Yesterday, The Boston Globe published a short piece by me on an event I’m really excited to be attending tomorrow: a screening of two documentaries about Peruvian food. While Peruvian food sounds off-topic for a blog about local eating, I have long meant to write about one Peruvian dish here because of the role it has played in my (albeit limited) nose-to-tail eating at home.
I had hoped joining the meat CSA would encourage Nate and I to eat more than just the popular parts of animals you find everywhere. But so far our offal adventures are off to an awful start. Or rather a non-start: While we’ve been known to eat brain, cockscomb, feet and other offal when it’s prepared by a talented chef, we just haven’t invested much time in learning how to prepare those parts at home. (Bad carnivores, I know.)
The exception to this has been cow heart, which Nate and I snatch up any time we happen to find it. That’s because cow heart is the star ingredient in an amazingly tasty Peruvian dish called anticuchos, in which the beef is marinated and grilled as kebabs.
The first time I tried anticuchos, Nate and I were with his family, celebrating his mom’s birthday at Los Andes, a restaurant in Providence. Anticuchos were the appetizer special, and even Nate’s mom (born in Bolivia, the next-door neighbor to where the dish originates) had not heard of them. We ordered a plate to sample but all agreed not to tell my sister-in-law—who does not eat beef and was in a queasy phase of pregnancy to boot—what the rest of us were snacking on, as we had ordered it while she was away from the table. (Of course, the radio later seemed hell-bent on eliciting some sort of “Tell Tale Heart” confessional outburst—playing a song in which the singer warbled about his corazon over and over again, as we all chewed our beef in increasingly awkward silence.)
That said, the snack was tasty (if occasionally chewy) and now anticuchos are always top of my list to order at places like Machu Picchu in Somerville’s Union Square. Eventually, Nate and I craved anticuchos so much that we wanted to make the dish at home.
Using a cow heart we bought for a dollar from the Chestnut Farms parts bin last winter, Nate followed a recipe he found online, pounding the heart with a meat tenderizer for 15 minutes and marinating the pieces overnight just to make sure the meat was tender through and through. He used aji pepper (about 2 teaspoons) instead of chili pepper and skipped the veggies entirely; the skewers were gobbled up at a family gathering by even the least-adventurous eaters.
Should you want to make anticuchos at home (and you should, because they are so wicked cheap and tasty), you can order cow heart from Stillman’s for pickup at a farmers’ market or at a winter Meat Meet, as well as from Concord Prime & Fish with a week’s notice. (As a non-local last resort, try a supermarket with a more diverse customer base, such as Tropical Foods in Roxbury or some area Market Baskets).
As you prepare anticuchos, I suggest listening to “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells. The song has a chorus of “Have a heart, have a heart, have a heart” and, like anticuchos, is a poppy treat from a seemingly edgy source.