“Here Today, Gone To Marrow!” By Matthew D. Christianson


For centuries chefs have been using the marrow in beef bones in their cooking to enrich their recipes and make their food more delicious. In the 19th century marrow was not used exclusively to add flavor to a dish, but was also regarded as a “Health Food” and was fed to the sick to aid them in the return of their strength. Recent studies show that the fat in beef bone marrow is good for you as it is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Unlike all other beef fats, marrow is mainly monounsaturated and contains iron, phosphorous, vitamin A, and trace amounts of thiamin and niacin. Many doctors say that beef marrow contains choline and inositol, which are two of the most important nutrients that can repair and maintain the circulatory system and prevent heart disease.
The tradition of roasting beef bones has been a constant for many years and has been passed down from generation to generation.   The idea of taking one’s time in the kitchen to extract the flavor and natural succulent gelatin found inside the beef bones is a practice that helps chefs make their creations taste delicious and comforting. These days it seems like the ancient art of cooking bones is disappearing due to the fast-paced nature of today’s society. Jennifer McLagan, Melbourne-born food writer and author of Bones: Recipes, History and Lore, agrees and mentions the almost complete disappearance of bones from the Western kitchen. She states that home cooks have been convinced that they do not have the time to cook traditional meals and practice technical skills.  For instance, it is true that making stock takes a good portion of a day, but it is not difficult to prepare.  Simply put everything in the pot that just sits at the back of the stove for six hours and “Walla”.  McLagan feels that, “We teach our kids how to balance their check books at school but not how to feed themselves. We’re putting people out into the world today without cooking life skills because their parents are working and did not show them how to cook. They’ll have never tasted a roast, an osso buco, or a homemade stock and they will have no memory of them either. Within a generation these recipes, dishes and techniques could be lost.”  McLagan passionately explains the fact that, “Eating is one of the most important things that anybody can do. You need to eat and you need to eat well, and you really should be cooking for yourself. This is a skill that is close to totally disappearing”.
Lately, I’ve been noticing that many NYC restaurant menus are featuring this unctuous treat and luckily there are a few professional kitchens in Manhattan where some understanding chefs are trying to preserve the importance of good nutrition and classical cooking techniques.  One of my personal favorites is Gabrielle Hamilton chef/owner of Prune where she is getting back to kitchen basics.  Hamilton’s roasted bone marrow dish served with a lightly dressed parsley, caper, and shallot salad is a shining example of the utilization of an almost forgotten tradition.  Anthony Bourdain describes Hamilton as a “Chef’s Chef” and it is easy to see why as her menu demonstrates her care of the age-old foundations of healthy cooking.  Another great place to enjoy this dish is at SoHo late night favorite Blue Ribbon where the classically French trained American born Bromberg Brothers who are serving roasted marrow bones with a decadent oxtail marmalade.  Man those guys really know what flavor is all about and they truly understand how to preserve the essence of quality ingredients; just two reasons why they are a success.  Another success, Chef Brad Farmerie at his newest venture Double Crown in the LES is serving the long bone sliced length wise making it easier to get to the fatty goodness and he pairs it with a thick orange marmalade and buttery brioche toast.  These chefs are the hope of the future of traditional cooking and they refuse to let tradition die.  Thankfully they cherish the foundations of classic cooking techniques and they graciously share the art of their craft with the accepting public.


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