If you've ever left your hearts in the woods, you won't do it again after seeing this recipe! I'll admit that I, too, was afraid of eating the "wobbly bits" but I promise if you treat them right, they are delicious! If you're apprehensive, this is a great recipe to start because the meat is marinated in a very flavorful sauce and then made into tacos. And if you don't love tacos, you can stop right here because this website is full of them. But if tacos are your jam (as they should be), then keep on reading!
How to break down an elk heart:
Hearts can be intimidating to break down but they're really mostly meat once you get down to it. There are a few tough pieces that need to be removed but after that, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the high quality meat hiding underneath! Follow the instructions below and be ready to enjoy some delicious meat!
How to cook elk heart:
Heart can be cooked like any other wild game steak but if you're a little nervous about trying it, marinating it for tacos is a great way to go! I like to tenderize the meat before marinating to help the meat absorb the flavor. This marinade is heavy on the lime juice and chipotles so it's very flavorful. Once the meat has marinated for a few hours, string it on some skewers in an accordion style. Leave enough space between the meat so that it gets cooked evenly. Fire up the grill and get cooking! But don't go too crazy. Heart can overcook pretty quickly, especially small pieces on skewers. 2-3 minutes per side is about all it needs!
How to make pickled jalapeños:
Pickled jalapeños are the taco topping you never knew you needed. They're spicy, crunchy, vinegary, and the perfect addition to any taco. And the best part? They're super easy to make! All you need are some fresh jalapeños, a couple garlic cloves, vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Slice up the jalapeños as thin as you'd like and pack them in a pint jar with a couple garlic cloves. Bring the other ingredients to a simmer and pour the brine over the jalapeños. Let the jar cool for about 30 minutes, then put the lid on and refrigerate. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks for future taco, nacho, burrito, salad, etc. toppings!
How to make avocado crema:
Avocadoes are a great taco topping as well but the slices often squish out the ends of tacos. The solution is to whip them up into a delicious sauce instead! It's super simple to blend together an avocado, some sour cream or yogurt, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container and it will be good for a few days. Make sure you put it in a zippered bag with the air squeezed out or cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent browning. You're in for a real treat with this creamy, zesty taco sauce!
How to cut a pineapple for tacos:
Pineapple is an excellent choice as a taco topping. It adds an element of sweetness and juiciness that perfectly balances a savory taco filling. But, if you cut it into chunks, they're likely to slip out of your tacos and into a sad pile on your plate. The perfect solution is to cut it into slices that fit perfectly in your taco! No mess and you get a bite of pineapple with every bite of taco. Sounds like a perfect scenario right? Follow the instructions below for the perfect pieces of pineapple for your tacos.
Putting it all together:
Ok we've covered a lot here but if you're using something as special as a heart to make tacos, you want to make sure you do it right! Now that you have your meat and delicious toppings, all you need are some good tortillas. My favorite are these corn and wheat blend tortillas. They have all the corn flavor but are very pliable and don't break. Warm them up however you'd like, tuck some of that delicious grilled heart inside, slide a piece of pineapple in next, top with jalapeños, drizzle with avocado crema, and squeeze some fresh lime over the top. Crack open your favorite cerveza and enjoy!
Next time you're in the woods and wondering if you should take that heart with you, remember: Save hearts. Eat tacos. ✌
Grilled Elk Heart Tacos with Pickled Jalapeños and Avocado Crema Recipe
- 1 elk heart
- ½ cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
- 3 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ cup adobo sauce or chipotle sauce (leftover from chipotles or from another can)
- 2 cups fresh jalapeños, thinly sliced (about 5 large peppers)
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ripe avocado
- ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- ½ garlic clove, minced
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 12 corn/wheat blend tortillas (or your favorite taco shells)
- ½ ripe pineapple
- 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
- Combine all heart marinade ingredients in a glass bowl or sealable glass container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Trim all outer fat from the heart using a filet/boning knife. Cut vessels from the top of the heart.
- With the bottom of the heart (pointed end) facing towards you, run your knife along the vessel that runs diagonally across the front of the heart. Continue cutting until you remove the entire piece of muscle. This is the left ventricle.
- Once the left ventricle is removed, run your knife under the piece of muscle that was under the ventricle. Continue cutting until the entire heart is opened into one flat piece.
- Trim strings from inside the heart and remove anything else that's not muscle.
- Tenderize meat by running through a manual tenderizer, using a jacquard, or pound meat out flat with hammer style meat tenderizer.
- Cut meat into approximately 24 - ½-¾" strips. Place meat in marinade and stir to coat the meat.
- Refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
- Soak 12 wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes or use metal skewers.
- Place meat on skewers in an accordion style and spread the meat out so that you can see the skewers between the meat.
- Preheat grill to 350°F. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until outsides are lightly charred and the inside is still moist and tender.
- Pack sliced jalapeños and garlic cloves into a pint-sized glass jar.
- Place vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat on the stove until sugar and salt have dissolved and mixture is simmering.
- Pour vinegar mixture over jalapeños and garlic. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Place lid on jar and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Jalapeños will last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Place all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
- Store in a zippered bag with all the air squeezed out or in a sealable container with plastic wrap sitting on the surface of the sauce to keep from browning.
- Refrigerate until ready to use. Sauce will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.
- Place pineapple on its side on cutting board. Cut off top and bottom of pineapple and discard.
- Place pineapple upright on cutting board. Starting at the top, cut sides of pineapple rind off in strips. Once all rind is removed, set pineapple aside. Rinse cutting board and knife.
- Place pineapple back on cutting board and cut into quarters, lengthwise. Cut core off of each quarter and discard.
- Cut 2 quarters into long strips, at least 12 strips total for tacos. Cut other half into whatever shape you'd like!
- Warm tortillas. To each tortilla, add meat from 1 skewer, pickled jalapeños, and 1 strip of pineapple. Drizzle with avocado crema. Serve with lime wedges. Enjoy!