Forget the chocolate and caviar: We went a bit more literal and asked four chefs to cook up something with (actual) heart. Here’s what they did with their bloody valentine.
Yumiko Kobayashi’s spring heart salad (pictured at top)
Since the chef at Wind Up Bird Café prefers to keep her dishes light and bright, she opted for a springtime theme, complete with romantic pink petals made of watermelon radishes. To make the heavy beef heart pop with flavour and colour, Kobayashi pairs the thinly sliced organ (cooked sous-vide) with a raspberry-pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette for a fruity contrast, then adds a sweet pomelo jello. The plate is finished with snap peas and slivers of celery, which curl prettily when placed in water. Less pretty: prepping the heart, which requires a day-long soak in water to get rid of the excess blood.
Wind Up Bird Café, 382 College St., #COL, 647-349-6373.
Rob Gentile’s beef-heart spiedini
Gentile immediately thought of his new dish at the just-opened Bar Buca. “I love hearts and we use them for several dishes at Buca,” he says. “Nose-to-tail eating is quite normal in Italian cooking, so there are lots of recipes with organ meats.” Gentile vacuum-seals the heart overnight in a brine of Chianti, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, and thyme, then slices it thinly and adds layers of red wine–pickled radicchio and cipollini onions in a spiedini (skewer) box. Each skewer is grilled to a slight char, which adds some smoke to temper the sweetness.
Bar Buca, 75 Portland St., #KGW, 416-599-2822.
Rudy Boquila’s fried chicken hearts and gizzards
“The only heart dish I could remember was the one my mother made,” says the chef of Lamesa Filipino Kitchen. So that’s what he made, first braising chicken hearts and gizzards in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorn, and bay leaves for two hours, then dunking them in evaporated milk and vinegar to mute their, um, organ-ness. While his mom would serve the organs at that stage, Boquila dredges them in flour and sends them to the deep fryer. The result is a bittersweet, gamey nugget with a gently tart aftertaste, which goes well with a bowl of garlic rice.
Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, 669 Queen St. W., #WQW, 647-346-2377.
Jesse Grasso’s horse heart crudo
Since he started at The Black Hoof, Grasso says he’s become a real fan of working with horse heart. “It has the richness of beef heart, but I find it a bit sweeter.” After taking out the excess fat and connective tissue, he slices and pounds the heart to tenderize it. The raw heart is paired with steamed clams for a little seaweed tang, then dressed up with an ochre vinaigrette of anchovies, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, sherry, and vinegar. Pickled ramps and fried garlic add a punch of sour and salt to the milder-tasting heart—just the thing to ring in the Year of the Horse.
The Black Hoof, 928 Dundas St. W., #DNW, 416-551-8854. On Feb. 14, The Black Hoof will offer five fitting specials of dishes that feature beef, pork, chicken, duck, and horse hearts.