Weird Crap I Cook: Heart and Bones

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.

The stoner working the register said, "let me guess, you have dogs." and then stood there in slackjawed terror as I explained my plans for the bones

This process took place while Kristi was sleeping. Probably for the best

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.

I've posted pictures of pigs heads and bug eating, but for some reason this picture seems like the most disgusting one on here. The term "red rocket" comes to mind

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.

Bones were reserved for making stock. I know this doesn't look appetizing...

So I made cupcakes to offset it (actually because Kristi requested them for her birthday). Its her Grandmother's lemon icing recipe which surprisingly didn't call for any organs or bones

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.

Although the water looks gross, I was just happy that stuff was getting drawn out of the marrow

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.

Just bones in a pot with olive oil, celery salt and black pepper

About halfway through the browning I rotated the bones and threw in a handful of onions and carrots.

Really enjoying the super zoom's contributions to this blog

Added 6-7 cups of water plus about 4 ounces of V-8, 4 ounces of red wine and brought it to a boil.

Always makes me happy when the color is right

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:

Pulled the bones out and poured the rest through a strainer which yielded...

This. I skimmed some fat off once the liquid settled and stuck it in the fridge for use the following night.

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.

I had been thinking about this dish for some time and was Christmas morning-level excited at this point. The soaked and dried marrow is on the left.

Into the fryer. Notice the metal backsplash that looks like an insane TGIFridays worker's lapel? That's Con and Trish's magnet collection. But I am a dork for having a blog. YeeeeeeOK guys!

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.

This was the piece I fried solo as a test batch. Since I hadn't taken a bite yet, its safe to say I was freaking out at this exact moment

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.

Like churros, but with marrow inside

Crispy outside, soft and buttery inside. I didn't get an in-focus shot because I was rushing so I could eat more

Conman's Lord of the Rings hobbit-style knuckles make their first appearance on the blog

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.

I look like a hand model compared to Conor

Now, onto the main course: heart.

Pretty much how you expected it to look

The butcher did some light trimming, removing the gristle-heavy top and adding a few cuts so it could be laid out flat.

Also pretty expected, but I didn't let Buschy see this view so that he wouldn't rule out tasting it

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.

When it's broken down, its not that different from raw sliced flank steak. Completely devoid of intramuscular fat, though

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.

See, it's just beef

Once the beef was out, carrots, onions and garlic were thrown into the pan to cook for a bit.

The base of pretty much everything I cook

To start the osso bucco-style sauce, I stirred in most of a small can of tomato paste.

It doesn't matter what I ended up mixing in to this, you knew it was going to be edible at this point

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.

Again, it was over 80 degrees inside the house. This is stick to your ribs, snow day food. Not sure what I was thinking

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.

Good god this was delicious. I just wish it was 50 degrees colder outside, not too much to ask I don't think

In the final fifteen minutes of cooking I added a final piece of bone marrow that I had reserved.

Almost forgot about this and would have been very bummed if I had

There was a noticeable difference in the richness of the sauce once the marrow was added

The heart and mushrooms were served over fresh cooked spinach.

Not the prettiest plate of food, but tasty

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.

See, its just beef

And once we’d finished all the meat, there was still sauce to dip in.

I made Con and Trish save the leftover sauce in their freezer. I am a jerk.

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.