Two cooking experiments from the cutting room floor

by Matt Ruff on June 12, 2012

In working through my email backlog, I came across some photos I’d sent myself from IPad2 of a couple cooking experiments I did back in February while Lisa was away for the weekend. I’d meant to blog about them at the time, but got distracted by The Mirage book tour.

First up is squid-ink risotto, using the Risotto Nero Alle Seppie recipe from Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman’s Risotto. I scored the squid ink packets at Uwajimaya.

The recipe is pretty straightforward. It’s a classic risotto incorporating squid ink and chopped up squid, and not much else. Which is ultimately the problem. The ink imparts a cool black gloss to the dish but not much actual flavor (or maybe it’s just too subtle for my palate), and while I love squid rings and tentacles they aren’t very substantial, so you end up with a dish that’s 98% arborio rice.

Compared to the risotto I usually make, which includes sausage and a slew of vegetables, it just doesn’t measure up. But I love the look.

Experiment #2 was stuffed lamb hearts:

I got the recipe from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. You start by trimming away the inedible bits of vein sticking out the top of the heart, then fill the heart chambers with a stuffing made of bread crumbs, onion, garlic, sage, red wine, and butter or duck fat. Wrap the hearts in bacon, and put into an ovenproof dish:

The dish is then filled with chicken stock, covered in aluminum foil, and put into a 350°F oven for two and a half hours.

Serve with appropriate music:

As I recall, it was almost ten o’clock by the time this came out of the oven, by which point I was too tired and hungry to get a better photo. Sorry.

Heart is muscle meat, so the flavor is about what you’d expect, but the texture has a weird uniformity to it, like something pressed in a mold. Also, the heart chambers are small and tapered, so if you start cutting from the bottom you have to go a fair way up the heart before you hit stuffing, and further still before you get a good stuffing-to-heart-wall ratio. So, not bad, exactly, but odd, and probably not worth the trouble unless you’re looking to check lamb heart off your bucket list. I do wonder whether beef heart would be different, since it’s so much bigger. Maybe next time.

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