Braised Beef Heart

“Most housekeepers get into a ‘rut’ and buy the same steaks, chops and roast each week, having no repertoire of cheaper dishes,” an 1888 edition of Table Talk laments. The author suggests that “a beef’s heart or a braised calf’s liver make an excellent and economical change.” Certainly beef heart is one of the more neglected pieces of meat. And this is indeed a sad fact. For beef heart, if properly cooked, is quite delicious — and exceptionally nutritious.

Here’s an economical and tasty recipe for braised beef heart from food.com. Serve this dish with a green salad and a crusty loaf of sourdough bread.

Braised Beef Heart

3 lbs beef heart
3 tablespoons onion soup mix
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 cube beef bouillon
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1. Trim any fat off the heart. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut off any large pieces of the connective tissue around the top of the meat.

2. Roll into a roast form and tie with string.

3 Brown in the oil on all sides.

4. Put in a dutch oven and add the onion, cut into about 8 pieces, and all the other ingredients, except the bread crumbs.

5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours, turning every hour.

6. After 2 hours, add the bread crumbs.

7. When done, remove heart and use an immersion blender or regular blender to smooth the gravy. If desired, you can thicken the gravy some more with a water and flour mixture, bringing it to the boil.

8. Slice the heart lengthwise into 1/4″ slices.

A Viennese Favorite: Tafelspitz

Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, was a notoriously fast eater. This proved troublesome to the court as every time he entertained his highest military officials, Franz Joseph was the first to be served. The rules of etiquette at the time dictated that once the Emperor stopped eating, everyone at the table must also finish their meals. Because of the rapidity with which he finished his meals, the soldiers were never able to finish their meals, leaving the table as hungry as when they first arrived.

Taking pity on the hungry soldiers, the court chefs created a simple but delicious dish that could be quickly prepared and brought to table: Tafelspitz, or Viennese boiled beef. Franz Joseph was so enamored of the new recipe of boiled beef and vegetables that he insisted upon having it at almost every meal.

Below is a recipe for Tafelspitz from aboutvienna.org. Use a well-aged tri tip, or a piece from the bottom sirloin primal cut, but almost any large cut of beef will suffice for making this recipe. Serve the finished dish with roasted sliced potatoes or a mix of apples, cream and horseradish. Because the process of boiling the beef results in a delicious stock, Tafelspitz is an economical dish — the stock can be saved and used for vegetable soups or stews.

Tafelspitz

2 qts. water
2 large carrots, cut into thin sticks
1 teaspoon salt
4 celery stalks, cut into thin strips (or substitute one celery root for a more authentic flavor)
3 pound beef brisket
2 leeks, white part only
2 gherkins
1 onion – cut into rings parsley

Heat 2 qt. water with salt. Add beef; bring to a boil. Skim foam from surface until clear. Partially cover pot; simmer 1-1/2 hours.

Cut leeks in 2 inch pieces, then cut in half lengthwise. Add leeks, onion, carrots and celery to beef. Cook until beef and vegetables are tender.

Cut beef into 1/2 inch slices. Cut gherkins lengthwise in thin slices, leaving 1 end uncut. Spread out slices like a fan – garnish beef with gherkins.

Serve vegetables in a separate dish with 4 tablespoons cooking liquid spooned over the top. Garnish with parsley.

Wartime Beef and Bean Stew

Here’s another recipe from Mary Swartz Rose‘s Everyday Foods in War Time (1918) for a beef and bean stew. In her book, Swartz acknowledges that beef is not the most fitting repast for a time marked by dour wartime austerity and reminds the reader that it does represent an unnecessary expense and should be seen as somewhat of a luxury. “A pound of beef,” she writes, “will require the consumption by the animal of some fourteen pounds of grain.” This pound of beef will furnish “perhaps 1,200 calories, while the grain consumed will represent over 20,000 calories.” Foods like milk and grains are far more economical, Swartz writes, and do not strain the digestion as much as meat.

But there are economical meat dishes, Swartz continues, and they tend to feature meat as a flavoring rather than the entire substance of the meal. Swartz shares her delightful recipe for beef and bean stew, which uses beans as a tasty meat extender, as an example of such a dish. The recipe is copied below. Serve Swartz’s stew with a hearty peasant bread and a green salad.

Beef and Bean Stew

Beef, lower round, 1 pound
Red kidney beans, 1 cup
Onion, 1
Canned tomatoes, 1 cup, or 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes
Salt pork, 2 ounces

Wash the beans and soak them over night. Cut the pork into small pieces and try out the fat. Cut the beefs into small pieces and brown it in the pork fat, then add the vegetables with water enough to cover. Cook just below the boiling point for about three hours.