I don’t go around making chicken hearts for just anyone. It’d be a waste of time, cash, and feelings to cook them for someone who is just gonna EEEWWWW! in my face, or gum them down out of a sense of duty. These chicken hearts—marinated in a savory meld of black soy and bright sherry vinegar, spiked with fresh garlic and ginger—hit a pleasure point somewhere at the center of my offal-loving soul. If there’s not a foot of snow atop my grill (or even when there is), I’ll thread the chicken hearts on a skewer, cook them over a flame just short of blistering, and slice them into snappy, rubbery rounds to scatter atop silken-soft eggs decked with flakes of crunchy Maldon salt. If a fire isn't feasible, into the roasting oven they go.
They’re too good not to share, but it has to be with someone I know will appreciate them as much as I do. That person is not my husband, and that’s OK. He likes what he likes, and I like what I like, and so long as I get to be next to him, that’s just fine. But for a precious few people, I’ll put my heart on a plate. This is a dish I’ve been making for a while, originally inspired by a James Beard grilled chicken hearts recipe in a 1956 issue of House & Garden, and surely in the same flock as yakitori chicken hearts, but I’ve made it my own over the years.
And I’ve had my heart a little cracked along the way—those little fissures that form when you play show your favorite movie, lend them the book that molded your brain, or played them the album that’s the soundtrack to your inner self and they’re just like, “Nah.” I make chicken hearts for a precious few people—over eggs, if they’re extra lucky—and I’m sharing them with you right now. If you love them, I’m overjoyed, and maybe make them for someone. And if you don’t, just break it to me gently or not at all.
Chicken Hearts and Eggs
This is a proportional recipe, because we each have our own personal levels of enthusiasm for chicken heart consumption, but figure on 1/4 pound per person. Place the chicken hearts in a plastic or glass lidded container or a sealable plastic bag.
In a separate bowl, mix together equal parts sherry vinegar, dark soy sauce, several dashes of fish sauce and a pinch of kosher salt—enough to completely cover the hearts. Roughly slice and crush fresh ginger and garlic. Pour all of this over the chicken hearts and marinate, covered and refrigerated for at least 2 hours.
If you’re using a grill: Thread marinated hearts onto metal or soaked bamboo skewers, brush with oil, and cook over a medium flame for a few minutes on each side, until the outsides are very lightly charred in places. If you’re using an oven: Preheat oven to 400°F, place hearts and a little bit of the marinade in a baking dish, pour in some oil and toss to coat. Roast the hearts, shaking the pan occasionally, until the outsides are very lightly charred in places.
While the hearts are cooling just a little, prepare the eggs. Exactly what format that will take is entirely up to you, but I like a very soft scramble—no milk or cream—to contrast with the acidity and chewy snap of the hearts. Whisk the heck out of the eggs, or even buzz them in a blender, then stir, stir, stir over very low heat with lots of butter in a nonstick pan until they're almost custard-like.
Leave several hearts whole, and slice others horizontally in the manner of an olive. Mound the eggs on a plate and sprinkle the hearts on top with a pinch of flaky salt. Eat to your heart’s content.