Organs aren’t usually among my choice indulgences. But this particular treat, chicken hearts, was surprisingly tasty, and ended up being one of my favorites among a smorgasbord of delights on a recent evening.
The restaurant was Husk of Nashville, James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock’s new outpost. (The original Husk is in Charleston, South Carolina, also an excellent eatery.)
Biting into the tender yet firm delicacy, I tasted smoky, peppery flavors. The menu imparts a sense of romance about the dish, as it describes the hearts being “roasted in the embers with West African Mustard Onions.” You can almost imagine them being brushed with fairy dust as the kitchen handles them as gently as you would cradle a robin’s egg.
For those who haven’t seen the reams of articles gushing over Brock (including Husk being named Bon Appetit’s Best New American Restaurant of 2011 , he is known for exclusively using ingredients that originate in the American South at both locations. This includes kitchen workhorses like salt and olive oil.
Combine that with an inventive, clever play on traditional Southern dishes in a well-appointed but unpretentious setting, and you’re set for a nice meal.
My visit was meant to be a brief stop-off en route from Mississippi to Kentucky. (It sure beat fast food.) But it quickly turned into a leisurely-paced feast. Why hurry?
Among the delicacies that appeared on my table were the following: 6-week aged beef tartare with a smoked oyster sauce, egg yolk, and pickled chilis. Smoky chicken wings with pepper mash dry rub and Alabama white sauce. Soft shell crab with speckled butter bean and pepper salad. An old-fashioned vegetable plate with benne fried green tomatoes, grits swimming with a poached egg & peppers, Brussels sprouts, and succotash. And those are just a few of the dishes I sampled.
All this paired with an Ole Sorgy, a libation containing W.L. Weller bourbon, tobacco bitters, sorghum syrup, Bourbon Barrel cherry bitters, and lemon, along with pleasant dinner conversation. After a slice of lemon buttermilk pie and plenty of refreshing coffee, all that was left was the challenge of keeping my eyes open on the drive home.
Since the typical home cook may be a little hesitant about experimenting with chicken hearts, I finagled a recipe for the buttermilk pie from talented Husk pastry chef Lisa Donovan.
If you want to taste these soul-warming provisions at the source, take a visit to the cordial folks at Husk in either city. They’ll take such good care of you, you just might want to take them home to meet your mama.
6 eggs, room temperature
3 cups sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter, melted
1 ½ cups buttermilk
Zest from one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Whisk sugar, flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and add in the dry mixture. Incorporate well. Add melted butter, zest, juice and then stream in buttermilk. Pour into a 10″ unbaked pie shell and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 degrees for an additional 35 minutes.