From Peruvian anticuchos de corazon, to Japanese yakiniku, to Greek souvlaki, to Filipino isaw, nearly every food culture around the globe has its own kind of skewered meat dish, and a great deal of these featured offal. In part, the reason for this is that the cooking technique of skewering and roasting is an ancient one, dating back to when most cultures actively used offal in their cooking because no part of the animal should be allowed to go to waste; the use of these “off-cuts” carried through into modern times along with the tradition of skewered dishes. And this ancient technique has good reason for surviving into our own era. Grilling or roasting meats like heart, intestines, and kidney quickly and over high heat develops deep flavor and ensures that the meat cooks through, but remains tender and moist on the inside, giving the offal a taste and texture that easily rivals prime cuts of meat.
This recipe channels the traditional flavors of the Peruvian anticuchos de corazon. The accompanying skewers feature zucchini, tomatoes, shallots, and queso de frier to create an array of flavors ranging from tangy to sweet to buttery, unified and brightened up by the acidity of lemon juice.
As for the queso de frier—bet you didn’t know you could actually grill cheese (as in, cook it on the actual grill), did you? Finding this kind of cheese changed my life. It’s like a grilled cheese sandwich without the bread, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, a revelation of mouthwatering bliss. However, we’ve tried many ways of working with it, and many of them have fallen short of what I’d consider effective. Cutting it into slices, grilling it on a plancha, and then cutting it into cubes and threading it onto the skewers later for presentation has been the best method we’ve come across; even though it seems like more work than just sticking it on the skewer to begin with, it is less stressful during the cook and ensures a delicious result.
1 beef heart, trimmed and chopped into bite-sized (around 1 ½”) pieces
1 head of garlic, peeled
4-5 dried guajillo peppers, tops removed, seeded
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup neutral oil (like canola)
1 TBSP ground cumin
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes (to prevent burning)
Olive oil, to coat
The juice of 1 lemon
Garlic powder, to taste
10 oz queso de frier (or queso blanco, or halloumi), cut into bite-size cubes
1 lb zucchini, cut into chunks about the same size as the queso de frier
1/3 lb cherry tomatoes
6 small shallots, peeled, ends trimmed
Whole mixed olives, to serve on the side
Rehydrate the peppers by placing them in a large bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Cover and steep 15-30 minutes, until softened. Reserve the water to add to the marinade as necessary, and/or for other recipes.
Add the peppers, garlic, vinegar, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper to the blender and pulse until combined. Add the guajillo water as needed to get the mixture to a pourable consistency. Stick the chunks of heart in a plastic gallon bag, add the marinade, and massage lightly to make sure the marinade is coating the meat evenly. Allow to marinate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss the vegetables to evenly coat, and then slowly and gently thread them onto the skewers (you want to avoid anything splitting apart), leaving about a half an inch of space between each item. Leave some room at the top of each one, since you’ll be adding the queso de frierto them later on. Set the skewers in a row on a sheet pan and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toss the queso de frier in the oil mixture, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside on another sheet pan. Pour the excess olive oil mixture into a small bowl, so that you can use it to baste the vegetables. Similarly, remove the meat from the gallon bag, but reserve the marinade for basting. Skewer the pieces of heart, leaving about a half an inch between each one, and line these up on a sheet pan of their own.
Scrape the grill well and brush with neutral oil, turning it to medium-high heat. Grill heart skewers for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning and basting with the marinade occasionally. When they’ve taken on some char, cut into a chunk to check for doneness—it’s okay if there’s just a little pink, but the center should not be red and shiny. Remove from the grill, cover with aluminum foil, and stick into an oven set to the lowest low heat or “warm,” allowing the meat to rest while you grill the vegetables and cheese.
Again, scrape the grill very well and brush with neutral oil. Lay down the plancha on one side of the grill and allow to preheat, lowering the heat to medium. Lay down the vegetable skewers on the grill grate and the queso de frier slices on the plancha. Flip the skewers occasionally, but only flip the cheese slices once, as the bottom of them gets brown, with a thin spatula. Baste everything with the olive oil mixture occasionally. You’ll know the vegetables are are finished cooking when the zucchini and shallots are easily pierced with a fork, the tomatoes are just about ready to burst, and everything has a bit of char on it, around 6-12 minutes.
Once the vegetables and the cheese are done, pull them off the grill. Cut the cheese slices into bite-sized cubes and thread onto the vegetable skewers. Serve with whole mixed olives on the side.