Chef Mike gets to roasting with them sweet and tasty bones
When I stop and think about it, a sack of bones probably shouldn’t have elicited squeals of excitement out of a fifty-year-old man, but these weren’t just any bones—these were veal shank bones.
Smearing faint, light red streaks of blood and remaining flesh against the inside of the plastic bag that stretched and strained to contain them, these treasures were not only fresh, but sourced from a grass-fed, naturally-raised local calf from a farmer I personally knew. She had even been so kind as to split them vertically, exposing more of the marrow surface area. It was a gift of immeasurable kindness and beauty, and I was absolutely giddy.
I had no intention of using these beauties to make a fond brun de veau, or brown veal stock, nor was I under any illusion that a batch of “bone broth” would allow my wounds to heal like Wolverine. My plan was much simpler, decadent, and deliciously carnal.
These treasures were destined to become roasted marrow bones, served alongside a simple salad and toast. Once the marrow had been scooped out, admired, and slowly savored like a 1952 Macallan on the rocks, the hollowed-out bones would be used for a novel, but stunningly flavorful drink experience—the bone luge.
First, let’s talk roasted marrow bones. Roasted bone marrow is best described as “meat butter.” When you’re looking at a bone that’s been cut, it’s the soft, fatty stuff in the center that fills all the cavities of the bone and makes the difference between a silky, rich beef stock and bland meat water.
When you roast marrow bones just until the marrow begins to loosen from the bone itself, but before it starts to melt away, the result is a buttery texture and concentrated beef flavor that will bring any carnivore to their knees in a state of gooey, meaty nirvana.
While it’s still hot, scoop the marrow out with a narrow utensil, a bit of crusty bread or you can have your manservant fetch your marrow spoons from the butler’s pantry. (Marrow spoons began to appear on upper class tables in the late 1600s and can still be found in Ina Garten’s china cabinet). Serve on toast with something acidic, like a vinaigrette salad, to compliment the richness of the marrow.
After the marrow has been consumed, it’s time for the swimwear portion of the evening—the bone luge. Once you’ve cleaned the meat butter out of the bones and your arteries are crying out for mercy, you’ll be left holding the trench-shaped remnants (remember to have the butcher split them lengthwise, not “pipe cut” if you want to perform the bone luge ritual).
Grab a shot of a mild, smooth spirit, such as brandy or sherry. Don’t use liquor with a strong flavor or an alcohol content of more than about 80 proof. This keeps your taste buds from being overwhelmed and missing the subtle addition of umami the bone and marrow remnants will provide.
Now, just put one end of the bone up to your mouth with the other end tilted up at a slight angle and pour your drink down the channel where the marrow once resided. It should flow perfectly into your awaiting mouth, picking up precious bits of umami along the way.
You’ll look like you’re playing a college drinking game, but the flavors grab you by the collar and say “I’ve got a mortgage and child support payments I’m trying to forget just long enough to remember what freedom and dreams were like.”
Bon appétit and cheers!
Roasted Marrow Bones
- 2-3 lbs of veal shank marrowbones, split lengthwise
- Coarse sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Toasted slices of French bread
- Arugula salad with citrus vinaigrette (see below)
Put the bones in a roasting pan, marrow side up and roast in a 450° oven for about 20 minutes or until the marrow are giving to the touch and loosening from the bone, but not yet starting to melt away.
To eat, scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast; season it with coarse sea salt. Place a pinch of salad on top; eat immediately.
Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- dash of pepper
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- dash of red pepper flake
- 1 handful arugula, chopped
Put everything except the arugula in a small jar and shake like hell for about 2 minutes until it’s smooth and completely mixed. Lightly toss the arugula with the dressing.
Longtime food writer and professional chef Mike McJunkin is a native Chattanoogan currently living abroad who has trained chefs, owned and operated restaurants. Join him on Facebook at facebook.com/SushiAndBiscuits