Friday, August 25, 2006

Kitchen adventures. marrow.

It all started with a pot of broth. (This was years ago). I had taken some beef and veal bones and simmered them in plain water on low heat, walked away for a while. Came back to poke at the bones with a pair of chopsticks as they bobbed about in the scummy liquid. Hello, I thought, what's this? Something was oozing out of the cut end of the bone, a pale, amorphous blob. What on earth could it be? Marrow.

With the tip of a butter knife I nudged that blob of marrow. It gently detached itself from the bony hollow which had cradled it, and fell into the broth with a plop. Eeeeeew, I thought. I'm not sure what happened after that, but my next memory is of taking a piece of toast, hot from the toaster, and spreading that lump of poached marrow on top.

Further experimentation led to various refinements. I would roast the bones in the toaster oven so they would brown and color the broth, and the marrow would crisp around the edges. Or I would simmer the bones for a little while and then stick them under a broiler until the marrow turned golden brown and slipped easily from the bone. Spread on hot toast the marrow would melt into the bread, the crusty bits filling the mouth with the flavor of roasted meat and something deeper, richer, the taste of the marrow itself.

The taste of marrow is indescribable. It melts like butter, but the taste makes butter seem pale and unsubstantial. It is full of fat, but something more than that, something dark and primal, like blood without the bitter minerally tang. I feel rather like a cannibal as I suck the bones dry, gouge the tender melting marrow from the hollows of bone, lavish them onto pieces of toast that soak up the marrow, that source of all life.

Later I came across an article about a writer's experience with discovering the seductive pleasures of marrow on toast in Gourmet. Still later I found a recipe for preparing marrow bones in Jeffrey Steingarten's It Must've Been Something I Ate, but somehow I have never gotten around to trying it. The joy came from accidentally stumbling upon something new and delicious, as I did that first time when I set a pot of bones on the stove to simmer into a broth...

No comments: