I’m sure it’s happened to you before.  You’re sitting back, watching a show on Food Network or the Travel Channel, when a dish catches your eye.  You track down the recipe, study it, then jot down the ingredients, determined to recreate it at home.  The next day, you go to the grocery store and pick up the garlic, butter, pepper, sea salt, and thyme, and then swing by your local butcher only to be told they don’t have any fresh duck hearts.  But maybe you might be interested in some frozen chicken hearts instead?

Seriously?  The recipe is duck hearts on toast, not thawed chicken hearts on toast.  You return home to swallow your bitter disappointment, along with an alternate dinner of pork belly, fried peppers, and radish and tomato salad.

Okay, granted, there may not be that much consumer demand for duck hearts, but I see duck breasts and legs on display so I have to wonder what they do with the hearts.  And the rest of the innards (aka offal pronounced, appropriately enough to some, “awful”) for that matter.

There was a time when the consumption of animal organs was confined to those who simply couldn’t afford the finer cuts.  But things have changed.  In fact, you could say they’ve been completely upended. Nowadays, thanks to advancements made by the modern meat industry, most anyone can enjoy the choice cuts – or a reasonable facsimile thereof pressed into burger form, frozen, then flash fried for your convenience.  Meanwhile, top chefs around the globe have discovered the versatility of such once-dodgy menu items as sweetbreads, lamb heart, pork cheek, and calf brain.  Granted, these dishes aren’t for everyone but you might be surprised at the rising popularity of the likes of grilled beef tongue with mustard sauce or a fine cognac-laced rabbit liver pate.  Last night, I was watching celebrity gourmand and world traveler Anthony Bourdain rave about one of the courses he’d been served at St. John Bread and Wine in London and I found myself thinking: “Yeah, that blood cake and fried egg DOES look delicious!  The lucky bastard.”.


You know, it wasn’t long ago that I preferred my meat well done, my seafood cooked, and my squid in the mezzanine tank of my local aquarium.  But times have changed and so have I.  In some respects. And while you’ll never catch me bungee jumping or cave diving or dating a reality show contestant, there’s a chance you may come across me sitting down to some fugu shirako tempura, a plate of roasted bone marrow with parsley salad, or some crispy pig ear with salsa verde.

Just, apparently, not butter-fried duck hearts with thyme and garlic. Not anytime soon anyway.

Crispy pig brain served with parsley root and Dungeness Crab mayonnaise compliments of Chef Rob Belcham and the gang at Fuel/Refuel/Campagnolo/Camapgnolo Roma/Fat Dragon. Mmmmmmmm.

19 thoughts on “September 22, 2012: Heart of Duckness

  1. “Crispy pig brain served with parsley root and Dungeness Crab mayonnaise”

    I’d much prefer a double hamburger (consisting of regular cow meat) with a couple dark chocolate bars in it, but that’s just me. 🙂

  2. Oh, the pain, the pain….many many years ago one of my favorite treats were chicken hearts and livers. but only from one particular place. One day my rather drunk uncle came staggering in, bearing a humongous amount of this treat. But not from the place I liked…in fact, the stuff he brought was the worst I had ever had, to the point I could not tolerate it. Much fuss and consternation ensued. That is as close to your disappointment as I can get, I think.
    Lovely pics, by the way. Went to Cine-Bistro today, and enjoyed Dredd. Much better movie than the Stallone version. But oh the pain. Overcooked fillet, and the toughest one I’ve had in a long time. The rest of the food was up to their normal standards, but still. When the entree fails, there is only so much the appetizers and dessert can do. At least my sister enjoyed the experience, though her aversion to cheese meant she rejected some of the best dishes offered.
    Good luck with the Snow Monkeys tomorrow. and enjoy the games. I will be spending the day trying to move, now that my trainer has managed to abuse every major muscle group in my body in the last few days.

  3. Ohhh….blood cake and fried eggs! I wonder how close blood cake is to blood (black) pudding? Apparently it is a little different:

    Considering the trouble I had finding fatback, I may be out of luck on the pork blood 😉

    Have you tried a Chinese market for the duck hearts? The blood for the blood cake listed above was acquired at a Chinese market, so you might have better luck there.

  4. Hope you and Akemi are feeling better. I had a very productive day.

    I’ve spent the last 12 hours in my chair putting in receipts all day long. I’m feeling better about being able to file my tax return on Oct 15 (my extended deadline).

    Meanwhile, a treatment that I had been contemplating for my newly diagnosed nephrotic syndrome is no longer on the table. Apparently my insurance company decided on Thursday (made a public announcement) that $50,000 a vial (yes, you read that right) is too much to pay for a drug that does not seem to have any significant difference than corticosteroids (which I cannot take). I could have been on it 1 to 12 months (depending on my response) and had to take an injection every 72 hours. I think I probably would have reached my lifetime maximum (I don’t think Obama’s Health Care Plan for getting rid of lifetime maximums have kicked in yet) before the year was out even if they did pay. This is why health care should not be FOR PROFIT. The company jacked the price overnight in 2007 from $1600 a vial to $23,000 a vial and now it is $50,000 a vial. Ridiculous. It’s called Acthar if anybody wants to google it. So that leaves a few other drug names that are out there CellCept, cyclosporine and cyclophosphamide. If I don’t do anything, it will progress (dialysis/transplant list). It’s vile that a vial is more than what my husband takes home in a year. We would not qualify for any assistance program because we make too much. I’m not real big on being in a clinical trial either. Human guinea pig. I was supposed to start this on Oct 19, so guess I’ll be calling the nephrologist on Monday to let him know the updated news.

  5. Joe, on second thought, you may actually enjoy the Pendergast series. In fact, you may even find a kindred spirit in the very Special Agent. Why? Well, just recently I received an e-mail from two spies (a.k.a. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) who managed “to penetrate the confines of his Dakota apartment and sneak off with some notes, recipes, and a shopping list from his housekeeper, Kyoko Ishimura, all relating to the dinner. The notes indicate he is cooking some of his personal favorites.”

    And the menu? It is as follows (I suspect that Pendergast can enlighten you as regards wine, while surely you can give him some pointers on dessert…):

    Sup Bibir Ikan
    (Fish lips and intestines from a large-mouth grouper)
    Wine pairing: Aveleda Alvarinho, Vinho Verde, 2011

    Radicchio al Balsamico con Tartufo Bianco d’Alba
    (Radicchio, arugula, and wild morels, shaved white truffle vinaigrette)

    Alose Grillee aux Oeufs, Sauce Beurre Blanc
    (Grilled shad roe in butter sauce)
    Wine pairing: Jean-Marc Brocard Les Clos, Chablis Grand Cru, 2009

    Tripes à la Mode de Caen
    (Cow’s stomach simmered with bacon, cognac, and white wine)
    Wine pairing: Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 1998

    Fromages de France
    Tarte Tatin, crème fraiche
    Wine pairing: Château d’Yquem, 2004

    Thé vert

    So, what do you think, fine sir?


  6. Only this week I have tried two new tastes….on Weds I had duck liver lightly fried with my plate of duck breast & confit duck leg in a spring roll..actually preferred both the liver and confit to the breast which was, even for me, waaay too undercooked in the middle breast slice…first time I’ve sent a piece of meat back with a complaint for a long time…however I did get the meal price taken off the bill so big up to the hotel for doing that..

    The following night I had pork loin accompanied by slow roasted pork cheek…once again the pork cheek was a revelation…melting and delicious…

    I have been advised that I should try Halibut Cheeks when next in Vancouver…hopefully that will be next year…I shall also look out for Duck Heart…sounds rather good to me now, although a couple of years ago I may well have run screaming from them!..

  7. I’m not bungee jumping OR eating pigs ears but hey, you have fun with that. 😆

    PBmom: Insurance companies are crappy. Is there any other course of treatment? I’m sure your Dr. is researching it now and I hope he comes up with something. Sending prayers.

    Kelly/AnneTeldy fought with such grace and dignity for life and this doofus,…… life is not fair:

  8. Just as chicken breast is no substitute for duck breast I’m sure hearts are the same. I don’t think I’ve actually tried heart from any animal so I’ll have to remedy that next time I get a chance.

    As for what happens to the offal . . . pet food, I suspect.

    One advantage of living in the UK is a ready supply of black pudding. While not quite the same as blood cake it is still a staple in my household. Apart from using it in a good old English Breakfast I like to fry black pudding until crispy, crumble it up and use it wherever you would use bacon or pancetta pieces.

  9. I love the flavor and texture of cow’s tongue. I can absolutely see why it’s now enjoyed by people who can afford for someone else to remove the skin far from sight…And who don’t know the sensation of live cows discovering that sweaty kids’ faces and arms taste like salt licks.

  10. @Tam Dixon:

    Here’s the write up on the Loveless Cafe:

    Enjoy! 😀

    @Line Noise:

    I’m with you on the black pudding. Luckily for me, the local Irish store stocks both black and white varieties…keeps me from rending my own hogs in the backyard; I’m pretty sure that my homeowner’s association has a provision against that (or would have one very soon after I tried it 😉 )

    As for cooking and preparation, I like my black pudding left still a little soft in the center (instead of crispy). I then cut it up and mix it with my egg yolk (runny please! 😀 )

  11. I have to admit, the duck hearts don’t exactly look appetizing. (I like my food with some colour!) but I’d give anything a try once.

    @PBMom: I remember that during the DNC, that there was one lady from AZ who talked about how her daughter with a heart condition wouldn’t be affected by the lifetime cap because she had gotten a letter from her insurance company saying it had been lifted because of the ACA. (That’s my recollection, anyway.) Maybe that’s a state by state thing?

  12. @2Cats: re the Casu Marzu: Um, no.

    *strikes Sardinia off of “places to go” list*

  13. 1. No way in hell am I eating blood. Blech. (I had a bloody nose once…didn’t much enjoy the taste of that, either. 😛 ) In fact, after reading this entry, I’m pretty sure I’m on the verge of becoming a vegetarian.

    2. @ 2cats – Okay. I now know of one cheese I will never, ever…EVER…eat. That is just disgusting!

    3. @ Tam Dixon – I am so glad they didn’t put that tiger down. Like they said, the cat did nothing wrong. Oh, and that guy is a complete idiot.

    4. @ PBMom – I feel for you. I hate the state of health care in this country – it just sucks. Drug addicts get better health care than the average American. Many Americans live one major illness away from losing their homes. Something just isn’t right when you have to make a choice between medical treatment, or a roof over your head.

    5. @ Joe – Serious question. When you started branching out in your culinary adventures, did you do so just for the experience (to say that you’ve tried it), and discovered that you liked it, or something else. The reason I ask is because way back when I went to Hawaii with my foiks, my dad sat there at the luau just shoveling away the poi. We figured he liked it because he was eating so much, and so we asked him. He said, “I figured if Hawaiians have been eating poi for hundreds of years it must be good, and maybe you just have to give it time for the taste to grow on you.” It never did, and in the end dad declared that poi tastes exactly like wallpaper paste (how he would know this is beyond me). So, Joe, do you really love the stuff you’re eating, or are you eating it in hopes the flavor will one day grow on you?


  14. Joe, ever consider a local asian butcher? all those roasted duck had to come from some where? I am reminded that Vancouver has a strong asian population. Reminds me of an experience I had when on Panang in Malaysia while wondering in the back side of the market. I remember seeing chickens flying. Strange you might say, chickens can’t fly. Well on closer examination they were indeed flying with the help of a band saw and an operator. Not sure about the brain thing for health reasons. Time to some more SGA to see if MG has killed any one else off yet. Best of luck for you Snow Monkeys

  15. I am so sorry to hear about Kelly, , So sad, so young. My condolences to her family and friends.

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