Georgia-based chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Hugh Acheson
started out his March 24 beef heart cooking demonstration at Foodfort, "Eat Your Heart Out,"
with a statement that summed up his straightforward style of both cooking and talking.
"There are a lot of douchebag festivals out there," Acheson said as he laid out his ingredients: butter, a selection of bitter greens, herbs, seasonings and a slab of raw beef. "But this isn't one of them."
Acheson was referring to Treefort, the umbrella that encompasses Foodfort. For the second year in a row, he'd made the trip from the Deep South to the Gem State to take part in the festivities—this time, by cooking up a bull's heart for a crowd of adventurous eaters in the former Kindness restaurant space at the The Owyhee
Chef Acheson served up the beef heart chilled, with a salad of bitter greens and roasted peanuts.
Talking the audience through the process step by step, Acheson sliced apart the slab of beef—"separating the ventricles," as he put it—then salted and pan-seared the remaining cut in browned butter and garlic, pressing it against the pan with a gloved hand.
"If you like your forearm hair you don't have to do this," he joked, "but it is cheaper than waxing."
Acheson basted the heart while it cooked, then pulled it from the pan to rest and whipped up a simple vinaigrette from blonde miso, mustard, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, lime juice and more garlic. The samples assistants passed out to the crowd also included gochujang
, a Korean chili sauce that hadn't made it into the demonstration cooler. Then, he tossed the vinaigrette with fresh mint, roasted peanuts, bitter greens, pickled carrots and pickled daikon radish. When plating, Acheson explained he adheres to the Japanese aesthetic principle wabi-sabi
, or "elegant disarray."
The heart was dense and velvety, with a close texture and iron-rich flavor that played well against the bright citrus of the dressing and bitterness of the greens. The roasted peanuts added a pop of salt and fat to the dish, and the audience didn't hesitate to chow down, heart and all.