Bone Marrow: the age-old trend
Nose-to-tail cooking has always been more of a movement than a trend, but different offcuts seem to strobe in and out of vogue. The current cut of choice is bone marrow.
“Bone marrow is offal, it’s definitely offal. But it makes a good starter for someone who is beginning to eat offal – it’s less confronting in terms of flavour and texture,” said Colin Fassnidge, owner and head chef at 4fourteen.
While the term offal might bring to mind liver, kidney, tripe and brains, nose-to-tail proponents have long recognised the virtues of marrow, with diners now following suit. While many consumers might shy away from the guts of the movement, Fassnidge is not alone in thinking bone marrow presents an opportunity to bring apprehensive diners into the fold.
Rory Donnelly, head chef at Caf del Mar, charges the nose to tail movement with creating awareness. By informing people, he said, they become more adventurous with their food choices.
“I personally think that it’s less of a trend and more of a global movement that has been instigated by chefs and suppliers who decide to promote and educate the broader public on matters of sustainability and ethical practice. One way we can do this is by showing people that all parts of an animal can be utilised and turned into something special,” Donnelly told Hospitality.
So what attributes specifically give bone marrow the edge over other offal? It’s versatility is one reason.
“Bone marrow is extremely versatile,” said Donnelly. “It can be sous vide or roasted, it can be crumbed or fried, and it can rendered down and used as an oil or turned into a butter substitute. It also pairs well with most cured and cooked meats, or even crab and other crustaceans.”
At Caf del Mar, split bone marrow served alongside rib eye steak is one of the go to dishes for diners. Introduced as part of the winter menu, Donnelly said that the marrow bone adds more complexity to the flavour profile, as well as providing a strong visual impact.
“So the dish is basically charred steak with roasted bone marrow. The marrow itself is mixed with horseradish,” he said.
“The bone marrow comes as a three inch long cut piece. We start by soaking the marrow bones for six to 12 hours, changing the water three to four times. We then scrape out the marrow from the centre of the bones and reserve. The bones get boiled to clean them and remove any remaining tissue.
“The marrow is mixed with fresh horseradish, parsley and pangritata then stuffed back into the bones, which we then roast for 10 minutes.”
Rib Eye and bone marrow, Caf del Mar
Fassnidge, a well-known champion of nose-to-tail cooking, told Hospitality there isn’t anything he hasn’t tried to do with bone marrow. One of the most popular creations though made use of the crab and marrow pairing.
“A big seller was the bone marrow with freshly cooked crab and a sorrel mayonnaise. That was just a really nice dish. It was when we had the Four in Hand, so it was very, you know, two hat. We used to serve it with the sorrel leaves,” he said.
“So you had the crab meat, which is a bit sweet, then the sorrel leaves are really acidic – you need that acidity to cut through the fat of the marrow – and the idea was that you scoop the bone marrow and the crab up with the leaves and mayonnaise and have it like a san choy bau almost.”
Some of the best uses of bone marrow don’t require complicated processes.
“It’s probably one of the easier things to get away with mistakes, compared to other offal. You have to be careful with the presentation side, because it can get a little bit dark if you leave the blood in it,” said Fassnidge.
“We get them in halved, then soak them in water with maybe a little bit of salt – sometimes that draws out the impurities in the marrow, like the blood, so you get a beautiful white marrow when you cook it. It gives you a better product.
“Then get some bread, make sure you have lemon and salt. That’s it. Lemon cuts through the fat and salt brings out the flavour. You need the acid – a splash of a good vinegar of the top works too. We did a bone marrow and avocado butter dish recently, which was a bit rich.”
Keeping in mind that bone marrow is part of the broader nose-to-tail movement is also important said Fassnidge.
“Nose-to-tail is really about no waste, just keep using and using everything. You can do duck fat potatoes, but with bone marrow. When you roast the bones keep a tray underneath to catch and drippings. We used to fry bread in them.
“The only problem now is the price. Offal is meant to be a cheap cut of meat, but marrow is nine dollars a bone now, so I would need to sell a dish at $15. It’s too trendy at the moment you could say.”
Avocado and bone marrow mousse, from 4Fourteen