I love bone marrow. Personally, I would use it in pretty much any preparation imaginable, with the possible exception of ice cream. My wife, however, would beg to differ. Don’t get me wrong — she loves marrow, too. However, she feels that using it in any dish other than Fergus Henderson’s classic rendition would be blasphemy.
In fact, she and I (and many friends and family) go crazy for Fergus Henderson’s parlsey- enriched version, the dish that single handily turned bone marrow from an often-wasted byproduct to ingredient de jour. His dish could be considered a modern classic.
The only other bone marrow dish in which my wife felt the product went to good use, was the bone marrow crusted filet in the first Eleven Madison Cookbook (blog post on that to follow). Chef Humm really nailed the use of the marrow in that dish, so when I saw a marrow dish in the EMP Next Chapter cookbook that included little more than marrow and caviar, I was super psyched to try it out. It didn’t hurt that the dish looked pretty straight forward and relatively easy, so I figured it would be a good dish to try from this intimidating tome.
It wasn’t that easy.
This was part of a two day break I had off work, during which I decided to try out some of these EMP recipes. With my wife at work and my nanny watching the kids, I knew I had quality time to focus in the kitchen. I swear I heard my nanny thinking “what is this crazy white boy doing?” as I began to soak marrow bones on the counter, extruded the marrow after a little while, and put it all back in the fridge.
I have to admit, one of the first steps — soaking the emptied bones in hydrogen peroxide for 24 hours — freaked me out. Was this stuff safe? Isn’t hydrogen peroxide, like, bleach? Well, turns out hydrogen peroxide is perfectly safe for culinary use, and , in fact, is often used for by people for gargling. Who knew?
With the marrow extruded and soaked, it was on to the smoking. Now, I know from experience that If I spend more than 20 minutes smoking something with my smoking gun, the item is going to taste like an ashtray. However, Chef Humm is very precise, so when he wrote to smoke the marrow for 40 minutes, I took it as gospel despite my better judgement.
The smoked marrow would be used in a bavorois: fancy word for bavarian cream. I’ve made a similar one before, when making the delicious chicken veloute in the first Eleven Madison cookbook. So, I was comfortable here. The first step was to steep the smoked marrow in milk. However, because I had cut the recipe in half, there wasn’t enough liquid in the pan to fully cover the marrow. My solution was to slice the logs of marrow lengthwise to make them shorter. This worked fine, although as a result of the marrow being broken into smaller pieces, more of it melted, as opposed to simply infusing, into the milk than was supposed to.
To help remedy the fact that there was too much melted marrow in the milk, I allowed the mixture to cool, then skimmed the hardened marrow off the top. What resulted should have been a marrow-infused milk with a subtle smokiness. However, it turns out that my gut feeling about the smoking time was correct. The bavarois tasted like licking a barroom floor— back when you were allowed to smoke inside bars.
With the bavarois made, it was time to turn to the caviar. I am fortunate to work near one of Manhattan’s two Eataly’s. They, coincidentally, had a caviar sale going on, so I ordered a tin to pick up the following day, when I would be at work and in the neighborhood. After all, I wasn’t going to make a trip into Manhattan on my day off. I could finish the dish after work tomorrow, right?
Wrong. This really was not ideal, as after work I’m typically scrambling to feed my wife and kids, and am exhausted from an already hectic day. Even though this was, by Eleven Madison standards, a straightforward dish, I was nervous about pulling it off well under these circumstances. When I got home from work, these feelings were exacerbated when I realized I never made the lemon oil required for the dish. Now, I’ve made lemon-infused oil before, but the recipe provided in the book is insane in terms of labor. So, I used a much simpler method: I warmed some EVOO in a saucepan with a bunch of lemon zest for about 20 minutes, and that seemed to do the trick just fine.
With all the ingredients and mise en place set, it was time to assemble. All-in-all the dish came together nicely. However, because I was struggling to finish this dish before my kids’ bedtime, I didn’t make a strong enough effort to really smooth out the top of the bavarois. Consequently, the marrow filling wasn’t as level as it should have been, and the dish didn’t look as pretty as in the book. As for taste, the marrow and caviar went together splendidly, but, again, the bavarois was too smoky, and you couldn’t really taste the marrow. It was more like smoked cream. Not sure what happened there. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to taste. But, if that’s the case, then I’ll side with my wife: what a waste of marrow.
I will give this dish the benefit of the doubt and try it again, smoking it much less, and trying to find a way to really bring out the flavor of the marrow. One last thing to note is that serving this dish in actual bones might be whimsical and cool in the setting of a three Michelin starred temple of gastronomy. However, in a small Brooklyn apartment, it’s kind of creepy.