As I bit into the toast the rich, decadent, wobbly marrow on top oozed a little , leaving a faint smear of fat on my lips. I was in a fancy restaurant in New York (Minetta Tavern) and surely I couldn’t just drag my tongue across my lips. The fuck I couldn’t. I licked my face clean after every bite, begrudgers bedamned. There’s a reason bone marrow is popping up on restaurant menus all over the place. They call it God’s butter.
Historically Irish cooking was considered a peasant cuisine, where every part of the cow was eaten but the ‘moo’. Though these days we’ve all become more trained to buy our meat pre-packaged, and are missing out on treats like bone marrow. It’s accepted to frame ‘nose to tail’ eating as respecting the slaughtered animal by wasting none of it. Also you can discuss embracing forgotten techniques if you’d like. But let’s cut through the shite, the main reason you should head down to your butchers and demand a bag of bones is the taste. Bone marrow has a slight nuttiness, unctuous, creamy and subtly sweet, the taste is incredible. Cooked as part of a rich stew, or simply slathered across some toast, it’s all good. Of course if you’re concerned that there is no more to marrow than just fat. Well there’s good news. It is dense in monounsaturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol and is imbued with vitamins and minerals. FTW.
Marrow bones can also be used to make stock and cooked marrow can be whisked into soups, risotto or sauces to enrich them and add a depth of flavour. I’ve made marrow butter by blending bone marrow with butter and parsley. Rolled into some clingfilm, put in the fridge and later cut into discs to melt onto a piece of steak, or into a pasta dish. Another way is to roast the marrow, remove from the bone and let it cool again so it hardens up. Roll the chilled marrow in some flour and shallow fry in a pan until browned and crisp on the outside and the marrow melts on the inside. However my favourite way of enjoying bone marrow is the simplest, roasted and spread onto some toasted bread with sprinkling of sea salt and served with a sharp parsley, shallot salad to cut through the creaminess of the marrow. This preparation has its resurgence from Fergus Henderson’s St. Johns restaurant in London, though the recipe below is closer to the salsa verde I love so dearly than the parsley salad used there.
When buying bones talk to your local butcher in advance as he may have to order them in. Ask for centre piece of shin, ideally from the hind legs of a grass fed cow. The centre cut bones should cost no more than about 50c per piece and will be about two inches in height.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, and line the bottom of your roasting tray with some tinfoil because fat will leak out when roasting. Put the bones onto the tin foil, standing up with the thick end of the bone on the bottom, so they’re more stable when moving the tray in and out of the oven.
After about 15 minutes the marrow should be slightly bubbling and have come away from edges a little. Thicker bones will take a little longer, so keep an eye on them. While the bones are roasting you can make the dressing.
Strip the leaves from a bunch of parsley, using about half of leaves one of the supermarket herb pots. Thinly slice 2 shallots, or a half a mild small red onion and mix with the parsley into a bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add a teaspoon of rinsed capers and 1/2 a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.
Put the roasted bones, parsley salad and some toast on a large plate. To serve, scoop out the marrow and spread it on the toast. Sprinkle with some sea salt and top with the Salsa Verde.