There are few foods I’d suggest sharing with your furry friend, but bone marrow is absolutely one of them. I mean, there’s a reason your dog obsessively gnaws away at a bone long after the meat scraps have disappeared from the outside: He knows what’s inside is good for him! Bone marrow; it’s what makes bone broth thick and delicious, and it’s the best part of the Italian dish osso buco. To the uninitiated, the idea of digging out bone marrow (and then eating it) may seem gross or barbaric. The very thought might frighten you – what if you don’t know how to eat it when it gets to the table? For those of us in the know, it’s glorious and magical; warming like a hug from a long-lost friend. Give it a try, and you’ll find this brave, adventurous experience totally worth it. The flavor is rich and buttery, and eating it is so comforting, you’ll forget about any apprehensions you may have once had.
I’ve prepared bone marrow dishes for dozens of people who told me, “I’m not eating that,” when I announced the menu. No matter; they all dipped their pinky into the dish and gobbled up as much as they could without further complaint. A while back, I ordered the dish amongst mixed company at El Moro. My friends assured me they wouldn’t even consider ordering something that weird, but they’d give it a try since it had my seal of approval. I’m pretty sure that by now they’ve all gone back for more.
It came off the menu for a minute, but it’s back and I’m stoked. The recipe is slightly different – I think it used to come with a shallot jam and micro cilantro, and today it’s drizzled in a parsley-shallot sauce and topped with crispy fried capers – but it’s just as good as I remember. The plate arrived at our table: two massive bones, drizzled with a bright green sauce and topped with a pile of vibrant magenta beet microgreens. The toasted bread cascaded along the side of the plate, its garlicky presence announcing itself long before the plate hit the table. Two tiny little spoons appeared, ready to dip into the soft marrow. I was ready, too.
Soft. Gooey. Gelatinous. It’s like meat butter. Totally the type of thing that should freak you out, but spread it on crispy toast and it creates a balanced pair of textures that makes sense to your brain. Sprinkle on a few salty, crispy capers and take a bite: rich, slightly sweet, and oh-so-smooth. The textures are perfect, and the combination of the garlicky bread and the shallot sauce cut perfectly through the fatty unctuousness of the marrow. One bite of this oily wonder and you’re sold (unless, of course, you’re a terrorist; a terrorist couldn’t like something so wonderful).
When you’re done, you should physically pick up the bone and let the last bits of oil drip onto your bread. Order more bread if you have to, because scraping out the last possible bite isn’t optional. Then, get ready for the main reason why you should eat bone marrow on toast, because that hollowed-out bone is the perfect vehicle for a shot of whiskey. Weird? Maybe. But the bone luge is legit. In theory, it’s the same as drinking bacon-washed bourbon or a Bloody Mary with a chunk of beef jerky shoved into the glass. When meat oils mix with alcohol, they create a rich elixir that coats your tongue and makes your taste buds do a happy dance. Plus, you’ll likely have the whole thing on camera to prove that you’re wild and wacky. Win, win.
It’s best to have a helper pour the shot for you – it’s extremely difficult to aim otherwise. Then, hold the bone up to your lips, tilt it upward, and let gravity do the rest as the shot courses through the tasty remnants of your appetizer. I’d recommend something you already like. Something smoky like mezcal, spicy like rye, or sweet like brandy are all great choices.
Get ready for a sadness alert, because while it’s super easy to make at home, sourcing is problematic. It’s nearly impossible find marrow bones that are cut the way you want them. Sunnyside Market carries the 2-inch crosswise cut bones, which are great for making killer stock, but not so great for scooping out the goods inside. You can roast them and pick out the marrow with a chopstick or a tiny spoon, but it won’t have that caramelized roastiness of lengthwise-cut bones. So, unless you know a butcher with a bone saw, you’ll have to visit El Moro to get it while it’s still on the appetizer menu. Please, never take it away from us again!