“Once you’ve knocked the beast over the head it’s only polite and common sense to eat it all,” British chef – and our hero – Fergus Henderson told The Evening Standard a couple of years ago. We wholeheartedly agree. It is only respectful to the animal you’ve just killed not to waste even the smallest part of it.
Of course, most of us, don’t kill animals. In fact, aside from the smaller birds, few of us actually have the opportunity to cook a whole animal. But just because we can’t buy a whole cow or pig, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make the effort to learn how to cook every single piece, including offal.
Further, using the whole beast is not just a question of respect to the animal and common sense. Some of the less traditional parts of an animal are actually among the most flavorful.
Here at The Londinium Project, we’ve had a fair share of non-traditional pieces of meat. Perhaps the most memorable offal experience was during dinner at Blue Hills at Stone Barns, a fantastic restaurant on, as the name implies, a working farm in Westchester, about an hour out of New York City. We told our server that we were open minded when it came to offal, and ended up eating crispy pig snout and venison testicles.
And while our own cooking adventures have not been this daring, yet, we’ve made our fair share of not run-of-the-mill dishes. One of our favorites come from Fergus Henderson’s cook book, aptly named The Whole Beast: Nose To Tail Eating. The first time we came across this dish was on a holiday special of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations – season 6, episode 26 for anyone who’s interested in tracking it down. Otherwise, it’s available through this YouTube link, and chockfull of dishes made with normally neglected cuts. Marinated beef heart anyone? Anyway, the episode sees Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman and a handful of other chefs prepare a potluck dinner, although is it still a potluck dinner if Bourdain and Ruhlman prepared half the dishes? Semantics aside, Bourdain and Ruhlman make what is perhaps Ferguson’s signature dish – bone marrow with a fresh and flavorful parsley salad.
Our mouths watered as we saw the two dig their spoons inside the bone to extract the juicy marrow, spread it on toasted bread, sprinkle it with salt, and top it with the parsley salad. We just wanted to reach out and grab at least one bone and we were thankful that smellavision doesn’t yet exist as we would never have been able to resist the aroma.
Instead, we decided to try our hand at making the dish for our romantic holiday dinner a deux before leaving for the annual family gathering. So we asked our butcher to source us a few bones, we purchased some tiny teaspoons (specific marrow spoons actually exist, but we made do with small spoons) and made our first roasted bone marrow dish. It is amazing how such an extraordinarily simple dish can be so full of delicious flavors.
We have since had the opportunity to eat the master’s himself, having bone marrow on a handful of occasions that we were lucky enough to dine at Henderson’s Smithfields restaurant, St John. And every now and then, we make it ourselves, which was the case last Saturday.
Some might think that getting good marrow bones might be challenging. It’s not. Many good butchers have them in stock and any half decent butcher will be able to source them for you with enough notice. In fact, any worthy butcher will be able to source pretty much any cut of meat you require, and if he doesn’t it might be time to look for a new one. Just don’t go asking for ortolan! Ginger Pig, at Borough Market, regularly has marrow bones, and that’s where we got them from.
You will also need the following ingredients for the accompanying salad. The proportions are enough for two, so you might need to adjust according to the number of diners.
- A bunch of flat leaf parsley
- A shallot
- A half cup of capers
- Juice of half a lemon
- A tablespoon of olive oil
You will also need some bread, preferably crusty, and good quality sea salt. We use Le Saunier De Camargue – not cheap but lasts for months!
This is one simple dish by the way. All you need to do is heat the oven to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 Celsius), put the marrow bones in an oven proof pan and in the oven. They will need to roast for around 20 minutes or until the marrow is done.
In the meantime prepare the salad by chopping the parsley and mix it with the thinly sliced shallot and capers. In another bowl whisk the lemon juice and olive oil and set aside. Don’t dress the salad before the last minute or it will wilt!
You can toast the bread in the oven. We had some time last Saturday so we cut thin slices of Cathedral loaf from Borough’s Bake Ahead, and toasted them on the stove top in an oiled griddle pan, which gave us those splendid burnt stripes.
Once the marrow is done – Henderson notes that it should be “loose and giving but not melted away” – take it out of the oven and serve it with the freshly dressed salad and bread on the side, as well as sea salt for everyone to season to their own taste.
Also, unless you make the mistake we made last Saturday and use a flat cookie sheet for the marrow bones, your dish should have the delicious marrow drippings which are great, if probably utterly unhealthy, to dunk any extra bread in.
So there it is. A dish from what might otherwise be thrown away. And an absolutely fantastic one at that. We can’t wait to make it again!