Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fergus Henderson's roast bone marrow and parsley salad redux

It's been three years since I made this recipe to disappointing results and it's taken me this long to try it again. It's highly acclaimed, so I knew it was my fault it turned out poorly, but it took seeing a demo showing exactly what I did wrong to push me to actually getting more marrow bones and giving it another shot. Having a big bunch of CSA parsley on hand didn't hurt. I'm still on week ten's share if anyone's keeping track. Also, that original post is, somehow, still getting hits despite being one of a dozen blog posts about this recipe. I feel kind of obliged to update for those readers.

Here's the recipe again with a few notes on my preparation:
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 [I used two 6-inch beef bones. I had the option to have them cut in half, but I didn't check the recipe first.]
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). [I went a few minutes too long as the crustiness that developed at the uncovered ends disguised the looseness I was looking for. Probably best for beginners like me to cover.]

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. [Lacking a marrow spoon, I found a pair of chopsticks worked well to dig the marrow out. I found it easiest to scrape a bone out fully and then spoon a measure of marrow onto each piece of toast. Also, that allowed the toast to soak in a pool of rendered marrow for a little extra unctuousness.] 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. [I used Hawaiian black sea salt because it was what I had at the level of coarseness I was looking for. It does look nice too, though, don't you think?

As I said up top, I had a much improved experience this time around. Along with the sheer fattiness, the marrow delivered a good bit of meaty flavor. Think of biting into a well-cooked steak and getting that great burst of just-melting fat full of savory flavor. It's kind of like that without the meat part. So, yeah, worth making once in a while.

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