When I was a boy, Id watch bemused as our dog went at a marrow bone like a pooch possessed. Was he stark raving bonkers or did he have some gastronomic insight that I didnt? Thirty-odd years later, those very marrow bones became the plat du jour at some of Britains most heralded restaurants, with nose-to-tail types like Fergus Henderson and Mark Hix literally making a meal out of them.
So whats the big deal? Is marrow a culinary delight or a load of old tripe?
Last weekend, I decided to find out by cooking a thrifty meat lovers dinner: Onglet and Straw Fries with Marrow Bone and Wild Mushroom Sauce.
This stunning piece of onglet (sometimes called hanger steak) cost me a fiver. The marrow bone was 50p from my butcher. The wild mushrooms came from Tesco finest* range for 2. Add in three potatoes for the fries for approx. 20p, then the rest of the ingredients, this meal worked out at less than 5 per head. Great value.
But was it any good? Did the marrow bone measure up? Was my pet dog an aficionado or just very, very hungry?
Ill let you know the verdict at the end.
For the steak
1 piece of onglet, weighing approx. 500g.
For the fries
1 litre sunflower or vegetable oil
3 large floury potatoes
For the marrow bone sauce
200g marrow bone to give 50g bone marrow, extracted
100g wild mushrooms
20g dried porcini mushrooms (I bought these form my local deli, Giaccobazzis and dried them myself in the oven, but you can buy ready-dried)
3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
Squeeze lemon juice (to taste)
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp grated Parmesan (optional)
1. Soak the bone marrow for a few hours in cold water.
2. Soak the porcini in boiling water for around 15 mins until reconstituted then finely chop.
3. With a spoon, push the bone marrow out of the bone to give you one cylindrical piece. Chop into chunks.
4. Add the butter and bone marrow to a saucepan and gently heat until everything is melted. Strain the melted sauce of any gristle into a clean pan.
5. Drain the porcini and add these and the wild mushrooms to the pan with the bone marrow. Cook for 5 mins then add the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper.
6. Add the breadcrumbs and let them soak up the fat, then add a ladle of stock and cook until a porridge-like consistency is achieved. Add more stock to loosen it if necessary.
7. Once the mushrooms are cooked only another five minutes or so add the parsley and turn off the heat. You can do this in advance and allow the sauce to cool. It will solidify at room temperature but you can heat it up when ready to serve.
8. To make the fries, finely slice the potatoes into matchsticks. Rinse in cold water to get rid of the starch then thoroughly dry with kitchen paper or a clean kitchen towel.
9. Heat the oil in a pan until a potato matchstick sizzles when you dip it in. Add the chips in batches, if necessary, and cook for 15-20 mins, until all the moisture has been driven out and the fries become crisp and golden.
10. Drain the fries and transfer to kitchen paper to absorb the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt.
11. To make the steaks. Trim the onglet of any sinew and silverskin. Most importantly, remove the white string of connective tissues that runs through the middle of the meat.
12. Cut into four or five chunks, then using a meat hammer, flatten out to 1/2 centimetre thick. This is important because onglet is very touch unless tenderised.
13. Heat a griddle pan until it is smoking hot. Oil the steaks, then sear for no more than 30 seconds each side. Any longer and the meat will seize up and toughen.
14. Heat the bone marrow sauce and whisk in 1 tbsp grated Parmesan, if desired. Serve over the steak, with the chips.
And the verdict?
Honestly? The sauce was a bit greasy and not nearly as beefy in taste as I was expecting. The Parmesan gave it a bit of punch, the lemon and parsley some tang, and the mushrooms an earthy savouriness, but the bone marrow itself was lost. In fact, it was a bit of a let-down, given the hype surrounding bone marrow at the moment. The meal WASNT a disappointment: the onlget was incredibly tender and marvellously beefy, and the fries were as crunchy and light as air. Bur Im not convinced that bone marrow is the super blast-from-the-past ingredient it is currently being lauded as. Which proves that my dog was a starving idiot.