A Hamburger Today

The Nasty Bits: Roasted Marrow Bones

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[Photos: Chichi Wang]

I have never been able to eat bone marrow in a civilized manner. I start by sitting down at the table with my plate of roasted bone marrow, a parsley salad or bitter greens of some sort, and a loaf of crusty bread. I use a little spoon to transfer the jiggly, fatty marrow from the bone to a slice of bread, the surface toasted so that the fat from the marrow doesn't soak all the way through. But somewhere in between my first bite and my last, I've tossed aside the spoon and my fingers are covered in marrow fat. I'm tearing the bread into pieces small enough to drag across the interior of the bone, if it is halved lengthwise, or to slip into the tube of a bone if it is cut crosswise.

Trawling for marrow with bits of crusty bread is the last stage. It is as if whatever learned habits get overridden by the carnivorous urge for marrow, which is like the essence of the animal concentrated in one all-too-brief rush of fatty pleasure.

Do you ever eat marrow on toast and think that it is the best thing you have ever eaten and will ever eat? I get that feeling every time I eat roasted marrow. As a kid I would gnaw away at a stewed pork bone for the better part of the meal, using the tip of my chopsticks to extract the bit of marrow left in the bone after hours of simmering in soup. It was never quite enough marrow, just a slip of spongy, fatty tissue that clung precariously to the bone. It made me wonder what it would be like to have all the marrow I could eat; if that would be nice, or too much of a good thing.

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Roasting marrow bones could not be an easier trick. You get your oven nice and hot, you slip in your pieces of bone for twenty or so minutes until the ivory-white bones have browned. Then you serve the bones with bread worthy of the marrow. Bread soaked with meat juices and fat is a classic combination, which is perhaps why my favorite part of Thanksgiving is stuffing. A salad on the side, dressed in a sharp vinaigrette, is not mandatory, but it's a good way to prolong your feast of marrow. Eating something sour and refreshing between the bites of fatty bread will remind you how rich the marrow really is.

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