As I made clear with the Hogs Head post, I am a big fan of challenging myself to cook foods I have never attempted to cook before. We spent the past two months living in our old Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain that has a wealth of grocery stores that carry meats and vegetables you don’t see in many other stores. After wandering the aisles one day earlier this summer, I decided to attempt a meal of ox heart and marrow bones. This post is about that process.
I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do with the marrow bones. I’d seen an Iron Chef where they popped the marrow out of the bones and then pan fried them leaving soft pieces of marrow with a crispy outside. Sounded awful for me and delicious, a combination I have relied on over the years for excessive weight gain and torn inseams.
First step in the process was done two days before the meal. The bones were soaked briefly in warm water to loosen the marrow up from the inside.
After the bones soaked for 10 minutes or so the marrow had softened enough to pop them out of the bones. I did this by pushing from one end with my thumb.
This wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped it would be but I was able to successfully harvest the marrow from five of the six bones. The marrow went into a bowl of heavily salted water and then into the fridge.
Back to the bones and marrow. The idea is that the salt would pull some of the blood and liquid out of the marrow and make the pieces a little more dense. I replaced the water with freshly salted water 6 times over the two days and the marrow looked noticeably different by the end.
For the heart I decided to make a dish that would have similar flavors to a traditional osso bucco. The first step was to use the leftover bones to make a stock that would be the base for the liquid that the heart meat would cook in. I started by browning the bones in a pot for 30-40 minutes.
About halfway through the browning I rotated the bones and threw in a handful of onions and carrots.
Added 6-7 cups of water plus about 4 ounces of V-8, 4 ounces of red wine and brought it to a boil.
Lowered the heat to a simmer and left it uncovered while I watched Shutter Island with Buschy. Pretty dece, though I was a little Leo overloaded after seeing Inception the night before. This is how it looked after three creepy, atmospheric, and well-cast hours:
With all the major prep work done I was ready to make an unseasonably heavy dinner. On an 85 degree night in a house with no AC.
First course was the pan fried marrow. All it required was a pan of hot oil and a pile of flour mixed with black pepper.
Since marrow is so rich that its almost like the beef version of foie gras, it made sense to accompany it with lemon, parsley, and salt.
It was definitely nerve wracking cooking each piece since the marrow melts if you cook it too long or it doesn’t get crispy if you cook it too little.
Not sure I would do it again due to the effort required, but it was a pretty solid payoff. Its tough to describe it, but despite the strong flavors of the parsley and lemon, the most powerful flavor was beef. But very different than meat. Rich and decadent. Again, tough to describe.
Now, onto the main course: heart.
The butcher did some light trimming, removing the gristle-heavy top and adding a few cuts so it could be laid out flat.
Underneath a lot of membrane, external fat, and gristley areas (venticles is an awful term but that’s what they were), it’s just a giant muscle. So I butchered the heart down to the best of my (subpar) abilities and then carved it into 1/8th inch thick slices.
We ended up with about a pound and a half of beef from the two+ pound heart. I used my mom’s veal marsala method for cooking these; lightly flour each slice, quickly sear in a pan with butter and olive oil, then create a sauce in the pan to finish the cooking in.
Once the beef was out, carrots, onions and garlic were thrown into the pan to cook for a bit.
To start the osso bucco-style sauce, I stirred in most of a small can of tomato paste.
At this point, things just started flying into the pot. First it was the pot of stock I made the day before and a half bottle of red wine. Once it bubbled, I added some uncooked portabellas, the seared heart meat, and seasoning. The flour from the strips of meat helped thicken the sauce.
As it simmered for ~30 minutes, we all seized the opportunity to dip some baguette in the sauce. The familiar flavors went a long way towards making everyone comfortable with what they’d be eating.
In the final fifteen minutes of cooking I added a final piece of bone marrow that I had reserved.
The heart and mushrooms were served over fresh cooked spinach.
Some pieces of the meat were a little chewier than I had hoped, should have simmered it lower and slower. But the flavor was solid, the meat definitely had more flavor than regular beef.
And once we’d finished all the meat, there was still sauce to dip in.
I wouldn’t change anything about how I did the marrow, but I would have made some changes on the heart dish. Less flour (to make the sauce thinner for simmering), more time for the meat to simmer, and serve it over something heartier than spinach like lightly mashed skin-on potatoes. The flavor was right but it wasn’t everything I had hoped.
And that was wayyyyy too long a post. Off to Italy for 10 nights, will have a cluster-eff of posts when I return hopefully.