The fat sizzled and sputtered as the well worn copper roasting pan was pulled from the blazing oven. Inside pounds of scorched beef bones were sharing space with caramelized root vegetables, wedges of shriveled tomatoes, fragrant garlic cloves, and assorted herbs - all bathed in rich unctuous beef fat.
I was a young culinary student in France and today, was sauce day. This little story and its subsequent recipes doesn’t necessarily have much to do with sauce no, it’s about one ingredient in particular. Nestled in with the assorted beef bones and vegetables was one bone in particular, the marrow bone.
As I began to transfer the charred bones and caramelized vegetables to the stock pot Chef Chambret abruptly stopped me before I could even slowed my stride. His aged chubby calloused fingers snatched one of the larger marrow bones from the pan and motioned me over to a side table.
Grabbing a thin boning knife he plunged the tip into the center of the sizzling bone, turned the blade a bit and gently pulled, freeing the prize. The marrow was glistening, a tube of semisolid fat quickly melting around its circumference. Casually ripping off the end off a fresh baguette he deftly crushed then smeared the hot marrow over the crispy bread and excitedly offered it to me.
I was young, Paris and French food were all new to me and this little gift, like the volumes I was to learn in the coming months, was something that was totally alien. As I brought the melting marrow to my mouth chef once again stopped me by finishing his creation with a bit of moist grey sea salt - one bite, just one, and I was hooked!
Marrow is the rich, spongy, bloody gelatin found inside the bone. Usually beef (but they don’t have to be) the best marrow comes from the straight portions of leg bones or femurs. A subtle, creamy nuttiness, sometimes a bit sweet, always extremely rich, is not to be casually disregarded. The taste is in a word, incredible, either eaten straight up with a touch of salt or as the star in a opulent compound butter. It’s high quality fuel for your body and it’s chock full of vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes fresh, but usually frozen, the best way to purchase is in 4-6 six inch segments either split vertically or cut into horizontal sections. The vertically cut bones are easier to eat, whereas, the horizontal require a narrow spoon or fork to scrape out the marrow or if so inclined you can purchase a dedicated marrow spoon. Regardless of the cut, both are delicious.
I’m offering you two recipes today one is a very plain version of this classic dish. Salt and Pepper Marrow Bones are incredibly easy and shows off the true flavor of this delicious treat. My Bone Marrow Butter with Roasted Garlic and Herbs is a wonderful way to offer the flavor of marrow but in a more accessible fashion for some diners that might cringe at the thought of a dish full of disembodied bones.
As an appetizer 2-3 marrow bones per person is plenty as the richness can be overwhelming in quantity. That all being said, I like to make a huge batch and serve as many marrow bones as we can eat then use the rest for the marrow butter. When complete, I simply vacuum pack the butter into VacMaster zipper bags and freeze for use later. Bone Marrow Butter with Roasted Garlic and Herbs is a perfect do-ahead recipe that can be used to melt over steaks and roasts, used as a flavorful finishing butter for all sorts of sauces, or a flavor enhancer for any vegetable.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!