Walk down just about any street in Peru, and you’ll see and smell clouds of smoke rising from charcoal grills. These grills belong to anticucheras, the women who traditionally cook and sell anticuchos, one of the most popular foods in Peru. These grilled skewers of highly seasoned beef heart are usually served with boiled potatoes and corn. The anticuchos tradition has been part of Peruvian history since the country’s colonial days.
We make them with venison hearts, one of the tastiest and most often wasted cuts from a deer. To prep the heart, simply trim away the fat deposits from the top and sides of the heart. Next, trim down one side so that you can fold the heart open. Trim away all the connective tissue from the inner portion of the heart. Cut the trimmed heart into roughly 2-by-2-inch squares. Don’t overmarinate — 30 minutes to an hour is plenty of time, and don’t overcook, or the heart will be tough and chewy.
Soak the dried chiles in warm water to soften; about 15 minutes should do it. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers. Add the seeded chiles, red wine vinegar, cumin, salt, black pepper, garlic, parsley, and cilantro to a blender, along with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Process to a smooth paste. Soak the bamboo skewers in water.
Place the cleaned and trimmed heart squares in a glass bowl. Pour two-thirds of the marinade paste over it and stir well to blend. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
Blend the remaining third of the marinade paste into the remaining cup of olive oil. Whisk well to combine. Use this mixture to brush the anticuchos as they grill.
Remove the heart pieces from the bowl and thread 3 to 5 pieces onto each of the soaked bamboo skewers. Grill over hot coals for 3 to 5 minutes, rotating midway through the cook. Brush the venison with the reserved marinade-oil mixture heavily on both sides as it cooks.
We like to serve the anticuchos with the traditional sides of ají panca (a sauce made from dried chiles; find it online if your market doesn’t carry it), corn, and boiled potatoes.
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