There are a lot of folks out there opposed to the idea of eating a heart, and it’s always my goal to change their mind. So when I cook something out of the ordinary for first timers, I typically serve it as an appetizer on toasted bread. This is partially because getting someone to take a small bite is a lot easier than asking them to approach an entire meal of just heart. Another reason is because the crunch of the crostini helps provide textural differentiation for those who have a hard time getting over the unexpected dense, fiberless nature of the heart. If you can get past the mental blocks of eating offal, you will realize that the heart is truly a delicious piece of red meat to be savored.

I like to think of the recipe below as a guideline to building your own crostini. Each ingredient adds a layer of fat, acidity, or flavor that I like, but you can customize by choosing different cheeses, fruit, herbs and/or vinegars for flavor. I love the pickled mustard seeds because they really add a unique texture (similar to roe) and nice pop of acidity. You can buy pre-made flavored goat cheese or make my whipped honey and garlic version at home using the recipe below.

This heart was trimmed and left in two big pieces that were seared on a hot grill first and then thinly sliced. I prefer to do it this way as opposed to slicing first and then searing because it is easy to overcook a thin slice of heart. You really want to have your heart treated like a steak and cooked medium rare. For detailed information on how to clean venison hearts, check out this article. This recipe serves six-plus as an appetizer.

Ingredients:
1 heart (deer, antelope, elk or moose)
1 baguette
pickled mustard seeds (see recipe below)
goat cheese, plain or honey & garlic flavored (see recipe below)
arugula/watercress
1-2 radishes, thinly sliced on microplane
chives, finely chopped
salt & pepper
oil for cooking

Honey & Garlic Goat Cheese
4 oz plain goat cheese
3-4 T. whole cream
1 t. honey
1 small clove of garlic

Pickled Mustard Seeds
1/4 C. mustard seeds (yellow, brown or a mix)
2/3 C. white wine vinegar
1/3 C. water, plus extra for blanching
2 T. sugar
pinch of salt
*Optional pinch of dried mustard or horseradish to taste

Method
Pickled Mustard Seeds:
1. It is best to prepare the pickled mustard seeds in advance. Add the mustard seeds to a small pot and fill with enough water to cover. Bring water to a boil, fluffing periodically with a fork to avoid seeds sticking to pan, and remove it from the heat. Drain the water out by pouring the seeds into a mesh strainer and rinsing with cold water. Strain all the liquids out again and repeat this process a couple of times to release the bitter tannins from the seeds.

2. Return the strained seeds back to the pot and add the vinegar, ⅓ C. water, sugar and pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes. The seeds should have almost doubled in size and have a somewhat gelatinous texture. Remove from heat and let it cool. If you wish to add some spice now is the time to stir in a pinch of mustard powder or horseradish.
3. Pour into an airtight jar and chill for at least 24 hours before serving.

Goat Cheese:
1. Place the goat cheese 3 T. of cream, honey in a small food processor. Roughly chop the small clove of garlic and and blend, pausing occasionally to swipe the sides down. Once smooth check the consistency and add 1 additional tablespoon of cream if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heart & Crostini:
1. Run cold water inside the heart, down inside the arteries and pump until it runs clean to remove and congealed blood. Trim the white fat first on the outside and cut off the tissue across the top to expose the inside. Slice down one side of an artery to Butterly it open exposing the inside. Trim off any “cobweb” looking tissue sticking to the meat. Cut the septum out or keep it attached, cleaning until until you get 2 -3 big pieces of meat. Coat with a tablespoon of oil and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

2. Make the crostini first by preheating an oven to 350 degrees. Slice the baguette into thin ¼” slices. Layer the sliced bread across a sheet pan brush each side with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake until crispy, approximately 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. You can also try doing this on the grill at a high consistent heat and rotating the bread slices around so the flames don’t burn them.

3. If using a grill, pre-heat to the hottest setting. Sear each piece of deer heart on both sides for 2-3 minutes. One piece is thinner than the other and will need less time. Set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.

4. While the meat is resting, build the crostini by layering the bread with a swipe of goat cheese, shaved radish slices and arugula. After the meat has rested thinly slice and layer on top of the crostinis. Garnish with the minced chives and spoon over pickled mustard seeds.