Growing up, one of the rarest (and thus most special) treats that my mom would cook for us kids was chicken hearts. I don’t remember the first time we had them, or what made them so special in my mind, but I remember specifically asking for them on special occasions like our birthday when we were allowed to choose what food she made for us. My mom would simply sauté them in a pan and us kids would wolf them down.
I was out grocery shopping with my 7-year-old son recently and while we were in the meat section he pointed at the package of hearts and gizzards and incredulously asked, “What kind of meat is that?!” I knew in that moment that I had failed my children, failed to pass on this vital food memory from my own childhood! And I also knew that we were definitely coming home with that package of tasty, tasty organ meat to rectify that mistake…
I decided to try and cook them up a little differently than my mom did though, to braise them. They can be a little on the tough side (though to be fair, as a kid I remember enjoying the uniquely chewy texture) so I figured braising would make them a little more approachable for my family. I enjoy braising with beer; the alcohol helps break down the meat, and as a homebrewer I always have plenty of beer around to use. Feel free to do this with broth or wine though, or another braising liquid of your choice. I also seared them at the end, to get a little of that beautiful sear ‘look’ and a touch of crispy outside meat. That step could also be omitted.
I also decided to season them in the style of a Jerusalem grill. In Jerusalem, as I understand it, there is a beloved street food that consists of chicken organs (hearts, livers, gizzards, other chicken meat, etc) fried in spices and served in a pita. I love street food. Often the best and most reasonably priced food when you’re visiting a place is found on the streets. So, these are seasoned with Baharat (a seven spice blend used around the Middle East) and some extra cumin, which I’m not sure it’s 100% authentic but it’s a delicious take that I think is at least in the ballpark of a Jerusalem grill spice mix. We ate them all up as a finger food snack, but next time they’re definitely going in a pita with some pickles and hot sauce, for the proper Jerusalem grill experience!
Beer Braised Chicken Hearts and Gizzards
Beer braised chicken organs seasoned in a 'Jerusalem-grill-style'.
- 1lb chicken hearts & gizzards (but just hearts would be fine as well, or an addition of livers or other chicken meat would work too)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 12-20oz beer (I would recommend a brown or amber, or even a porter. I used something akin to a flanders red and that worked as well)
- 1 tbsp Baharat
- 2 tsp cumin
Add oil to braising pan, cast iron pan, or dutch oven and heat. When hot, lightly fry onions until transluscent. Add beer, chicken hearts, cumin, and baharat. Mix.
Bring to boil on the stovetop and reduce to lowest heat. Cover for 45min. Uncover & cook for 15 minutes.
Heat a separate frying pan with 2 tbsp oil to smoke point (hot). Scoop out chicken hearts into frying pan, quickly searing all sides.
Take out, toss lightly with a bit more baharat if you want. If you're into the presentation, I garnished it with diced purple onion and a sprinkling of parsley.
Eat as it is or stuff inside a pita with pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, etc.
If you don't have baharat, it's a complex blend of spices that's typically heavy on black pepper, allspice, and cinnamon. While you're not going to get the same complexity as the blend (mine also has ginger, nutmeg, cloves and galangal) a mix of these three would put you in the right flavor ballpark.