Cracking open bones to eat cooked bone marrow is a familiar part of my diet, it has grown on me since childhood. On days when kari kuzhambu, a dish where bone-in goat meat is braised in its own cooking liquids with south Indian spices, was made at home, marrow bones were easy to find and easy to disappear as people actively looked out for them. Goat marrow bones were narrow enough that it required some skill to suck out the marrow, a skill I lacked much to my frustration when I was young. But when it worked, it was hard to forget that moment of realization when the marrow was out and the struggle with the bone was over.
I don’t ever recall having had bone marrow at a restaurant until a few years ago when much to my pleasant surprise I saw it on the menu at a restaurant in Paris. These were beef marrow bones, much wider than those from goat, and hence much more easy to handle. After eating them, I told myself that I should look for them when I returned to the States.
Here is a method to prepare roasted beef bone marrow:
Beef marrow bones: femur bones cut to preferred dimension by the butcher
Good grains of salt
Arugula or any salad green with a peppery bite
Salad dressing: olive oil and lemon
Pre-heat oven to 420˚F. Arrange marrow bones on a parchment lined baking pan, and place in oven. After the first 10 to 15 minutes, check every minute or so. Roast until marrow starts to bubble a little and ooze some of its fat. Serve bones on a plate with salad greens of choice and warm crusty bread on the side. Using a spoon, scoop out marrow onto a piece of bread and sprinkle with a few grains of salt.
In India, I don’t think marrow bones were purchased separately, they were part of an assortment of bone-in cuts from the butcher, thereby, perhaps adding to their demand at the table. As a child, when I had goat marrow bones on my plate that I could not use as adeptly as the people around me, someone in the family always helped me either by cracking the bones open using a stone-on-stone kitchen tool or by giving me a marrow spoon.
The beef marrow bones I purchase now are both available separately and are larger and easier to extract marrow from. With the help of an electric saw, my butcher cuts the large femur bone with plenty of solid marrow in it to transverse sections, and on a nice day even splits them open longitudinally and gives them to me with a smile. The existence of a large collection of bone fragments, especially of the femur bone, in many prehistoric sites, suggests the ancient practice of cracking open bones to extract marrow1. This was likely not a one man job as much as I don’t ever recall eating bone marrow alone.
- Food: The History of Taste edited by Paul Freedman