I didn't know what to expect before the lamb heart hit the table at Coquette (2800 Magazine St., 504-265-0421; www.coquette-nola.com). I didn't think it would arrive in a valentine shape, but would it look like an organ? Would I need a steak knife? And, silly as it seems in retrospect, I also wondered if it would be bloody, and by that I don't mean rare.
We know the heart is made of muscle, and so is a pork chop, a chicken wing and a hamburger. But the prospect of dining on an organ I'd not tasted before was intriguing. In an interview with Coquette chef Michael Stoltzfus the following day, I learned that's why it's on his menu.
"When you order a New York strip, it's delicious but you know what you're going to get. You order heart and you're getting something a little more exciting and unexpected," he says. "When we first got them in, I didn't know how it would go over, but we went through that first supply in two hours. People are really curious about it."
Curiosity drew me in, and I was not disappointed. Naturally, it tasted like lamb, though a little chewier and grassier than lamb tenderloin. It also tasted lean, and it was a little smoky from the grill. It was sliced thin, leaving no suggestion of its original form — and it was not bloody or rare.
Heart is a common ingredient in many cuisines, though it's a novelty here. Still, you may be seeing similar dishes more often around town as chefs find better access to exotic ingredients. Stoltzfus credits his meat supplier, Two Run Farm, a ranch in Vaughan, Miss. that produces pasture-raised cattle and sheep and has been doing a lot of business with New Orleans restaurants lately.
"They're breaking down the whole animal and making all the parts accessible to us," Stoltzfus says. "I wouldn't want to buy a 20-pound box of hearts from a supplier, but when you can get a few of them and other things, you get to play around with them."
Another kitchen exploring ingredients is Dante's Kitchen (736 Dante St., 504-861-3121; www.danteskitchen.com), which currently lists grilled beef heart on its dinner menu, serving it with red wine reduction and blue cheese vinaigrette. — IAN MCNULTY