This family recipe comes from Rob Lancellotti, public relations associate for Swarovski Optik, who recently prepared the dish in a Kansas deer camp after his 160-inch buck provided the main ingredient.
“The heart is just too tasty to leave in a gut pile for the coyotes to eat,” says Rob. “For me, preparing it is a tradition. The smell of it cooking and the taste bring to mind good people, good times, and just how important family, friends and the simple things in life are.”
Being of good Italian breeding, Rob prefers to use home-canned tomatoes (“preferably ones you have grown yourself this past summer and put up for occasions such as this”) and fresh garlic, but name-brand tomato sauce and garlic powder will work in a pinch. Of course, the most important step in preparing this tasty dish is making sure you don’t destroy the meaty organ when taking the deer. Opt for a double-lung shot or one that knocks out the “plumbing” just above the heart, carefully remove the organ and keep it clean during transport, and then fire up the stovetop.
• 1 deer heart • 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped, or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder • 1/4 cup olive oil • 1 qt. tomato sauce, pureed tomatoes or whole plum tomatoes depending on desired consistency • 1-2 whole bay leaves • Salt and pepper to taste • 1 med. onion, chopped (optional)
1. Rinse heart under cold water to wash all blood from both the outside and inside of the organ. Remove aorta, arteries and major veins from top of heart. Trim fat from exterior. Cut heart in half, then slice into 1/2-inch wide strips, removing interior membranes. Trim anything that looks white or feels tough. Place strips on cutting board and fillet meat from exterior membrane. Cut filleted strips into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks.
2. Using a medium-sized pan with high sides, sauté cubed heart and garlic (and onion, if desired) in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add tomato sauce (or tomatoes) and bay leaf, and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Season to taste. Serve with fresh, crusty Italian bread. Also goes well over pasta if heart is cubed into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces.