Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bone Marrow -- No, really!

My daughter is an anthropologist and tried bone marrow as part of a Paleolithic archaeology seminar.  Of course she wanted me to try it, too!  I was dubious.  My imagination said this was going to be weird, maybe slimy or with some other unwelcome texture.  And I thought the flavor would be... off....

But I am a foodie and I felt I would lose credibility if she offered it and I refused.

Her recipe is not historical.  But the idea of eating bone marrow certainly is and I have seen many recipes in the old books.  So here is her take on it with my reactions.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Lemon Parsley Sauce

From New York Times via High/Low Food Drink 

  • 8 to 12 center-cut beef or veal marrow bones, 3 inches long, 3 to 4 pounds total
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • 4 1-inch thick slices of country bread
The olive oil avoided having its picture taken

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones, cut side up, on foil-lined baking sheet or in ovenproof skillet. Cook until marrow is soft and has begun to separate from the bone, about 15 minutes. (Stop before marrow begins to drizzle out.)
  2. Meanwhile, combine parsley, shallots and capers in small bowl. Just before bones are ready, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle dressing over parsley mixture until leaves are just coated. Put roasted bones, parsley salad, salt and toast on a large plate. To serve, scoop out marrow, spread on toast, sprinkle with salt and top with parsley salad.
Serves 4.

Credit Where It Is Due

My daughter did all the shopping, preparations, and cooking here.  : )


I guess there was a run on bone marrow that day because she went to two different sources and could only find the two bones -- and that was after asking the butcher to cut some for her.  We made do with what was available.

She made a little tray out of foil to hold the marrow and placed it all on a cookie sheet.

While the marrow was roasting, she put together the parsley salad.

During the 15 minutes of roasting, the kitchen began to smell like the best meaty roast you have ever smelled.  My tastebuds began to water!

The bones were sitting in a puddle of yellow oil that people have described as "meat butter".  We scraped out the little bit of brown marrow we could get, spread some of it on the bread as well as dipping the bread into the oil.  

There was more marrow in the bones than just this!
The Verdict:  I tasted it without any of the parsley salad.  Oh.  My.  The flavor was rich, meaty, buttery.  I had no problems with the texture:  it was just like eating garlic bread, but much, much better.  Marrow is perfect to put on bread.  The only thing it needed, really, was a bit of salt.  I could have eaten it all just as it was.  Success!

Here it is with the salad.
This tasted excellent, too.  The parsley, capers, and shallots blended well together with the olive oil and lemon dressing.  They complimented the meaty marrow flavor and had just enough acid bite to make it sparkle.  I sprinkled a little salt over the top of it all.
I think the only thing I would do differently would be to chop the parsley and shallots finer, so they sat easily on the bread. 

I feel I have successfully retained my Foodie title while getting to know an historical food source that was much tastier than my imagination allowed for.  This is definitely a repeater and a fun way to challenge my dinner guests' sense of adventure!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lyonnaise Potatoes

I have a lovely book, Dining on the B&O -- Recipes and Sidelights from a Bygone Age, by Thomas J. Greco and Karl D. Spence.

ISBN 13:  978-0-8018-9323-0
Published in 2009 by The Johns Hopkins University Press and written in association with the B&O Railroad Museum, it is a compilation of recipes used on the B&O Railroad dining cars, many of which came from other sources and contained notes from the chefs who used them.  The authors believe they were compiled in the 1930s or 40s, with the chef notes added possibly in the 1950s.

I like what the authors said about the company's attitude:  "The Baltimore and Ohio viewed its passengers as friends and family and did what any good host would do:  strove to make them feel welcome aboard its trains." (pg. 3)

Apparently it worked:  "The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was noted for its dining car cuisine and service.  The Dining Car and Commissary Department rarely turned a profit, but the railroad believed that if it provided superior dining and impeccable courtesy, it would attract passengers, shippers, and investors." (pg. 3)

What amazes me is the description of the kitchen.  "Entrees were prepared from scratch in a kitchen that occupied a space about 16 feet long and only 7 1/2 feet wide. ... The kitchen was a marvel of efficiency, with only a few feet between the oven, broiler, charcoal grill, and steam table on one side and the icebox, sinks, and vegetable storage on the other.  No space was wasted..." (pg. 3)

The recipe I decided to try was originally taken from Charles Fellow's The Culinary Handbook, published in 1904.  It is considered "the first purely American institutional cookbook" because Mr. Fellows attempted to reduce the French influence in the American kitchen.  He focused on "no-frills mid-western cooking methods."  (pg. 9)  His book can be downloaded here:

Lyonnaise Potatoes (pg 111 in the B&O book)

Cold boiled potatoes, either minced or sliced thinly, seasoned with salt and pepper, mixed with a little chopped parsley and fried onions; fried with butter in the form of an omelet.

Chef's Comments
Ingredients for 4 servings

2 Potatoes, boiled, cold
3 tablespoons Butter
1 Onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 tablespoons Parsley, fresh, chopped fine
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Peel the potatoes and place in a pan of cold water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 - 20 minutes, depending on the size.  When the potatoes are tender, drain them thoroughly and cool.  Then mince or cut into thin slices.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the onions until they are soft and beginning to turn translucent.  Add the potatoes, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to the pan and fry, turning with a spatula until evening browned.  

This recipe can be made without simmering the potatoes, but the frying time is a bit longer.  Add the onions and potatoes to the pan at the same time, cover, and lower the heat for 10 minutes or so, then add the parley, salt, and pepper.  With the pan covered, cook until brown and tender.

Dried parsley can be substitutes for fresh; cut the amount to 2 tablespoons.  If the potatoes seem to be getting too dry while cooking, add a little more butter to keep them nice and moist.

I updated the recipe just a little:  Instead of boiling the potatoes, I microwaved them until they were cooked through.  Then I chilled them in the refrigerator.  This was done a few days before I needed them.  It seemed to me that the point was to start with cooked potatoes, so boiling, baking, and microwaving were all valid options.  Also, I didn't peel the potatoes.

So basically I started with cooking the onions and proceeded from there.

Slow cooking makes them sweeter
Once they were starting to look translucent, and smelling heavenly, by the way, I added the rest of the ingredients.

I noticed I needed to scoop carefully with a spatula and turn the potatoes to keep them from breaking up too much while cooking.

The directions, "until evenly browned", I interpreted as "Let sit in the skillet until they smelled good and were crusty" and that was a good decision!

The Verdict
This dish is not pretty to look at.  It does not contain fancy ingredients.  But it sure is tasty and was a marvelous side dish to the Paper Pork (see the July 1, 2013 post).

The onions make the dish.  Because they are cooked so much they are sweet and add little blasts of oniony flavor to offset the blander potato.  I was concerned at first about using an entire onion with only two potatoes but that is just right.  You need lots of onion here!

The butter keeps everything moist and the salt and pepper give it a needed kick.

Normally I fanatically put tomato ketchup on anything potato-related (not baked, though!) and was surprised to discover this dish didn't need it.

So "Success", definitely.  I think it would be a good accompaniment to any robust meat dish because it will not compete with it.

It seemed that Lyonnaise Potatoes would be good also with paprika or bacon or ham added to it.