Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fergus Henderson's Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

[Yes I saw this dish properly prepared on No Reservations too and learned that I overcooked it, rendering the marrow. That's probably why my marrow didn't have a lot of flavor to it. I've finally gotten my hands on some more marrow bones and made it again with rather better results. I bought a new camera in the meantime so I have much better pictures too. I'm going to put them in a new post so click here to take a look.]

If you watch any foodie-centric television (as opposed to the ever more downmarket Food Network) that name should seem familiar to you. Any time a foodie show travels to London they stop by Henderson's restaurant St. John and talk to him about his single-handed revival of country English cooking using all the other bits of the animal than what you normally eat. And if you've been watching reruns of Anthony Bourdain's old series Cooks Tour then just a few weeks ago you saw him calling this particular recipe his choice for his death-row meal.

Henderson popping up all over the place inspired my recent declaration that I want to cook and eat more organ meat (and my resulting disappointment at how little I've found available). Well, that and most of a bottle of wine. The latter is a general requirement for most of my declarations. Anyway, I'm pleased to have found that Whole Foods carries marrow bones and to have found Henderson's recipe on-line. So here's my chance to see what all the fuss is about. I'll let Fergus give you the details:

Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad
from The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson

- serves four

twelve 3-inch pieces of veal marrowbone [the packaging my marrowbones came in doesn't actually say what animal it came from. It's about veal-sized though]
a healthy bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked from the stems
2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 modest handful of capers (extra-fine if possible)

juice of 1 lemon
extra-virgin olive oil
a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
a good supply of toast
coarse salt

Put the marrowbone pieces in an ovenproof frying pan and place in a hot 450 degree (F) oven. The roasting process should take about 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the bone. You are looking for the marrow to be loose and giving, but not melted away, which it will do if left too long (traditionally the ends would be covered to prevent any seepage, but I like the coloring and crispness at the ends).

Lightly chop your parsley, just enough to discipline it, mix it with the shallots and capers, and at the last moment, dress the salad.

Here is a dish that should not be completely seasoned before leaving the kitchen, rendering a last-minute seasoning unnecessary by the actual eater; this, especially in the case of coarse sea salt, gives texture and uplift at the moment of eating. My approach is to scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast and season with coarse sea salt. Then a pinch of parsley salad on top of this and eat. Of course once you have your pile of bones, salad, toast, and salt it is diner’s choice.

That's the way I like my recipes: conversational and explanatory. But enough of that, you want to know if it really was the exquisite experience I was promised. And the answer is: not really. The marrow didn't have much character and was usually overshadowed by the parsley salad. And by itself it paled beside a good butter. It wasn't bad, mind you, but a death row meal choice it was not. I suppose I might have got sub-standard marrowbones. They were previously frozen; maybe that affects the taste. If I'm going to stuff myself with toast and fat, I'd rather have the buttered breakfast turnips that I made last month. I don't think that's quite a death row meal either, but if I had a week left I think I could find a spot for it.

No comments: