Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meat After Dark: Fergus Henderson's Bone Marrow

Tonight we were late coming home from work. So, dinner was rushed and Belle was not that interested. We had pasta fagoili. This was my husband's favorite bachelor meal, and it is what he yearns for when he is sick, tired, lonely, or unsettled. I have never made it. For him, the eating of the dish is connected to chopping the vegetables, drinking part of the wine that goes in the pot, stirring the bowl… And, honestly, I have always been very happy to just sit back and partake. Belle usually loves pasta. This time we made it with rotini. While carbs are usually a big hit, rotini is apparently not Belle's favorite. Pastina, spaghetti, and orzo have worked. But, not rotini. From cooking to bedtime we had about 45 minutes at most; so it could have also been the hustle and bustle. As we will both be working more hours in the weeks to come, I will have to plan and cook more elements of dinner on the weekends. Planning meals have never been my strong suit. I come from a long line of impulse shoppers and impulse chefs. Can I break with my heredity? The rest of the story would seem to prove that I can’t.

On our way home, we had run into Heinen's for some treats for me to take into work tomorrow. After an unsatisfying lunch of a Vegetarian Bowl and no breakfast, something snapped inside me. The meat counter beckoned me. The young butcher was charming enough and I ended up buying marrow bones. I had purchased some from the West Side Market around New Year’s when M— was in town. She was making a wonderful Polish inspired meal (or more truly inspired by her mother.) Whenever (someday) I remake M—‘s mother’s meal, I will write more about each element, short ribs, sauerkraut salad and perogies. I have some strong feelings about the meal, and I know it needs its own post. Nonetheless, we didn’t get around to the marrow bones that time. And, they went to the dog.

So, this time I was not going to let them hang out one minute. As soon as we finished dinner, I turned the oven to 450 degrees. I used some of the flat leaf parsley from the pasta with cider vinegar, sea salt and olive oil. We didn’t have crusty bread, so I sliced some everything bagels thin and toasted them.

Then, we waited 20 minutes. I have been thinking often about Fergus Henderson and his belief in eating everything. Jaime Oliver is now a licensed animal murder. (Read more in the New York Times.) In this debate about the ethics of eating and living responsibly, if responsible meat eating is possible, it means thinking about how the animal is treated and how much of the animal is consumed. We can’t just eat the chicken breasts, and even worse, we can’t feed parts of chicken to other chickens. Really, people like Michael Pollan write much more cogently about these topics. But, my point is with Belle in the world, I have considered this debate in a new way. One thing I do know is that I have rethought what is okay to eat—if I eat animal muscle then I should also consume or make use of the other bits.

Marrow is one bit I had yet to try. So, we sat and waited. When it was ready, I was hesitant. It wasn’t the bone-ness of it or the carnivore nature of it. I have already written that I won’t turn down food on the basis of texture. But, in this case, it was the mucilaginous, colloidal texture that made me hesitant. So, after a deep breath, we both dug in, quite literally. The result was rich and lovely. I was tempted to treat it the way that Belle treats hummus—to lick it off the bread and then reapply. But, our reverie into bone-eating was short-lived. We only each had a three-inch section of bone. Our little brush with marrow left us wondering if we had actually tasted it. I suspect by tomorrow morning we will be talking about it in large words and with reverential authority. But, right now, I know it tasted like rich meaty roasted creaminess.

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