5 Reasons We Should Be Eating Chicken Hearts

Offal has a bad name in this country and we’ve experienced a mixed reaction to the word ‘heart’ when talking to people at the market but once they have a taste almost everyone is converted. We should remember that the heart is just another muscle in the body like the ones we buy packaged up in the supermarket so should be tasted with an open mind and no preconceptions.

Here’s five reasons why we should be eating more chicken hearts:

1. Tasty

The most important reason for me and the reason Cock-A-Doodle- Skew came about is that chicken hearts taste great and if you cook them right, they are as tender and juicy as fillet steak.

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They are extremely popular in South America and Asia. In Brazil they are an essential part of Churrascaria, where they are charred over a flaming barbecue. In fact, tasting them cooked this way by a Brazilian colleague was the inspiration for Cock-A-Doodle-Skew.

They taste similar to red meat or the thigh meat of chicken, stronger in flavour than the breast. Because of this they can stand up to bold flavours so are great marinated with things like chilli, garlic and spices and then cooked quickly over high heat.

2. Nutritious

There are numerous health benefits to eating hearts. They are a good source of high-quality proteins and provide all the essential amino acids which carry out all sorts of crucial functions throughout the body.

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They are high in iron which is needed to produce haemoglobin to transport oxygen through the blood, and zinc which boosts the immune system and helps heal cuts.

Chicken hearts are also high in B vitamins which help with stress, fatigue and problems with the heart and blood vessels. So eating hearts is actually good for your heart!

3. Sustainable

Put simply, we are eating too much meat and it is totally unsustainable. Producing a kilo of meat uses far more water than producing the same amount of grain yet the appetite for meat is growing and water supplies are certainly not.

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In my opinion, if we are going to take an animal to slaughter we should be eating the whole carcass, and throwing away good food is criminal. If we ate more hearts and other less favoured parts of animals, they would be more readily available, as butchers would be able to make money out of them. This virtuous circle could have a real, positive impact on some of the most pressing problems facing the global population.

At the moment chicken hearts are a by product in this country and are being thrown away rather than savoured. We need to change this.

4. Affordable

Compared to muscle meat, offal is cheap to buy. Free-range chicken hearts are about a third of the price of chicken breast and lower welfare is even cheaper (although I wouldn’t recommend it). Hearts remain juicier and have a lot more flavour than the white meat so they are an absolute bargain.

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You can order chicken hearts and other offal from a good local butcher if you can give them a few days notice, and you’ll feel good when you get the bill.

5. We sell them

Cock-A-Doodle-Skew are currently trading at Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey every Sunday and some Saturdays. Run by Alex Prior and myself, we sell free-range chicken hearts in tasty marinades including teriyaki, mediterraen and tandoori, and other specials, finished with fresh lime and herbs.

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You can support our start up food business and enjoy delicious, nutritious and sustainable chicken heart skewers freshly charred up on the barbecue in front of you. Follow @Skew_you on Twitter and cockadoodleskew on Instagram.
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Microwave Kid Goat Jerky

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I found a recipe for microwave jerky while reading Modernist Cuisine, the six volume bible for anyone interested in science-informed cookery. Their recipe is for beef jerky marinated in soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and salt and then dried in a microwave in just five minutes. I’m always looking for interesting things to try with kid goat and so I thought I’d try and make kid jerky based on this recipe.

Traditionally jerky would have been dried in the open air, over smoke and fire for days. Or more recently in a dehydrator for several hours. But why not use the microwave if it could be done in minutes? The modernist philosophy is to break down misconceptions and myths so use of the microwave is not looked down on, or frowned upon. The idea is that radio waves at a certain frequency agitate the water molecules in the cured meat and force the water out very quickly, drying the jerky.

Of course drying meat over a fire would have produced a smoky flavour so a lot of recent jerky recipes call for the addition of liquid smoke flavouring to the marinade to emulate this. I wanted to achieve this smokiness balanced with sweet and peppery flavours so the perfect solution was Gran Luchito smoked chili paste, currently gaining popularity and winning accolades and awards all over the place. It is made from rare Pasilla Oaxaca chilies, harvested and smoked over oak by the farmers who grow them in Oaxaca, Mexico. The chilies are then mixed with caramelised onions, balsamic vinegar and dark agave syrup to produce a deeply smoky, sweet and peppery paste.

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The smoked chilies are dark and treacly, adding depth of flavour to the paste

For my jerky, I have used kid goat neck fillet. It is important to use a lean meat for jerky, which makes kid goat perfect as it is one of the leanest meats available. The neck is tender and yields perfect long strips. The loin would have also worked well. Below is my recipe which I think worked really well. The chili paste did most of the work with the flavour but I added soy sauce for seasoning and dark colour, and maple syrup and black pepper to enhance the sweet and peppery flavours of the paste.

If you want to try this recipe, you can find Gran Luchito paste on Amazon or buy it from retailers listed on their website and find kid goat meat from Gourmet Goat at Borough Market, Wednesday – Saturday, and loads of info and recipes at gourmetgoat.co.uk.

Christmas Dinner – Deep-fried Turkey – Cooking and Results

Christmas day was deep-fried turkey day this year. I was taking a bit of a risk deep-frying our christmas dinner as I’d never tried it before and it was a huge 8kg which would take four hours in the oven if anything went wrong. But luckily my family were supportive and encouraging and let me do it anyway.  So the pressure was on to deliver. The preparation of the equipment and addressing of safety concerns were covered in a my previous post, now was the fun bit.

We put the pot of oil on the burner with a thermometer dipped in so that we could see the gauge. We turned the gas on to full and waited for the oil to reach 190℃.

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Oil and turkey ready to go with improvised lighting rig in place

Just before the turkey went in I rubbed it with a christmas spice mix of cloves, cinnamon, smoked paprika, black pepper, salt, dark brown sugar and minced onion and garlic. If you wanted to go traditional though, you could just rub it with garlic and lemon and season with salt and pepper.

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Now it was time to fry. This was the part I was most worried about from a safety point of view. If the oil bubbled up too much or overflowed onto the flame, it could be disastrous. The plan was to lower the turkey in using the coat-hanger rig hanging from a meat hook, attached to a broom handle, so two people could lower it in at a safe distance. When the oil finally came up to temperature, we turned the gas off and with anxious family and cameras ready, we lowered in the bird.

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It was a great moment –  the sound of spitting oil and the smell of the turkey starting to cook straight away, mixed with the relief that we had got it in without injuring anyone. Although, it would have been a consolation to be able to post a turkey fail video on YouTube.

We stuck a second thermometer deep into the breast so that we could monitor the temperature inside the turkey and take it out at exactly the right time. The oil temperature dropped to around 140℃ when the turkey went in but I was hoping it would climb rapidly back to 190℃. Then it was a matter of waiting for the thing to cook. We took shifts keeping an eye on it and opened a few beers.

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The wide-angle

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As you can see in this picture the turkey was coming along nicely. This is about halfway through cooking and its at 55℃. The temperature I was aiming for was 65℃. One of my concerns with cooking such a large bird was that the skin would brown too quickly and start to burn before the turkey was cooked through. You can see, though, that the skin has hardly browned at all after half an hour in the hot oil. This is because the steam coming out of the turkey constantly keeps the skin moist so its only when the turkey is nearing the end of cooking, when the steam stops coming out, that the skin goes a proper golden brown. Which is pretty handy really.

Another concern was the oil getting too hot and starting to smoke which would be bad for the turkey and also a fire hazard. However, the temperature on our oil thermometer never went back over 150℃ once we had the turkey in, which was unexpected. I don’t know if this was normal or if the thermometer was actually giving us the wrong reading. The turkey’s temperature was still rising nicely though, and the oil gave no signs of overheating so we left it.

After about an hour the turkey reached its target temp and was ready to be lifted out. This was the second danger point and also the moment of truth to see if it really was cooked through and whether christmas dinner was ruined. You could tell from the skin alone that it was done though, it was a really deep golden brown, much darker than the colour produced by oven cooking. We turned off the gas for the last time and lifted her out.

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I was really happy with the dark, crispy skin. It was something quite special that only this method could produce. The underside of the turkey was like pork crackling. Really crispy and gooey with fat underneath. Much better than the greasy skin you get under an oven cooked turkey. Now it was time to see what the meat was like inside.

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I was relieved and excited to find the breast meat visibly juicy and the legs tearing away from the carcass with a gentle tug. I may have actually been able to take it out five minutes early but I was slightly cautious as this was the first attempt but even so the result was excellent. The flavour of the fried skin with the BBQ rub was great. I preferred that to a normal turkey personally but it might not be for everyone. But maybe leaving in the rub overnight would have allowed the flavour to penetrate further into the meat.IMG_20141225_183113

The whole experience was good fun as well and with the whole family there, it was a great christmas event. I think my Mum liked having the oven free too and not having to worry about getting up early to put the turkey in the oven. If you can get hold of the equipment I would definitely recommend the deep-fried turkey. The best skin you could imagine and super juicy and tender meat inside. I have to agree with the american BBQ guys that this is the best way to cook your christmas (or thanksgiving) turkey.

Christmas Dinner – Deep-fried Turkey – Safety and Preparation

What is the best way to cook your christmas turkey? There’s the classic oven roast. This method is relatively stress-free and can produce juicy meat, however it involves a fairly long cooking time of 3-4 hours and its easy to dry the meat out or not cook it all the way through. Then there is the sous-vide method which I am quite fond of generally. I made a roulade from the drumsticks last year which was delicious and freed up oven space but not everyone has access to the equipment and it took quite a lot of prep work.

I’ve been interested in American BBQ cooking this year and something I saw a lot of online around Thanksgiving was the deep-fried turkey. This is a tradition in some of the southern United States where you can even buy specialist turkey fryers. This probably sounds like a gimmick and some people might worry about the turkey being greasy or unhealthy cooked this way. In fact, it is often touted as the very best (or totally awesome dude) way to cook the turkey because the intense heat cooks the bird around four times quicker than the oven, meaning less moisture is lost and the meat is more juicy and succulent. It also produces the ultimate in golden, crispy skin on the outside as you might expect. And there’ll be more time and oven space for cooking the rest of the christmas dinner.

The idea that is an unhealthy way to cook the turkey is a bit misguided I think. Its true that chips or battered foods are not the healthiest but this is because the starch in the potato and the flour in the batter soaks up the oil which is left in the food that you eat. With the turkey, the oil does not soak into the meat. As long as the oil is hot enough, the steam coming out of the bird as it cooks, prevents any oil from getting in. And this is also why the skin does not burn but turns a deep golden colour once the turkey is cooked. In fact, roasting the bird in the oven smothered in butter will probably leave more fat in the meat than deep-frying as you have to add more to keep the meat from drying out.

In any case, I wanted to try deep-frying a turkey as it is something I’ve never done before and it looked pretty exciting and dangerous! The frying will have to be done outside on a pot over a gas flame. This is a potentially lethal combination as can be seen in numerous online videos. I particularly like this one because the oil is already on fire and they still put the turkey in – obviously it goes up in a fireball. Try search for frozen deep-fried turkey disasters as well…

 

If you take precautions, though, there’s no reason it should be dangerous. As long as the oil doesn’t get too hot and doesn’t go near the flames, it should be perfectly safe. This means you must regulate the oil temperature with a thermometer and keep children and pets somewhere safe while the bird is frying.

Another important step is to dry the turkey as much as possible. Water and oil do not mix and when cold water hits hot oil it tends to explode. This is why dropping a frozen turkey into hot oil is a bad idea. To dry the turkey, place it in the fridge uncovered overnight and then pat it down with paper towels make sure it is as dry as possible.

To prepare the bird I trussed it with some butchers string to keep the legs and wings tucked in. This will help to cook the turkey evenly and make it more compact in the pot. Lay the string out and place the turkey on top with the neck end over the string. Then bring the two ends over the wings holding them tight to the body.

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Bring the string over the drumsticks and round the back end holding the drumsticks tight to the breast and tie the string securely.

I placed the turkey on a wire rack with coat hangers wound through the grill. Then bent the hangers together and bound them with some more string so that a hook could lift the turkey safely.

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An important step is to check the required oil level in the pot before heating anything up. This can be done by putting the turkey in the pot and filling it with water until it is covered. The turkey can then be removed and the water level noted. Then fill the pot to the same level with oil so that when the turkey is lowered in, the oil will not overflow onto the flame. This seems to be the cause of most of the problems people have.

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So with all safety precautions considered and the turkey prepared for the pot, we set up all the kit as follows: A gas burner, attached to a gas bottle a safe distance away. The pot with oil to the right level on top of the gas burner. Fire extinguisher ready.

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The set-up with wind-break just in case

With everything ready it was time to cook the turkey and see if we survived. Have a look at the results here…