I have come a long way from my extreme pickiness as a child, but there are still a few foods out there that make me nervous. We went in with a couple of Chad’s coworkers and bought a cow nearly a year ago. I have gone through most of the cuts now, but saved the heart, liver, and a handful of other parts for last since I don’t have much experience working with them. I searched around for what to do with the heart and came across these beef skewers from Peru, Anticuchos de Corazón. I had no reason to be nervous. The skewers were amazing. The second bite was even better once I knew what to expect. The aji panca marinade that coats the beef adds a little spice, but not overwhelmingly so. The accompanying aji amarillo sauce helps increase the heat for those that want a bit more. The texture of the heart was firm due to the low fat content, but not nearly as tough as I was originally expecting. Now what should I do with the livers hanging out in the freezer?
Anticuchos are a popular street food in Peru and are generally seen being served from stalls or during outdoor events. They were developed during the times of colonization when the Spaniards adapted the local llama skewers with some of their flavors and changed the meat to beef. They are now popular in surrounding countries with a variety of sauces. After the nutrient-dense heart is cleaned of the unwanted veins and other parts (freeze these for future simmering to make broth), it is cut into cubes and marinated in aji panca, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and cumin. The cubes are arranged on skewers and grilled until cooked through. They are traditionally served with sliced potatoes, Choclo (Peruvian Giant/Field Corn), and an aji amarillo sauce.
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My beef heart was packaged mostly cleaned so I didn’t need to remove much. Here is a video on Youtube to show how to prepare the heart if you need to start from scratch. Can’t find or just not ready to try beef heart? You can substitute with flat iron steak. Peru Delights also had a recipe for Anticuchos de Pollo (Chicken).
I served the skewers with sweet yellow corn. To make it more authentic, use Choclo- the Peruvian Giant Corn if available. I have only personally come across it in the food court of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Some International markets sell it in the frozen food section. You can also serve halved baby potatoes in place of the russet.
Aji Panca is a mild pepper from Peru with a dark red color and smokey, somewhat fruity flavor. In the United States, it can be found dried, powdered, or in a paste. I was able to find Aji Panca Paste in the Peruvian section of the International market. If you can’t find it locally, it is also available on Amazon: Inca’s Food Aji Panca Paste (note: citric acid and sodium benzoate added) and organic for a much higher price.
Aji Amarillo (Yellow Chili) is a bright orange chile with about the same heat level as Tabasco or Cayenne on the Scoville Scale. In addition to heat, it also has a bit of fruitiness. I was able to find Aji Amarillo Paste in the Peruvian section of the International market. I have also seen it in the international section of larger supermarkets like Wegmans. You can sometimes find the chilies dried or frozen. If you can’t find it locally, it is available on Amazon (but for a more expensive price): Zócalo Peru Aji Amarillo Paste Organic, 8 Ounce.
Anticuchos de Corazón (Peruvian Beef Heart Skewers)
Adapted from Peru Delights
1 beef heart
1/2 cup aji panca paste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
2 russet potatoes
2 corn on the cob (Choclo- Peruvian giant kernel corns if available)
1/2 cup aji amarillo paste
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
Remove veins and sinew from the beef heart and cut the resulting firm meat into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the aji panca, vegetable oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, cumin, and salt. Add the cubed beef heart, tossing to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes. When they are nearly tender, add the corn. When both are cooked through, drain and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut the corn on the cob into serving sizes. Peel the potatoes and cut into thick slices.
In a small bowl, whisk in desired amount of sliced scallion into the aji amarillo paste. Season with salt and set aside.
Set the grill to medium heat.
Place 3-4 beef cubes on each skewer. Set aside the remaining marinade for basting. Arrange the skewers on the preheated grill. Baste the marinade onto the skewers with a pastry brush or fresh corn husks and grill for 3 minutes. Flip to the other side, baste, and grill until cooked through with a little char, another 3 minutes.
Serve hot with the potatoes, corn, and seasoned aji amarillo.