Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
Going along with the terms, I began at the end. The last recipe in the starters for La Tradition was Crusty Marrow and Porcini Fricassee. For anyone who is unfamiliar with fricassee, it’s a blanket term for a type of stew usually involving some type of poultry. In Boulud’s case, he used porcini mushrooms as the “meaty” element for the stew. He suggested serving this atop a nice hunk of beef and though I was gung ho about this initially, my enthusiasm took a nose dive once the grocery receipts began adding up. I opted for spending less, which translated into a prewashed box of baby arugula and some homemade red wine vinaigrette (a favorite flavor from my childhood, thanks to Seven Seas!).
The whole process took a little over 24 hours. I say this because it took about 24 hours to let the marrow soak in salted water (2 tsp of salt for every quart), which I changed every 4 or so hours with the exception of my sleep time. The actual prep and cook time took only an hour or so and might have taken less if I were more organized — mental note for next time.
Once my 24 hours were up, it was time to go mining for marrow. Extracting bone marrow is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. If you refer back to my last post, my marrow bones came in two shapes – short and squatty or long and skinny. I thought the squatty ones would have been the easier of the two, but shockingly no. The marrow was so much softer in the longer bones and came out in a cinch. The others took some careful maneuvering and finally brute force, which involved prodding, poking, squeezing, you name it. You can refer to Allen’s more photo friendly manhandling below.
Marrow Extraction (not an easy task)
Ingredients / Herbs (Thyme, Tarragon, Rosemary, Italian Parsley)
In addition to the ingredients shown above were the porcini mushrooms, of course. I searched high and low for fresh porcinis. Ok, I lied, I searched three different grocery stores because I only had last night and today to go shopping. However, I was unsuccessful at all three — 1) Two Whole Foods 2) Trader Joe’s 3) Stop & Shop. I finally settled on dried organic European porcinis at $6.99 for 1.25 oz. I’m no mushroom guru, but I felt a tad ripped off by Whole Foods.
The Enemy aka The Reconstituted Porcini Mushrooms
After actually reconstituting the mushrooms, I was put off by both the slimy texture and the very strong smell. I would equate this to dried herbs vs. fresh herbs. Dried is always more concentrated and less is always, ALWAYS more. Having no choice in the matter, I stuck with those little suckers and went about dicing my mirepoix and rendering some bacon fat in a skillet. After about 2-3 minutes on the heat, I removed some of the fat from the slab bacon. I then threw in my diced onions, carrots, celery, and porcini followed by the rosemary and thyme. Once the mixture began to soften, I added a cup of dry red wine. I went with Cabernet Sauvignon because I would drink the rest of the bottle, but any dry red will do. I seasoned with some salt and white pepper and reduced until the wine was about 1/4 of a cup.
Add red wine and simmer
While the fricassee was simmering, I threw my cubed marrow into a saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Afterward, I dredged the marrow cubes in a mixture of bread crumbs, tarragon, parsley, and salt. The breaded cubes went into a round baking pan under the broiler until the breading started to brown. Note, most of my marrow melted away, which I could have predicted. Going forward, I would probably cube my marrow slightly larger than 1/4 of an inch.
To serve, I used Daniel Boulud’s red wine vinaigrette recipe, which called for dijon, garlic, salt, white pepper, peanut oil and a touch of walnut oil. I lightly dressed the arugula with the vinaigrette, topped with a small serving of the fricassee and finished with a few of the marrow cubes.
Sadly for me, this dish fell slightly below genius. I thought the marrow was delicious and the arugula salad was a nice, crisp addition. However, I’m positive the fall from grace had to do with those dried mushroom slugs. Both Krissie and Allen thought the dish was tasty and had second helpings, but I couldn’t get past the taste of the mushrooms. For anyone who cares to attempt this recipe, I’d say going the extra mile to find fresh porcinis will probably pay off. Despite the shortcomings of the fricassee for me personally, I’d say this was a a great first hurrah for me. I’m excited for the recipes to come.
My original plan went out the window when I went shopping with Krissie, my twin sister, who was on a mission to get chicken noodle soup ingredients from Stop & Shop. When we passed by the meat section, I happened to spot marrow bones and jumped for joy like the knights who just found the holy grail!!!!! I pretty much couldn’t contain myself, thus resulting in the following:
Shortly after my spontaneous Disney princess like dance party in the supermarket, I went home and put my tripod to good use.
Yes, I am well aware that I look like a complete noob. After seeing this picture, I also realize I should probably find my actual photography lights rather than using my ghetto fab light from college. One fun photography toy I came home to was a light box. It’s still in its shipping package, but I’m hoping to get it moving and shaking for the actual dish tomorrow night. In the meantime, I’m off to soak my marrow bones in salted water.
Though I’m disappointed that I didn’t get my butcher interview, I’m absolutely positive I will have my time to shine with the lamb neck. For now, my grocery aisle dance will have to suffice. Until tomorrow!
Thank Don Henley for my title inspiration. If my intentional lyric change didn’t make it obvious, I’ve been dealing with some marrow woes.
Despite marrow’s fairly recent big ticket item status at bourgie dining establishments, I’ve never attempted to make it myself. The thought alone gets my palms sweaty. I’m not sure why I have so much anxiety about it, but as my dad always says – it is fear of the unknown. My dad is always mostly right, so I’m with him this time. Something about chartering this unknown territory literally terrifies me.
My first marrow memory goes back quite a few years. I was seven years old when my Trinidadian babysitter second mother Jen, a real master in the kitchen, presented lunch to my twin sister, Krissie and me that Tuesday at noon. I’m not entirely sure if it was a Tuesday, but I’d like to imagine it was on one of those early in the week school days. In any case, Jen whipped something together with beef shank and our treat after eating the “normal” meaty goodness was marrow from the bone. As a seven year old, I was most likely skeeved by the idea of eating meat jelly from inside a bone, but Jen was a firm believer in adventures in the kitchen and exposing us youngins to new foods. Not one to disappoint Jen (because I loved and continue to love her), I opened wide and stuck the fork full of marrow in my mouth. I can imagine myself initially chewing very quickly and taking very deep breaths through my nose. What I do remember is that it tasted especially beefy, but the texture was something from a dream. It literally melted in an instant, no quick chewing necessary, and before I knew it, it was gone.
In theory, this should all be very easy. The problem is I am not Jen. I am not a born cook and sometimes when you throw certain things at me, I don’t know what to do with them. In an ideal world, I should be able to very easily buy marrow, soak it, cook it, extract it, and eat it. I’m sure I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, but this (and figuring out how to record Skype video chats) keeps me up at night.
I look at Daniel on the cover, with his encouraging smile and note these are recipes for the “home cook”, which I suppose is the category I’d fall under. All I have to say is you better be right about this, buddy.
I have a good lead on where to get my bone marrow. I can either:
I’m leaning toward #2 because many smart foodies on Chowhound said this may be a good place to find bone marrow. I did see some others also say Stop and Shop carries it from time to time, but you have to ask the butcher if they have any since they don’t normally showcase it with the rest of the meat.
Choice #1 sounds like a good idea because it may be my cheapest option, but the thought of Chinese women seeing my Asian face and suddenly asking me questions in Cantonese makes me nervous that I’ll end up ordering something I don’t want. For anyone who may not know this, I may look Asian, but I am a twinkie through and through. My dad is Croatian and German and my mom is Italian and Irish. I cannot stress the absence of Asian in me any more than I am right now. Plus, I’m technically Korean. My Chinese boyfriend thinks I look Chinese, which then only drives the point home that my predicted scenario at the Asian grocery store will most likely pan out.
I’m planning on taking a trip to the butcher on Monday. If I have the nerve, I will bring my Flip and try to see if someone can give us some valuable know how on marrow. Until then, I will try to grow a pair.