By Noah Kaufman
Updated February 13, 2015
Credit: © Tanta Chicago

Candy hearts? Chocolate hearts? Those are the sorts of staid, boring Valentine’s ideas that no one could get excited about. We want to talk about actual hearts here. Listen up, heart is often an under-appreciated protein. It has a wintery, slightly gamey taste so that it can, for example, add wonderful depth to meat sauces. But some chefs are also getting adventurous enough to let it stand front and center in their dishes. Here are five from around the country you should get brave enough to try.

Beef Heart Bolognese with Black Truffles – Tête, Chicago

Chefs and expert charcutiers Kurt Guzowski and Thomas Rice wanted to try a pasta with blood in it, and they found that adding heart made perfect sense.

Pork Heart and Sausage Ragout – Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA

James Beard Award winner Tony Maws adds Armagnac, sage and the cartoonish-looking but wonderfully meaty-tasting cèpe mushrooms to his heart-and-sausage ragout and serves it over a faro flour straccetti pasta.

Grilled Green Strawberries, Broccoletti and Duck Hearts with Pickled Strawberry Vinaigrette and Greek Yogurt – FT33, Dallas

Matt McCallister, from the current crop of Food & Wine Best New Chefs, just got the very first green strawberries of the season—less ripe and tarter than the summer berries you might be used to. He’s putting them to work immediately with grilled duck hearts.

Corazón Anticuchos – Tanta, Chicago

In Jesus Delgado’s home country of Peru, beef heart is the most popular meat used in anticuchos, a sort of Peruvian kebab. He serves his with a spicy chile cream.

Parisian Beef Heart Tartare with Modem Egg, Charred Fresno Chili, Stadium Mustard and Fermented Pickle Relish – The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland

Chef Jonathon Sawyer sums up his attitude on eating heart this way: “They say the best way to the heart is through the stomach; we’re taking a shortcut.”