A Bone to Pick
MoB | New York’s (and Atlanta’s) Finest Bone Marrow
Editor’s Note: There comes a time during the Month of Beef when you’ve eaten so much, so indulgently, that you’re down on the floor, slamming your palm, shouting “uncle” to visions of uncooked ribeye. That’s before you’ve even talked about bone marrow. We were damn near that point, so we called in the reinforcements. Jodie Chan, the author of this piece, not to mention the delicious Tumblr Reasons I’m Not Vegetarian, is an Australia native who lives, works and eats in New York. She knows her way around bone marrow and Formula 1. So look out.
You might be hard pressed to find a more succinct way of defining beef marrow than simply meat butter. The flexible tissue found in the hollow interior of the beef or veal bone (commonly at the femur), marrow is a succulent food source high in protein and fats (51g of fat per 3.5-ounce serving) and to some, an unfamiliar and perhaps a rather daunting item on the menu. Ordering it? Maybe, if you’re feeling adventurous. Buying raw marrow and preparing it back home? Fuhggedaboutit.
Well, that was true in a pre-Month of Beef world, anyway. In this feature, we look to explore the mysteries of the marrow, the classical way of preparing it and the dishes out there bound to delight any meat-lover and culinary hedonist.
A Nod to Tradition
Of all the more traditional and nutritious ways to prepare the bone, let us focus on the most glutinous method (French, naturally) that really plants the bone squarely as the star: roasted marrow. Sliced either through or along the bone, roasted simply and served with slices of grilled bread and relish, this dish may make a vegetarian’s tongue wag, but it can deliver any meat-lover to a state of gooey nirvana. Tried and true, Fergus Henderson (of London’s meaty nose-to-tail institution, St. John) proposes the most unadulterated roasted bone marrow recipe in this classic recipe published in The New York Times.
8 to 12 center-cut beef or veal marrow bones, 3 inches long, 3 to 4 pounds total
1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
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
4 (or more) 1/2-inch-thick slices of crusty bread, toasted
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones, cut side up, on foil-lined baking sheet or in ovenproof skillet. Cook about fifteen minutes, until marrow is soft and has begun to separate from the bone. (Stop before marrow begins to drizzle out.)
Meanwhile, combine parsley, shallots and capers in small bowl. Just before bones are ready, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle dressing over parsley mixture until leaves are just coated. Put roasted bones, parsley salad, salt and toast on a large plate. To serve, scoop out marrow, spread on toast, sprinkle with salt and top with parsley salad.
A Bone Marrow Tour of New York City (and Atlanta)
With the fundamentals of the recipe hardly complex, we set out to find the roasted marrow dishes that truly ticked the boxes in their own original way — searching for qualities like fattiness and juiciness, flavor, garnish or relish and ease of dipping in the bone canal for the accompanying bread.
Roasted Bone Marrow with Baguette Soldiers and Shallot Confit
Minetta Tavern, New York | minettatavernny.com
A Greenwich Village mainstay, Minetta Tavern is an Italian establishment both hip and true to its roots from back in the 1930s. It’s notorious for intense, hearty dishes including the supreme Black Label Burger sourced from Pat LaFrieda.
The granddaddy of beef marrow dishes, the Minetta Marrow is unmistakably a crowd pleaser. On any given Sunday evening at the 12-seat bar, there could easily be three dishes of marrow lined up for consumption. The marrow is served sizzling, sliced longways with a generous heap of olive oil and sweet garlic-shallot relish. A small baguette soldier with a generous scoop of marrow constitutes the ineffably perfect bite. Over the top in fattiness and juiciness (so much so that after ten minutes of cooling on the table, the fat is almost in a state of congealed clear butter), this dish stays true to traditional roasted marrow and is the recommended dish for any uninitiated (and hungry) marrow rookie.
Roasted Marrow Bones with Onion Marmalade & Grilled Country Bread
Landmarc, New York | landmarc-restaurant.com
With two outposts in New York teeming with groups of all sizes and styles round the clock, Landmarc serves traditional fare so reliably good it’s a foolproof restaurant for any occasion.
Its marrow reflects this consistency, dare I say, down to the bone. With its generous portion for two, Landmarc’s marrow is dripping with fattiness and seasoned with sea salt and sweet relish. Dished out with popsicle sticks (instead of the small silver spoons you would normally have at buttoned-up establishments), the scoops of marrow worked wonders atop its fluffy pillows of warm country bread. Each bite is truly insane in the membrane.
Bone Marrow Gratinee with Parsley, Shallots and Anchovy
The NoMad, New York | nomadhotel.com
A relatively new kid on the block, The NoMad restaurant (inside the hotel of the same name) needs little introduction for locals. Helmed by Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison, the restaurant has already picked up one shiny Michelin star in its freshman year.
The dish tastes simultaneously classic and innovative. The raw marrow is scooped out of the bone and prepared as panache (a mixture of flour, brioche crumbs and herbs), put back into the bone and baked in the oven to perfect tenderness inside and crispiness outside. Served with a frisée and parsley salad, the dish is simultaneously rich and fresh, lacking visible carb (which is cleverly hidden in the marrow). As a gratinee, the marrow is oddly reminiscent of turkey stuffing — the must luxurious kind. This marrow is recommended for those who fear for their waistlines but are gluttons for decadent treats just the same (or simply in denial).
Roasted Marrow with Sea Salt, Shaved Bonito and Teriyaki Sauce
Blue Ribbon Izakaya, New York | blueribbonrestaurants.com
Blue Ribbon Izakaya is a revelation. One might not associate meaty dishes with the Blue Ribbon franchise, known best for its sushi, sashimi and everything populist-Japanese in between. This Lower East Side Izakaya is actually the loud-mouthed, adventurous and brash little sister to its older siblings that shares the same family name (think chain-whip-toting Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill, with the décor and attitude to match).
As you’d expect, this marrow is not your standard roasted-with-sea-salt fare. Shaved bonito on a hot and steamy dish might have become novelty for Japanese dishes in the West, but in this case it actually serves very well in place of the sea salt — plus we never get tired of the mesmerizing theatrics of dancing katsuobushi. Gone is the olive oil; in its place is teriyaki sauce, its sweetness so emphatic that we may as well call this marshmarrow. The fried shiso leaf as garnish adds another unexpected touch, while the texture of the marrow itself is that of perfectly poached egg white. Served with buttery sweet white bread, our only criticism was that there wasn’t enough of the gooey goodness, which only left us hankering for more. (Also try the oxtail and bone marrow fried rice served in an earthenware pot if you’d like to drop directly into a marrow-induced coma.)
Side of Bone Marrow
Farm Burger, Atlanta | farmburger.net
Along with other fantastic trimmings such as oxtail marmalade and pork belly, for $3 you can have a side of bone marrow to scoop and smear onto the grass-fed patty or dip with your sweet potato fries. The wonders this helping of marrow does for your burger is almost disproportionate: just one serving can deliver you crispiness reminiscent of a sunny side egg and the fattiness of bacon. Get in early, though. Farm Burger only prepares a handful of four-inch marrow bones per service.
Scraping the Bone
Fergus Henderson’s recipe suggests the preparation of marrow cut from the side, as opposed to along the bone. In New York, cutting it the long way seems to be in vogue, both in restaurants and at places like The Cannibal, where you can find raw marrow bones for $5 per pound. Why the shift? Perhaps it is because there is something very carnal about the enjoyment of a marrow dish this way — the dipping of the bread in the hollow bone canal seems to be a significant part of the ritual. With the scoop and the smear, you’re almost playing with your food, preparing the perfect bite each time with your hands. If you’re still hesitant about the enjoyment or the preparation of the dish, it’s time to simply give in. As Mark Bittman suggests, a little bit of work can reap a lot of satisfaction.
Written by Jodie Chan
Photo Credits (from top-lead): Teresa Misagal, Robyn Lee, Landmarc, Francesco Tonelli, Ben Starkman