I‘ve been telling people recently that I’ve realized that there aren’t really foods I dislike; instead, there seem to be only degrees of desire for a given food. The notion of having “favorite” foods or “hated” foods is something that seems very kid-like, and is something I am trying to wipe out in my mind. Certainly, I “like” frozen custard more than I “like” boiled cabbage, but I am trying to appreciate both for the different sensations they provide, and stop thinking of one as “better” than the other. I am trying to taste everything, particularly things I find challenging, to really exercise this new philosophy, and find out if I’m not just totally full of it, instead.
As part of this new approach to food, it was finally time for me to challenge one of my few remaining “problem” categories. You see, I have a very immature, basic aversion to the parts of an animal that seem too (spiritually? ethically?) fundamental to its being. This means, for whatever reason, that tongue and heart is fine. Liver is fine. Stomach is passable. Brain and bone marrow, however, gives me the base-level heebie-jeebies. I realize this seems like a really arbitrary line, and is still something I am trying to figure out. I’m not, by nature, a particularly spiritual person, so that’s not the problem. I’m not even a particularly ethical one; I don’t worry if the thing I’m eating has a face, even if it’s a particularly adorable one. In fact, that’s the biggest issue, for me. As a meat-eater worth my salt, I should be comfortable with eating the entire animal, not just the parts that have been butchered, sterilized, and sealed in little plastic packages which bear no resemblance to the animal they came from. If I’ve got the wherewithal to consider myself someone who eats meat unabashedly, why, I should be able to hunt a bear down with a crossbow and eat its whole face, raw, on hands-and-knees in the woods somewhere.
It was with this in mind, then, that I set out to conquer my irrational fear of bone marrow. Because nothing asserts your dominance over a cow more than splitting its bones open and scooping its marrow onto adorable toast points. Let’s get started, shall we?
Ask your butcher to saw the bones lengthwise; this provides for more even cooking and easier scraping. Marrow bones are dirt-cheap. We got 8 split bones for about five bucks. Be careful, also, not to overcook your bones. You should stop cooking before the marrow starts oozing out of the bone, as it has a tendency to become chewy. The finished product is much, much different than I had expected: the marrow smells very strongly of beef (I found myself referring to it as “super-beef,”) with a very loose consistency not unlike that of half-rendered fat. Spread onto toast and topped with the parsley salad, each bite was satisfying, with the sharpness of the salad preventing the heavy beef notes from becoming overwhelming, and the heavy fat coating my lips. After my first bone, I was hooked, and didn’t stop until they were all clean.
Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad
Adapted from a recipe in the New York Times
- 4 center-cut beef or veal marrow bones, 3 inches long, cut lengthwise
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons capers
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- At least 4 1/2-inch-thick slices of crusty bread, toasted.
Preheat oven to 450. Place bones in cast iron skillet and roast, cut side up, until marrow is soft and begins to pull away from the bone, about 15 minutes. While bones cook, combine parsley, shallots, and capers in a small bowl. Add olive oil and lemon juice, and toss to combine. Scoop marrow out of bones, spread on toast, top with sea salt and salad, and serve immediately.