Wobbly, melting and unctuous: Bone marrow. Photo: Marco Del Grande
What is it?
Beef marrowbone, sawn into sections and roasted until the marrow is wobbly, melting and unctuous (the correct, literal meaning of unctuous being greasy). Marrow is traditionally used in Bordelaise sauce, and risotto alla Milanese, but it wasn't until 1994, when British chef Fergus Henderson presented the marrow in the bone, like Stonehenge on a plate, that it became something of a phenomenon. Today it's the signature dish at his ground-breaking London restaurant St John, served with hot toast and a simple parsley salad.
Where is it?
Ask butcher Colin Holt from Hudson's Meats where his marrow bone comes from, and he'll tell you the animal and the farm. ''We order direct from the farmers, and find people really want to know where their meat comes from,'' he says. ''Roasting and presenting it in the bone seems the most honest thing to do.''
Anthony Puharich of Vic's Premium Quality Meats agrees. ''People used to freak out when you mentioned bone marrow,'' he says. ''Now they are a lot more comfortable with it. Besides, it's about utilising every part of the animal.''
At Fix St James, owner/sommelier Stuart Knox goes through a high volume of roasted bone marrow, served with parsley and caper salad and duck fat croutons. Knox likes to match the richness with a riesling. ''It needs a wine that has richness and texture, with some residual sugar'' he says.
Nose-to-tail chef Jeremy Strode of Bistrode CBD takes the unusual step of serving bone marrow with wild mulloway, celeriac and samphire. ''I got tired of serving bone marrow with steak,'' he says. ''It goes really well with a piece of meaty fish and a red wine sauce.''
Executive chef Gavin Baker of Little Hunter adds bone marrow to a grilled rib eye of Robbins Island wagyu, with a whack of ''beef fat butter'' as well, leading Larissa Dubecki to describe it in a recent review as ''a beautiful piece of meat moderated through a prism of fat''. ''I wanted to re-create the sense and smell of the rib eye being grilled on the bone,'' Baker says. ''The use of good, pure, animal fat is quite ingrained in our cooking philosophy.''
At Fitzroy's Napier Hotel, the beef and bone marrow burger comes with bacon, caramelised shallots, Swiss cheese, pickled Portobello mushrooms, garlic aioli, coleslaw and fries. ''The chefs mix the bone marrow in with the beef, making it really juicy,'' publican Guy Lawson says. ''They're fantastic.''
Lawson's marrowbones come from Donati's Fine Meats in Carlton. ''Everyone loves eating the bone marrow out of osso buco veal bones, so the larger beef bones are just more of a good thing,'' Marcello Donati says. ''It's a really satisfying thing to eat.''
Why do I care?
If you love fat and flavour, you'll love scooping wobbly, soft marrow from the bone. If not, you'll run screaming from the room.
Can I do it at home?
Yes, if you order the marrowbones ahead from a good butcher. Serve in the bone as here, or remove the marrow and serve it on top of grilled rib eye.
Victor Churchill, 132 Queen Street, Woollahra 9328 0402
Hudson Meats, Market Square, 24 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove 9427 9000. Also Cammeray, Mosman, Surry Hills.
Fix St James, 111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney 9232 2767
Little Hunter, 195 Little Collins Street, city, 9654 0090
Donati's Fine Meats, 402 Lygon Street, Carlton, 9347 4948
Napier Hotel, 210 Napier Street, Fitzroy, 9419 4240
Roasted bone marrow
Ask the butcher to cut the bones into four-centimetre or five-centimetre lengths. Serve with a leafy salad with a strong vinaigrette.
2 beef marrowbones, each cut into three or four sections
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp panko or fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Sea salt and coarse black pepper
1. Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Rinse the bones and pat dry, then place the bones on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and brush them with olive oil.
2. Mix the garlic, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil, add breadcrumbs, parsley, sea salt and pepper, and lightly toss.
Spoon the crumbs on top of each bone, and roast until the marrow is soft throughout, yet not so soft it melts away. Start checking (by inserting a thin skewer) at 10 minutes for smaller bones, 15-20 minutes for larger bones. Serve with hot toast, and small spoons for scooping.
Yakitori. The ancient art of robata-grilling food on sticks has busted free from Japanese restaurants, popping up on the bar menu at Sepia, in Sussex Street, Sydney - try wagyu, scampi or shiitake mushroom yakitori. Also spotted on the bar menu at Circa in St Kilda - try mountain pepper wallaby yakitori.