I love roasted bone marrow. And I find it encouraging to know that this odd bit once consigned to the soup pot, tossed to the dog, or thrown in the garbage is now finally being appreciated as a dish in its own right.
Our ancestors held bone marrow in high regard. For them–particularly those who lived in marginal areas–it was an important food source. Medieval cooks preferred their bone marrow sweet, adding it to puddings and pastries, while Georgian diners so loved to eat it straight that they commissioned specially designed silver spoons just for the task of scooping it from the bone. Queen Victoria was another roasted bone marrow lover, reputedly eating it every day. The queen lived to the age of 81, and no doubt she, like most Victorians, regarded it as a health food. Bone marrow is also the main ingredient in pemmican, a food that was key to the survival of early explorers in northern Canada, the Arctic, and Antarctica.
Many people avoid roasted bone marrow because it’s fat, but it should be remembered that marrow is 69 percent unsaturated fat. It’s also a very nutritious food, containing iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, and trace amounts of thiamin and niacin. There’s even more good news for marrow lovers: science has shown that the fat of ruminants contains substances that boost and maintain our body’s immune system. So the Victorians were right—it is a health food and definitely way too good for the dog.
While all animals have marrow in their bones, birds have less than most because many of their bones are hollow so they can fly. Veal and beef marrow are the most popular bones because of their very mild flavor and the higher ratio of marrow to bone. Marrow’s more versatile than you might think. Apart from eating it straight from the bone, you can use it like you would any other fat, adding it to dumplings, hamburgers, and dessert. It’s also an excellent fat for sautéing and frying.–Jennifer McLagan
LC O Bone Marrow, Bone Marrow, Wherefore Art Thou Bone Marrow? Note
Author Jennifer McLagan knows her bones. She also knows how to get what she wants. Here, her tried-and-true tactics and tricks for procuring the best bone marrow from your butcher:
• Keep in mind that marrow bones can be cut to any length you want. Ask your butcher for pieces cut from the center of the leg bone, where the ratio of marrow to bone is highest.
• It’s hard to judge how much marrow you will get from any bone, and it ranges widely depending on the thickness of the bone: a 3-inch/7.5-cm bone will yield anywhere from 3/4 to 3 ounces/20 to 90 g, but usually it averages around 1 1/2 ounces/40 g.
• The bones should already be free of meat and should smell clean and faintly meaty. The marrow itself should be whitish pink in color; don’t worry if you can see blood spots on the surface—that’s normal.
• Buy extra bones to be sure you have enough. Bone marrow freezes well in or out of the bone.
• You can also have the bones cut lengthwise: this makes the marrow easy to get at with any spoon—no need for a silver Georgian one.
Roasted Bone Marrow Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 25 M
- Servings Vary
- Marrow bones
- Coarse sea salt
- 1. To remove the blood from the marrow, place the bones in a bowl of ice water with 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt per 1 cup water. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, changing the water every 4 hours and replacing the salt each time. Drain and refrigerate until you are ready to cook the marrow. Be sure to use it within 24 hours or freeze the drained bones for up to 3 months.
- 2. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
- 3. Drain the bones and pat them dry. Place them in a roasting pan. If the bones are cut crosswise, place them standing up; if the bones are cut lengthwise, place them cut side up. Roast for 15 to 25 minutes, until the marrow has puffed slightly and is warm in the center. To test for doneness, insert a metal skewer into the center of the bone, then touch it to your wrist to gauge the marrow’s temperature; the roasted bone marrow should be very hot. There should be no resistance when the skewer is inserted and some of the marrow will have started to leak from the bones. Serve the roasted bone marrow immediately with spoons.
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Roasted Bone Marrow Recipe © 2011 Jennifer McLagan. Photo © 2011 Leigh Beisch. All rights reserved.