Marrow_art                                                                                                                   Photos by Donna Ruhlman

Several months ago, a number of our family went to Lola to celebrate.  Chef de cuisine, Derek Clayton, aka Powder, started us off with an enormous pile of crispy bone marrow, with grilled bread and a variety of accompaniments.  It was so good that when I had lunch there last month, I called ahead to request it (it’s not actually on the menu because it would be a complicated pickup on busy nights—they serve single pieces as a garnish on the prime rib).

9an_0044phs This second time, able to focus on it during a calm lunch—the delicate crisp shell, the unctuous molten marrow inside and thin slice of crisp grilled baguette—we were able to experience the almost primal pleasure of eating pure rich hot bone marrow.

The pleasure was so great, I asked Powder if I could bring Donna down to photograph it and he said “sure” (as if he didn’t already have a million other things to do coming in after his day off and one man down). It’s one thing to wax about the pleasures of eating bone marrow that drips down your chin.  Another to know how both to cook and to serve it.

Powder buys three-inch pieces of marrow bones.  Ask your butcher for “pipe cut marrow bones” so that you can pop the marrow out.  If you can’t find three-inch pieces, smaller ones will still work.  He soaks the marrow in warm water to loosen them, then pops them out of the bone.

He then soaks them in a water salted to brine level (I would use three tablespoons of kosher salt per quart—1.5 ounces for 30 ounces of water if you have a scale) for a couple of days, refrigerated, to draw out as much blood as possible, changing the water several times.

9an_0058phsTo cook the marrow, roll them in flour till they’re completely coated and sauté them in canola oil over medium high heat (too hot and the flour will burn, too cool and the marrow will melt before the surface is crisp), turning them to brown them well on all sides.  On the day Powder made the marrow (that’s him grilling the bread and plating),  he poured out excess oil when they were nearly done and added some butter to finish them off.  This is a chef I love: when preparing a rich, highly fatty dish, finish it off with just a liiiittle more butter.  Fernand would have approved.  And in all seriousness, the butter browns and makes the crust especially flavorful.

Remove them to a paper towel to drain, then arrange them on a platter with accompaniments.  Powder’s is a great presentation (below) with salsa verde, flaky salt from Cyprus, lemon, torn parsley and pickled shallot.  But that’s more than you’d need at home to serve this as an hors d’oeuvre.  The key items are fresh lemon juice, any kind of crunchy salt, and some torn parsley. Serve it on something crisp.

“I think the grilled baguette makes the dish,” Powder said.  “It evokes that roasted flavor that you normally expect when ordering marrow.”  He’s right—and this way, you get those roasted notes, but you also get that very delicate crispy crunch, followed by the deep, satisfying molten ooze of the marrow.

9an_0073phs

Thanks, Powder.  Hope you got all your braises in the oven in time.

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58 Wonderful responses to “How to prepare and serve bone marrow”

  • sygyzy

    Having a hell of a time getting marrow out. Going to just roast the bones instead :( Really wish I could have done this application.

  • Jeremy Hilton

    I tried and accomplished this dish at home on Sunday. And as a first time marrow eater, all I can say is wow!

    I’m sure the apprehensive are wondering, how does crispy marrow taste and will I enjoy it?

    The answer is yes, you most likely will. My wife, who generally is vehemently opposed to eating the more unusual parts of an animal, tried it, and liked it (that says alot).

    As Ruhlman mentioned, bone marrow is mostly fat, so taste wise, I would describe it as the most unbelievably delicous piece of buttered bread I’ve ever consumed.

  • sara

    I suppose it’s going to make a difference about the age of the meat and the species of the bone donor, right. Maybe what the critter was raised on, too?

    Marrow’s not really my gig, but I could see appreciating it fried up kind of like bits of foie gras fried up are to be appreciated. It’s about craving something fatty?

    Interesting.

  • Mila

    I have been a marrow fan since my toddler days, normally we eat it as part of a soup, perfect for tropical rainy days. But I go to a local bistro that serves roasted marrow when I need a major dose of marrow; maybe I can send this recipe to the chef and ask for this the next time I go around.

  • veron

    OMG! Bone marrow!!! Well we just had osso buco last night. There is nothing more satisfying than blowing that marrow out from one end of the bone and seeing it land on your plate. :D

  • claudia (cook eat FRET)

    when i visited in september and ate at lola, powder was there and brought this exact dish to our table. of course he thought i was carol. a case where mistaken identity totally worked in my favor…

    it was quite good but i was pretty buzzed after some cocktail and then some wine… i think i need a do-over…

  • Fackelmann

    Michael,
    Thanks for reminding me of my childhood days and my mother’s wonderful Sunday afternoon beef stock. My brother and I would fight over the bone marrow, the lucky winner would smear it on a piece of rye bread, delicious. My father would look at us jealously, wishing he had never introduced us to it.

  • John Jezl

    Sam… Willi’s Wine Bar… yup, that’s the place I had it, too. Thanks for reminding me of the name.

    I just made this tonight and served it with grey salt, grape chutney and brioche (brioche recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook). Didn’t like the chutney recipe I used, but the dish didn’t need it. The brioche, fried marrow and grey salt were all the was needed.

    MR, thank you for a perfect timely post. You gave me the motivation to break new personal ground. Not for the first time, either… I’m working my way through Charcuterie.

    John

  • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Bone marrow trendy? Darn it – is that why I saw marrow bones for sale at my local upscale grocery store for $8 a pound? It used to be so easy to get the bones – almost just for the asking. Now that I am buying beef in bulk, I make sure my processor does give me the soup bones … and the dog bones (although I have no dog and he does not need to know).
    Make a stock with leeks, herbs, celeri, carrots, a couple of mushroom, gently poach bones (with the marrow), get an oyster fork and wiggle the marrow out into the clear soup, or pile it on top of grilled good (homemade) country bread. I know… I am showing my French roots… but don’;t knock that out, Michael, until you try it…

  • Paul D'Souza

    What a great recipe – I grew up eating bone marrow in India. But that was very different. We would suck it out of the bone when we ate our Mutton Biryani. Would also suck it out of the beef bones in our soup. I was raised Catholic and on a farm. Grew all the animals we brought to the table.

    Thanks for this – just had to tag your blog on one of our my properties – http://www.foodanswersonline.com . Would love to have you featured there more.

    Paul

  • bob mcgee

    Can anyone speak to the subject of degenerated proteins? good, bad, other?

  • Sam

    I never understood why everyone loves marrow… until I tried it last summer at Willi’s Wine Bar in Sonoma. I now dream about the stuff! I will definitely have to attempt this preparation.

  • Ulla

    This post really fits the word “food porn.”
    marrow is the food of gods. it hits all the right spots. i am so jealous. soooo envious. green with envy. thanks for sharing:)

  • Sam

    I never understood why everyone loves marrow… until I tried it last summer at Willi’s Wine Bar in Sonoma. I now dream about the stuff! I will definitely have to attempt this preparation.

  • Sam

    I never understood why everyone loves marrow… until I tried it last summer at Willi’s Wine Bar in Sonoma. I now dream about the stuff! I will definitely have to attempt this preparation.

  • Justin

    Holy heart attack batman!!! I’ve never tried that method but i know its gotta be good. Thank you Michael i will now crave marrow till i get some….

  • Karin (Grew up in Cleveland and miss it in VA)

    This brings back memories. I would cook stock just to eat the marrow.

    I love knowing that it can be elevated to something so fabulous. Worth the price of admission I’m sure. Hopefully, they won’t be tired of making it when I get up there for the holidays.

    Just one question. I have stayed away from marrow ever since the mad cow issue. I have eaten it very rarely since then, not wanting to tempt fate.

    Can someone give me a specific reason why marrow is not held in the same category as brains, therefore making it safe.

    I believe the original warnings were to stay away from the brain/bones of the animal. That the outer meat was less likely to cause problems.

    P.S. Hope you had a great time in DC! Next time you’re in my backyard, I’d love to buy you a drink. – KBW

  • Neilson

    I was traveling and had dinner at Brick in San Fran (Noah Tucker – chef) and had this amazing little bone marrow relish on top of a cripy little little cracker on top of some amazing collard greens. Sitting next to a perfectly cooked short rib. That relish was freaking amazing. The only thing better would be a beer mug full of it so I could slobber it down with some pretzels. I love marrow.

  • Maura

    Just the thought of this is heavenly. Now I’m really happy there’s a butcher right down the street.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    Wow, this is one of my favorite memories from culinary school. The night we cooked bone marrow and a bunch of other classic french dishes was the same night we combined it with our wine class choices for that night: A half a dozen seriously high priced french Bordeaux’s. We all knew at the time and commented that we’ll never eat better than this again in our whole lives – the food, the company, the wine….was the highlight of school for us.

    Those half dozen wines we had cost more than my dinner for 2 at the French Laundry…..and we had bone marrow and french bread and stayed at the dinner table long after class was done. Nobody wanted to leave.

  • Rhonda

    Sorry, Derek, I cut off in mid stream.

    It is one thing to….

    It is another to take marrow to the next stage.

    Thank you!

  • Rhonda

    Derek (Powder), YOU ROCK!!!

    It is one thing for all of us to hoist out Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and delude ourselves into thinking that we will come up with anything close to what you have done with marrow.

    You are a true artist and should be acknowledged for that.

    BRAVO!!

  • Edsel

    I had that marrow presentation at the chef’s table last July. (eGullet post).

    This is the best marrow dish I’ve ever had. Everyone at the table urged them to put this on the menu.

    When Lolita started serving marrow a few weeks ago I was hoping it would be similar. Alas, it’s split-and-roasted bones. (OK, that’s pretty damn good as well – just not the same).

  • Derek (Powder)

    jaye, there a are couple of issues with removing the marrow from the bone. The bone itself has to be completely open on both ends and open to equal dimensions (same size holes)
    Also the cut of the bone is important, as you travel up the bone, it begins to flare out (towards the joint) in this area there tend to be needle like protrusions of bone that cut into the marrow. These “needles” hold the marrow in place. Often if you run your finger across the exposed marrow still in the bone you can feel these “boney bits” If you find them set the bone aside (its not going to be worth your time…trust me). Then after soaking the bones in salty ice water, changing the water etc…Drain the cold water and submerge bones in lukewarm water (if water is hot marrow will melt) After a few minutes in lukewarm water, begin pressing the marrow carefully with your thumb (steady even pressure, if you push really hard you will jam your knuckle into the edge of the bone, I have the scars to prove it) When marrow begins to move, change from thumb to index finger and continue pushing marrow until its completely out of the bone. If during the pushing you hear any kind of cracking noise be sure to carefully check the marrow for any sharp boney parts, you might be able to remove them without totally ruining the marrow.

  • faustianbargain

    to “dick black”, bone marrow soup(goat’s trotters…not much meat in them, is there?) with spices is a very popular restorative for new mothers in india. very old folk medicine…its usually made during the monsoons and also said to be good for clogged sinuses.

    two words: pressure cooker + soup.

  • MadFud

    What a plate full of contrasts – salty, unctuous mouth feel of the marrow, citrus, earthy flavors with the parsley and then add roasty-toasty crunch of the baguette… sheesh, what’s not to like?

    I’ve not seen it in this presentation form either, I’ve always seen the bones plated upright with small spoons at the ready.

    *mirinblue – I bet your butcher was keeping them all to himself, that dog!!

  • Jaye

    This talk of just popping the marrow out of the bone is killing me. I’ve tried this and it’s never worked. Someone please enlighten me on how I can actually pop the raw marrow out of the bone! I’ve tried soaking it and it just didn’t work for me.

  • NYCook

    Bone Marrow…Ain’t nothing wrong with that. “Butter of the gods”-Bourdain

    Bone Marrow is a hot topic of debate amongst cooks in NYC as to who has the best in the city, or basically where we should go to eat it after service. Blue Ribbon Brasserie seems to be the consensus favorite for bone marrow and was for late night eats as well untill SSAM Bar came along.

  • ruhlman

    to answer a few questions, i would roast it at 350 till it’s hot inside, but if it gets too hot, it will all melt (it’s mainly fat). the best roasted marrow i had was at union pacific when rocco was there. the seasoning was brilliant, cumin and coriander or something like that, and always course salt.

    when you pop them out of the bones, do look for sinew and bone and remove this before cooking.

    mirinblue, your butcher didn’t know what he was talkng about. or perhaps he was a dog impersonating a butcher. beef or veal marrow bones are what you want, just ask for those.

    marrow is also a common ingredient in classical french sauces and it is often simply poached and spread on toast but that seems a missed opportunity to me.

  • Kate in the NW

    Thank you for this post! As a kid, I used to swipe the bones (beef or pork) from my parents’ plates and use a shrimp fork to scrape out all the marrow – YUM!

    And for all you folks out there fearing the health effects of marrow, check this out: plenty of archeological evidence indicates that eating bone marrow is quite literally part of what made us human. Here’s one excerpt (from http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life/human/human_evolution/food_for_thought1.shtml):
    “Big brains require lots of energy to operate: the human brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy production. But the massive calorific hit provided by meat kick-started an increase in the brain size of early humans.
    But around two million years ago, telltale cut marks on the surface of animal bones reveal that early humans were using crude stone tools to smash open the bones and extract the marrow. Stone tools allowed early Homo to get at a food source that no other creature was able to obtain – bone marrow. Bone marrow contains long chain fatty acids that are vital for brain growth and development. This helped further fuel the increase in brain size, allowing our ancestors to make more complex tools.”

    So chow down – apparently it will make you smarter! ;-)

  • John

    I recently had roasted marrow bones at a wine bar in Sonoma County (don’t recall the name) that came with garnishes of smoked sea salt and grape chutney and a side of toasted brioche squares, much like the baguette here. It was amazing. I’ve been meaning to try to reproduce it at home… I think you may have pushed me over the edge with this post!

  • Chris

    Thanks for this post.
    I recently had marrow at Prune and while digging into the center of a giant femur is cool by me, my more squeamish family members would never try it that way.
    This gives me a way to serve it looking a bit more civilized.
    I’ll keep the bones to myself.

  • cwolfe

    Ruhlman, SO many important questions have been asked here. Please answer them all! I’m dying to try this recipe, but don’t want to succomb to the “they’re for the dogs” rebuff I’m sure to get from my butcher.

  • Dick Black

    In which countries is bone marrow eating common ? Did it get it’s start in France ? Italy ? Cucina povera ? Or is this an American delicasy? Curious.

  • liz

    I loved bone marrow as a child and have been thrilled that it is back in Vogue of late. I am definitely going to try this recipe at home, although with guests and not my fat phobic husband.

  • Laurence

    The only time I had the courage to try to make bone marrow at home was Fergus Henderson’s version with the parsley salad. That was amazing. I don’t think my cardiologist will be thrilled, but I am going to have to give this one a go too.

  • mirinblue

    Is there a certain type of bone to ask for? I saw what I thought were marrow bones (about 3 inches tall-maybe cut from a femur or something) and when I asked the butcher about them, he said they were for dogs! They were very, very inexpensive and I wanted to eat them, but he told me no. So, are there different kinds?

  • J

    That’s how the they do it in the French Laundry cookbook too, except Lola brines the marrow.

    I like doing it this way versus roasting it in the bone, it seemed like I ended up with more actual marrow when frying.

    Oh, and Fergus Henderson’s Parsley Salad with Kellers (or Lolas) marrow is a dance party for your mouth.

  • Jessica D

    Wow, that sounds so unusual and delicious. I’ve never tasted bone marrow, but now I really want to. It’s also a way of using the animals we butcher for more than just their meat, and I’m all for less waste when it comes to food.

  • Matthew Kayahara

    Bone marrow: it’s the new bacon!

    Last time I tried frying it like you describe, it came out pink in the middle. Next time, I figure I’ll poach it first, then fry it just long enough to crisp up the outside and render the inside nice and soft.

  • Walt

    Michael,

    Thanks for the salivating post.

    I love marrow but can’t get fresh bones where I live. Can the bones be frozen then thawed without disrupting the texture of the final product? I would love to try this at home.

  • Aaron Sitron

    The chefs at Distrito in Philly do an awesome bone marrow. They leave it in the bone and roast it, serving it with little tortillas and a fantastic bacon marmalade. It’s great to see such a fantastic ingredient making some waves.

  • Allison

    I’m so glad you brought this up. I’ve had two bone marrow failures in the past month and I don’t know where I went wrong in either case.

    First I made roasted marrow bones, following the recipe in the cookbook Bones (illustrated on the cover). The instructions says to take the bones out of the oven when the marrow puffs up slightly. It never puffed up at all, it just melted in a puddle and flowed out into my baking dish. What did I do wrong?

    Two weeks later I tried making risotto Milanese according to a Marcella Hazan recipe. It called for diced marrow. In the finished product I bit down on a few pieces of bone chips or splinters, which was very disconcerting and ruined my enjoyment of the dish. How do you avoid bone splinters or chips? And is the marrow in risotto Milanese supposed to look like little bits of ground beef (ie., gray)? I don’t remember seeing it that way in restaurants.

  • Natalie Sztern

    After seeing a pic of bone sliced in half with the marrow on top (perhaps from the Keller/Aschatz dinner) I have been salivating for such a dish, but I would love to roast it rather than fry it, any ideas?

  • Dot

    Really wish I understood the taste of bone marrow, tried it once at a fine dining restaurant in Boston & almost gagged. If the taste of the rich marrow tasted like Duck fat I’d totally be into it ….. I guess it’s the texture that gets me as well not to mention I’m eating “bone marrow” which literally the words sounds disgusting itself. I’m happy I tried it for the first time at 33 years of age though!

  • Badger

    I’d love to post a comment, but I’m too busy wiping drool off my chin. And my keyboard. And the floor.