Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Grilled chicken hearts skewers


Last summer, when I was just getting started with the first small caterings, I got offered to take care of the catering during the shoot of a photographic session for Lucie Bila at Certovy schody. It has been a great day: I got to meet the famous singer (and she is absolutely a sweetheart, smiley and caring  with everyone on the set), I spent the day near Anna (my girlfriend) who was at the time 8 months pregnant but still taking photos, I got the chance to cook in a breathtaking location, a strange mix between a lunar crater and the Gobi desert, using a vintage AirStream caravan as base.
The dish which blew the crew away were grilled chicken hearts skewers with chimichurri. The crew was very curious about the method of preparation of the chicken hearts, so I promised myself that one of the first posts on my blog would be about it.
I fell in love with chicken hearts when I was a kid, and liver was still too “raw” for me (luckily I grew over that taboo). The best description of their taste I know of is this one by Alaina Sullivan: “Oft-neglected and under-appreciated, they taste like little nuggets of dark chicken meat with a slightly metallic aftertaste (c'mon, think of all the blood they pumped), and their chewy texture is further reminder of how hard the little muscles used to work”. The chewiness, though, needs to be tamed with a marinade, which allows the fibers of the meat to relax and be ready for the grill, so that the result is an external crispness and an enjoyable consistence inside. Hearts and their "odd part" cousins (such as tongue, liver, tail, brain and other byproducts of butchery) aren't frequently appreciated, although in Czech Republic some chefs are doing amazing things with them (Oldrich Sahajdak, chef of La Degustation, makes and amazing dish with the beef tongue) and the general perception is changing.

Piercing and grilling hearts on a stick makes them easy to enjoy in a dynamic situation such is a photo shoot, and with a open air grill the results are delicious.  I marinated the hearts for several hours, threaded them onto brochettes (I followed Sullivan tip to make them from whittled-down chopsticks), then grilled them and served with a fresh and spicy chimichurri. At home I opted for the oven grill, but the hearts would really benefit from an open fire grill so they could take on the smoky flavor of wood or charcoal. As soon as the spring is back I am planning to take full advantage of the barbecue place.


1 qt cold water
2 Tbsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 lb chicken hearts, visible arteries trimmed
1/2 cup flat parsley, finely chopped
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lemon
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Dried chilly peppers
Sea salt


1. Combine 1 quart cold water with 2 tablespoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon of cane sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add chicken hearts, squeeze half lemon juice in it, cover, and chill for 3 to 5 hours.

2. Drain chicken hearts. Thread hearts onto presoaked wooden skewers, leaving about 1/2 inch between them, and place between paper towels to dry.

3. Heat grill or grill pan over high. Meanwhile, make chimichurri by combining 1/2 cup chopped parsley and cilantro with 1 minced garlic clove, 4 parts olive oil and 1 part red wine vinegar, about a teaspoon of honey, plus crushed red chilly peppers and sea salt. (I didn't measure, simply adjust to desired taste and consistency.)

4. When grill is hot, brush chicken hearts with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place skewers over heat and cook, turning occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes total.
Another option is to place in the pre heated oven, on baking paper, just sprinkling with olive oil, with the “grill” mode on (200 degrees), for 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Serve with chimichurri.

TIP: Poultry is tricky nowadays, avoid at all cost chicken coming from intensive farming producers. Look for free range chicken. If you don’t know any farmer try quality butcheries which embrace that philosophy: The Real Meat Society (www.trms.cz), for instance, is one of them.

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