We grew up with my parents buying whole chickens from the grocery, and these birds would come with livers, hearts and gizzards. My favorite little morsel was the heart. It was a treat to find it in whatever dish Mom cooked — especially in that chicken in mushroom soup sauce that I re-invented in an earlier post. The gizzard was fine; slightly tough, but I’ll eat that too. Even then, I ate them. (A major reason I think the concept of “kid’s food” is waaaay overrated. Yeah, kids like things sweeter, but beyond that… I think ideas get programmed in that are not really Real, and if you just give kids the alleged “kid’s food”, that’s what they come to expect. Self-fulfilling prophecy.) Regards to sweets — my parents claimed that Easter was time to throw out the leftover Halloween candy we hadn’t eaten, and that Halloween was the time to throw out the leftover Easter candy we’d not eaten. Granted, we still liked sweets but we were mighty selective.
Nowadays you almost can’t find hearts or gizzards anywhere… the whole chickens no longer seem to come with. Or often even with the neck, so good in adding to soup stock or bone broth. We’re lucky they still sell whole chickens! I guess they’re grinding up the offal into hot dogs and pet food, along with sawdust and gristle, and grains that especially cats (obligate carnivores) cannot remotely process. It’s not that great for dogs, either.
At any rate, when I picked up a 2.5 pound bag of chicken innards (hearts, livers, gizzards) at a recent farmer’s market, I was ecstatic. Price was excellent, too. Yeah, yeah, I know… small pleasures!
I got the parts home, separated them, freezing the livers for a future paté — it’s going to be a LOT of paté, I fear. Maybe I’ll check out, or invent some other recipes, too. I’m not real fond of chicken liver straight up. We will see — these are pastured chicken livers, so I’m thinking of trying a few things at once, when I get around to them. Paté can indeed be frozen.
Out of a 2.5 pound bag, there was alas only 5 ounces of chicken heart. Never mind; we will do that up right!
Chicken Hearts Pan Fried with Hearts of Palm and Garlic
Scale the below up, in case you luck out into more hearts than the below:
* 5 ounces chicken hearts
* 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon oil for marinating, another half teaspoon for sauteing. (I used olive oil to marinate; after I started cooking it occurred to me that sesame oil would be great for flavor — so I used that for sauteing. Probably a good mixture balance.)
* 1/2 teaspoon of unflavored, unsweetened rice vinegar (NOT the sushi rice vinegar. I was all out of pure rice vinegar, so I used coconut vinegar — both are milder than regular vinegars, and work well with this dish.)
* 1.5 teaspoons of your favorite tamari — mine is San J’s gluten-free low sodium tamari. It’s not heavy-tasting like some of the highly fermented brands, nor is is too, too mild, as I often find coconut aminos to be. But choose what you need or desire.
* Pinch of turmeric
* 1/3 teaspoon dried savory (if you can’t find savory, just increase the thyme or use tarragon.)
* 1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 1 stalk green onion, chopped
* 1 ~6 inch stalk of hearts of palm. They come in tall jars at your friendly neighborhood Costco or BJ’s. Slice into approximately quarter-inch thick rounds. (I originally planned to use a small can of those bamboo shoots in water, but my home pantry was all out.)
If you need to clean off any excess fat from the top of the hearts, remove with a sharp paring knife. I was lucky — only one heart in this batch was in need of trimming. This isn’t usual, alas. With fatty hearts, you can lose up to 1/3 the weight. Anyhow, the 14 hearts depicted below, essentially all but one clean, yielded 5 ounces. Let that guide you!
Marinate everything together but the green onion and the heart of palm (although if you wish to, go for it, but I don’t think doing that is optimal…) in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Heat up the second portion of oil in a skillet on medium high (sesame oil, as noted in my case, but choose what you will.) Toss everything into this skillet — you can still hold off on the green onion and hearts of palm for a couple more minutes, if you so chose — mix around the ingredients as they cook about every minute, and add in the green onion and hearts of palm somewhere early on. When you think you are done, cut open one of the larger hearts — if still pink, cook another couple minutes, and then check another heart.
Serve. And no, when I made this dish and selected hearts of palm, I wasn’t thinking: “chicken hearts of palm”… it really was serendipitous that the two main items in this dish have overlapping names!
The above serves one. Scale up if you luck into more hearts.
Gizzards sautéed with Okra, Mushrooms and Tomato
One can of course cook the gizzards with the hearts, or the hearts with the gizzards, but since the gizzards are so much bigger, I find that I lose the hearts in the mix. So if I have enough of them, they cook separately. (I do so hate losing heart… sorry, couldn’t resist.)
In this dish, I combine two ingredients a lot of people shy away from: the gizzard, and okra. Yes, okra has some slime, and there are ways of cutting that, but I like okra, slimy or otherwise. (For a food texture I run from, I’d have to list cottage cheese. Those curds.)
* 1 pound chicken gizzards, cut into thirds
* okra, stems removed, and if the tips are brown, remove those, too, Cut okra into halves or thirds, depending on size. (You want pieces to be an inch or so long).
* 4-6 ounces button mushrooms, halved if small – if larger, chop further
* 1 large tomato (or two small), chopped (remove the skin — best done by quickly blanching then plunging into cold water). Roughly chop. Do not use a paste tomato such as the Roma; you want the full liquid content of the tomato.
* 1/2 small onion, chopped
* Butter, ghee, or avocado oil, 2 teaspoons
* Salt and pepper to taste, grind fresh if possible.
* Optional, cilantro as garnish
In a large skillet suitable to holding the above, heat up the cooking oil or butter medium high, until it just begins to think about smoking. Add the onions.
Reduce heat to medium; allow the onions to become translucent. Then, add everything except the optional cilantro.
Stir around on and off until the gizzards and okra become fully cooked, 20-25 minutes. Serve in bowls — this made about three meals. Top with cilantro, if you have any. (I didn’t, alas.) While gizzards aren’t my favorite (they are a little tough), the flavor is good and they can be packed with nutrition.