Before I had ever eaten bone marrow, I asked one of my friends how he'd describe it. He told me he had always considered marrow to be like a meat butter, spread on crispy toast with a little salt. Having never experienced it for myself I was immediately sold on his description. What could be better than meat butter?
With this buttery concept of bone marrow permanently in my subconscious the Beef Marrow Bones with Oxtail Marmalade served at Blue Ribbon Brasserie made perfect sense—the dish was kind of like butter and jam but made entirely from animal protein.
This is a dish that I've had several times at Blue Ribbon, and it's one of my favorites, but I had never ventured to replicate it at home until I got my hands on a copy of the Bromberg Bros.Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Bruce Bromberg and Eric Bromberg.
Warning: It's not a recipe for the faint of heart or those who get queasy around more exotic cuts of meat, but the results are almost identical to what you would be served at Blue Ribbon.
Soaking and slow simmering the bones yield a wonderfully spreadable and beautifully gelatinous marrow and the oxtail marmalade is the ideal sweet and meaty foil to the rich marrow. While slices of toasted baguette would be just fine, there's something about the rich and eggy challah that works like magic when paired with the marrow and marmalade.
- For the marrow bones:
- 3 pounds center-cut beef marrow bonescut into 2-inch pieces, tendons trimmed (ask your butcher to do this)
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, plus more if needed
- For the oxtail marmalade:
- 4 pounds oxtail, trimmed of fat
- 6 cups port wine
- 6 cups dry red wine
- 4 quarts veal or chicken stock, homemade or purchased
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 1/2 bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
- 1 pound shallots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 3 slices challah bread, homemade or you favorite store-bought soft loaf, toasted and still warm, cut into quarters
- Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for serving
- Fleur de sel or other good-quality coarse sea salt, for serving
Place the bones in a large bowl. Combine the salt with 4 cups cold water; pour over the bones. If the water does not cover the bones, add a solution of 1 cup water to 1 tablespoon salt at a time, until the bones are covered. Soak in the refrigerator for 36 to 48 hours, changing the water three
times, until the bones are bleached of color. Drain well.
Combine the oxtail, 3 cups of the port, the red wine, veal stock, garlic, thyme, and peppercorns in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3 hours.
Transfer the oxtail to a bowl; when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into small cubes. Refrigerate the meat until ready to
use. Strain the oxtail liquid into a large skillet, discarding the solids. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is reduced to 3 cups, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
While it reduces, combine 3 tablespoons of the butter with the flour until it forms a paste. Whisk the paste, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the reduced liquid
over medium heat. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
In a separate large skillet, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter. Add the carrots, shallots, and a pinch of salt over medium heat until slightly softened,
about 15 minutes. Stir in the sugars, the remaining 3 cups port, the vinegar, the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has completely evaporated, about 45 minutes. Stir in the oxtail meat, thickened oxtail cooking liquid, and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Set aside or transfer the marmalade to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. (Before serving, reheat in a saucepan over medium heat until warmed through.)
Arrange the bones and challah toasts on the platter. Spoon oxtail marmalade in between the bones (reserve remaining marmalade for another use). Sprinkle with chopped parsley and coarse sea salt.