[Editor's note: it should go without saying that what happened in Newtown, CT, this past Friday was deplorable, horrific, abominable, heinous, and many more synonyms that could be employed to describe it as such. I hesitated on whether I should mention anything at all on the subject as this doesn't feel like the appropriate forum, but then my friends at Saugatuck Grain and Grape announced that they would donate 10% of their sales from their Bubbles, Bubbles and More Bubbles event to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, so if you're in the Westport, CT area on Saturday the 22nd between 3 and 6PM, stop on by and enjoy some bubbles while giving back to a worthy cause. If you're like me and will be traveling, their phone orders will also count towards their final donation and they offer free delivery (but I would inquire within on specifics, of course). They haven't asked me to publicize this, but I thought it had a nice sentiment: a small business toasting its customers while wanting to give back to the greater community during a time of intense sorrow. Full explanation of the photograph above after the jump.]
I’m pretty sure I disgusted at least half of the people I worked with when I mentioned this dish offhand one afternoon a few days ago. To the uninitiated, of course it sounds…unappetizing: roasting a bone to get at what lies in the middle? Why would anyone actually choose to do such a thing, the presence of caramelized onions notwithstanding?
The delights of eating bone marrow, as introduced in Hawksmoor at Home from their review in the Times can provide some insight:
Two great canoes of split front cow leg full of marrow, roasted in the “shell” with onions, and just as sweet and rich and fatty as, I don’t know, slow-poached toddlers and shallots in ghee.
I mean, how can you not be enticed by such a notion*? To be honest, working with bone marrow has been kind of a pipe dream since the quasi-failure of using it in making steak sauce a few years ago, and this recipe therefore jumped out at me when I started Post-It-ing recipes in the Hawksmoor at Home cookbook.
The sheer simplicity of it appealed to me at once: once the onerous work of caramelizing onions was done, all that was left was roasting the bones in the oven for a while until they were soft, and then if you could shove them under the broiler for a few minutes to singe the tops, the spread the whole fatty, onion-y gobs onto slices of bread and partake in the most divine bread course this side of roasted garlic with rosemary. It’s a bit bombastic to expect people to simply accept this as an alternative to the bread basket, but the onions do serve as a sort of bridge and when I first spread the marrow over the bread, I finally got the appeal: this is a non-dairy butter turned up to eleven. It’s rich and gelatinous and so savory, bordering on the bombastic. It’s not something you can eat every day or even with any regularity, honestly, but at the same time it’s inexpensive enough to try if you want to surprise your guests with something indulgent yet frugal. And if you really want to surprise them and not completely gross them out–scoop out the marrow and the onions and serve as a dip: they won’t be any the wiser, I assure you.**
In the meantime, I need to go to the brick-and-mortar Hawksmoor post-haste, because of reasons, and I think the next time I have this I should be enjoying some bubbles while I do so because I think that effervescence would cut the fat quite nicely, don’t you think?
Broiled Bone Marrow, Hawksmoor-Style
adapted from Hawksmoor at Home
- 2 marrow bones, split in half lengthwise by your butcher (Seriously: either ask your butcher for two long marrow bones split in half or grab some from the meat case and bring it to the butcher to do it for you. If they say no, never shop at that store again.)
- 2 and 1/2 sweet onions, cut in half and sliced into half-moons
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Sea salt
Caramelize the onions: take a 12″ skillet and heat the olive oil, add the onions, and then reducing the heat to low, cook for an hour until they are brown and caramelized and delicious. If they get a little singed, that’s OK.
Roast the beef bones: Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and place the bones on a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast until the marrow becomes soft–6-8 minutes on a small bone, and 10-12 on a larger one.
Final assembly: add onions to the bones, and then broil for a few minutes if desired or serve immediately as we do, garnished with some sea salt.
*The answer to that question is, sadly, many people.
**Seriously, this might be the ideal way to serve those who may love this dish but may be off-put by the bone-in presentation. Just make a note that it is by no means vegan/vegetarian even if it is dairy-free/looks like regular onion dip.