. I pair with wilted greens simmered in canola oil, butter with garlic, and capers. Time to eat my smoked heart. Would Augustine share this dish with me? Dante? Beatrice? Hannibal?
In Episode 5 “Coquilles,” Season 1 of Hannibal, a discussion concerning cruelty takes place over cold foie gras and warm figs between Hannibal, Jack and “Bella” Crawford.
Would I be a horrible guest if I skipped this course?
First and worst sign of sociopathic behavior — cruelty to animals.
That doesn’t apply in the kitchen.
I have no taste for animal cruelty. The goose, in this case the gander, is not force fed. It eats only as much as it chooses and only in its natural environment.
One traditional method of making foie gras features force-deeding geese until their livers are engorged, shoving a gavage down their throats and pumping corn meal. Another, equally traditional method allows the geese to gorge themselves on what is on the ground as they do before winter and then carefully harvest the animals for their livers. Delicious. Chef Dan Barber explains what Hannibal already knows and chooses.
How will we address our cruelty? How much of it is an aesthetic choice? How much cruelty is essential to our existence? How much is natural to our existence? This puts me in mind of a wonderful Nick Lowe song, riffing on Shakespeare, of course. I have much to think about concerning food, inner organs, cannibalism and animal cruelty. Bon Appétit!