I love meat, and I love bones. And we should try to pair these two things together whenever we can. Professional chefs will tell you that the things always taste better with the bones left in. But due to the increasingly sanitized society we live in, we’re losing touch with the beauty and taste of bones. I wanted to write this article in praise of bones, in the hope that you consider making them a part of your culinary rotation.
I think my love for bones began when I read stories about how primitive humans would roast huge leg-bones of prey, and then smash them with stone tools to extract the rich marrow contained inside. Scientists tell us that bone marrow is packed with fat and nutrients, and that these things helped the human brain to grow.
My goal here is to present my favorite dishes involving bones. Finding bones is not difficult. My recommendation is to seek out a good butcher in your area and develop a rapport with him. These guys love it when customers take an interest in their trade, and will be more than willing to help you get what you need.
If you are in the United States, I also suggest going to butchers at Hispanic meat markets, if you can find them. Every large city has them. Traditional ways of cooking meat are still common in Hispanic communities, and you should take advantage of this.
There no way to top this recipe for simplicity and rustic power. Porterhouse steak is expensive these days, but every now and then you should try to treat yourself to this specialty of Tuscany. You have mouth-wateringly good steak coated with herb-infused olive oil. Make sure you get a steak with a good-sized bone in it. Here is how you put it all together.
- The first thing you want to do is make the infused oil. Heat about 1/3 cup of good extra-virgin olive oil. Then add some herbs: rosemary, marjoram, sage, and garlic. Stir this for a few minutes and then set it aside.
- Grill or broil a large porterhouse steak on a grill or a broiler, to the degree of “done-ness” that you like. I like mine medium-rare. You will want the steak to be a thick one. Two inches thick, and about three pounds in weight is a good goal.
- When the steak is done, put it on a plate and immerse it in the herb-infused oil. Let the steak rest in the oil and soak in all that goodness.
- Cut the meat off the bone and drizzle some more of the infused oil on all of it.
Eating bone marrow is about as primeval and Paleolithic as you can get. For this dish, I would go to my Hispanic butcher and ask for thick marrow bones. Believe me, these guys know exactly how to cut bones up.
The nations of Central and South America are not squeamish about bones at all. Neither are the French, who love their bones. When you feast on this dish, remember that you are reaching across the millennia to what our ancient ancestors feasted on after a glorious hunt. This is not a light dish: it is very fatty and oily, as it should be. Wimps and wussified vegetarians need not apply here, it goes without saying.
Here are the steps to make good roasted marrow bones:
- Have your butcher cut the marrow bones into pieces that are about 3 inches long.
- Soak the bone pieces in cold salted water for about 12 hours. The idea here is to remove any impurities or blood. Change the salt water a few times during this process.
- Drain the bones, pat them dry, and coat them lightly with cooking oil to prevent scorching, and to give them a nice brown color when they roast. Stand them up on end, and then roast them for about 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven set at 450 degrees F.
- Serve the bones with a long, thin marrow spoon. Sprinkle with Kosher salt before serving. Some people like to eat marrow on crackers or spread on bread.
- In England it’s customary to eat marrow bones with a parsley salad, which is something relatively easy to prepare.
Beef Stock With Bones
Beef stock made with bones is one of those kitchen fundamentals that everyone should know how to make. You can use stock for nearly anything: stews, soups, cooking rice, whatever. You can even sip it straight. I don’t know all the chemistry behind it, but there are great things in beef stock cooked with bones. Weightlifters, take note of this. My butcher has told me that veal bones are better for this recipe because they have more collagen.
Personally, I prefer what is called a brown stock: that is, the beef bones are roasted before you boil them. The end result is darker and stronger flavored. Making stock is flexible, and you can adjust the portions below to suit your needs.
- In an oven set at 425 degrees F, roast about 3 or 4 pounds of bones cut into 2 or 3 inch pieces. You should roast the bones in a pan that also contains some sliced carrots, onion, celery, leeks, and garlic.
- Put the bones and vegetables in a large stock pot. Make sure you deglaze the roasting pan with some water, and add all this roasted goodness to the stock pot as well. Toss in some herbs: thyme, bay leaf, and parsley work well.
- Pour in enough water to cover everything, and bring to a boil. Let it simmer on low for about 4 hours.
- Add salt to taste. Let the stock cool then put it into containers and either freeze or refrigerate. You can skim off the fat before you use the stock.
So these are three of my favorite bone recipes. There are literally dozens of recipes I could have chosen, but these were the ones I thought were most useful. I hope you’ll find a way to incorporate bones into your eating habits. You can do it not just by trying these recipes, but by going out of your way to choose meats (beef, chicken, even fish) that have the bones in them.
It’s the way things ought to be.