SHIITAKE MUSHROOM AND CHALLAH STUFFED VENISON HEARTS
This is a very simple and old school way of preparing hearts that I learned from the great Fergus Henderson. The cooking technique is unlike what many are used to. Hearts usually benefit greatly from high heat and rare internal cooking temperatures. This keeps the meat tender and prevents the rubber bouncy ball texture that you get with overdone venison hearts. But here we are braising the hearts which also yields a tender finished product and the cooking liquid can be reduced into a delicious sauce. The bacon can also be removed from the hearts after braising, chopped, and crisped in a pan like I did here for added texture. Serve with mashed potatoes, cauliflower puree or rice.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups red onion, small dice
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups red wine
8 cups day old bread, crust removed and cubed (Use a hearty bread that you would use for French toast, I like Challah)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
4-6 cups stock, (chicken, venison or veal)
18 slices of bacon
6 venison hearts, cleaned and left whole
Make the stuffing. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and mushroom and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the thyme and red wine, then reduce it by half it volume. Add the cubed bread and stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture while gently stirring often for about 8 minutes. The mixture should moist but not soggy. If it looks a little too dry, add a little more wine to moisten. Let the stuffing cool to the touch.
Stuff and wrap the hearts. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degree F. Stuff each heart tightly with the stuffing. Lay 3 strips of bacon across the top of the heart openings in a crisscross pattern, enclosing the stuffing inside. Tie some butchers twine around the bacon, securing them to the hearts.
Braise the hearts. Place the hearts in a baking vessel in which the hearts will be packed tight enough to stand up. Pour the stock around the hearts until they are 3/4 of the way covered. Cover the baking vessel with aluminum foil and cook for 2 1/2 hours. Poke with a fork to check tenderness. If tough, cover and cook for another 30 mintues.