Posts Tagged ‘beef’

When I was a kid, no visit to a Chinese restaurant was complete without an order of those sweet, greasy and radioactive red spare ribs. They came in that foil-lined bag that barely kept them warm until my dad got us home to devour them along with the other classics: fried dumplings, and wonton soup with fried wontons on the side. I still see those ribs on menus even today, and despite my cravings, I just don’t eat fire-engine-red-dyed food anymore.

Imagine my excitement when I saw a recipe for those classic spare ribs in a food magazine. I figured I’d just make them without the food coloring.

 

I let the meat sit in the marinade for an hour at room temp, then move it to the fridge.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever had all the ingredients to make a recipe exactly as written, and this was no exception. For one thing, the original recipe called for dry sherry. I didn’t have it so I used dry marsala wine. I didn’t even have the pork ribs, so I substituted a beautiful slab of grass-fed beef flap. The results were still delicious. But feel free to use pork ribs, as originally intended. And if you can’t find beef flap, a cut like skirt steak is a good substitute.

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry marsala wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or through a press
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 lbs. beef flap (skirt steak or hanger steak works, too)

To make the marinade, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, marsala wine, garlic, sugar and Chinese five spice in a bowl. Mix well.

Trim the excess fat and silver skin off the beef flap, and if it’s thick, slice it lengthwise to make a thinner piece of meat about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.

Place the meat in the marinade, making sure it gets well coated on all sides. Marinate the meat at room temperature for about 60 minutes. If you have a thicker cut of meat, you can marinate it longer.

Drain and discard the marinade.

Heat a cast iron pan and add a little lard or oil. Place the beef flap pieces in the pan, searing well on one side before flipping over to the other. If the meat is thin, you can cook it to a medium-rare right there on the stove top. You might need to finish the beef in a 350-degree oven if you’re using a thicker cut.

The meat also cooks beautifully under the broiler or on the grill. If using the broiler, just watch out for flare-ups from the fat. It can get smokey. I literally picked up my toaster oven and moved it under the hood of my stove so that the smoke was sucked up and vented out. (The first time I broiled, my kitchen filled with smoke!)

 

 

To make the Chinese ribs with this marinade: simply place the ribs and the marinade in a Ziploc bag at room temperature for at least 60 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the ribs on a baking sheet with a wire rack on top. Save the marinade…and baste the ribs with it every 30 minutes, turning the ribs over as you do so. Cook until the ribs are done, about 2 hours.

 

Buying a 10 to 12-pound roast is not an inexpensive proposition, so you want to be as sure as possible that it’s going to come out right. With a family reunion looming, I got to work, researching recipes online and watching every You Tube video I could find. Every chef and home cook had their own ideas of spices and rubs, but the basic methodology was the same: start the roast at very high heat to form a delicious crust on the meat, then bring the oven temperature down and cook it more slowly to bring the roast to a perfect medium rare.

 

A big roast is going to cost you around 100 bucks, so the first step is simple: don’t skimp by buying a cheap cut of meat. You will absolutely regret it. Get the best meat you can afford. The reward you’ll get when you slice it in front of the family, with all those “oohs and ahhhs” will totally be worth it!

A perfectly cooked, perfectly delicious roast!

 

The second step is simple but very important: make sure the roast is at room temperature before cooking, and make sure the oven is really pre-heated properly to the right temperature before you put the roast in it. A cold roast will cook unevenly, and you won’t get that beautiful pink all the way through the meat when you slice it. It’ll be raw on the inside and overcooked on the outside. Take the roast out of the fridge for a good 2 hours before cooking.

 

You can already see that back-timing is going to play an important part in a perfect roast. So, for example, if you want to be serving at 7PM, you need a half-hour (at least) for the meat to rest after cooking…about 2 hours of cooking time…and about 2 hours of bringing the roast to room temperature….give or take. Oven temperature settings vary, and roasts can be uneven. You’ll have to keep an eye on this thing.

 

That brings us to monitoring the temperature. If you have a meat thermometer, you’ll need to jab the roast a couple of times during the cooking process to know what temperature you’re at. I don’t like this method, because it means you’re pulling the roast out of the oven, dropping the oven temperature each time, and jabbing the meat, which releases juices every time you pull the thermometer out. I suggest you invest in a probe that goes in the roast from the very beginning, and stays in the roast through the whole cooking process, monitoring the temperature the entire time. When the roast hits the perfect temperature of about 115 degrees, it beeps and lets you know it’s time to remove it from the oven. It’s practically foolproof.

My old-school monitoring system. I had it set for 120 degrees, but actually pulled the roast out at 115.

 

The monitor that I have is old-school, but it still works like a charm. I use it at Thanksgiving to get perfectly roasted turkeys on a Weber grill, and it works great here as well. The probe goes into the meat, and it’s connected to a transmitter. It also has a receiver that can be as far away as 100 feet from the roast, and it will signal you when the desired temperature has been reached. That means you don’t have to stare at the roast all the time…you can actually enjoy a cocktail in the company of your guests while the meat cooks.

Other monitors are totally wireless. You stick a probe in the roast, and it calls your cell phone when the meat is done. Pretty cool. Amazon’s got whatever you need.

 

2 onions
3 carrots
3 stalk celery

 

When it’s time to remove the roast from the fridge to bring it to room temperature, roughly chop the onions, carrots and celery and place them on the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay the roast on top.

The rub that you use on your roast is really a matter of what you like. Use the herbs and seasonings you love, and you can’t go wrong. Here’s my recipe for a 10 to 12-pound roast…

 

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup granulated garlic
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried rosemary

 

Combine these ingredients in a bowl. You want it to be like a paste or wet sand. So if it’s too dry, add a little more olive oil. Dried oregano and thyme are usually fine the way they are, but dried rosemary is like pine needles. I take the 2 tablespoons of rosemary and put it in a spice grinder and grind until it’s more like a powder, then use it in this recipe.

Seasoned and ready to cook!

 

Rub the seasonings all over the roast, making sure you get the bottom and the sides as well. Use it all up! It’s a big hunk meat. Some of the seasonings will fall off. Be fearless!

 

To flavor the meat while cooking, I add a cup of red wine and 2 cups of beef stock in the pan with the vegetables. (In some cases, after the roast is cooked, you can use the juices at the bottom of the pan to make gravy. But my seasonings were just too strong (and too salty) for this, so I chose to go with a classic horseradish cream sauce instead. The recipe is below.)

 

About a half-hour before you want to start cooking, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. You really want it hot to start. Roast the meat at 450 for 20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 325 degrees.

 

This is where many recipes tell you to calculate how much more to cook based on the size of the roast, etc. If you’ve got a probe in the roast, you can see exactly how the temperature changes over time. If you decide that you’re going to “wing it,” you can go by the general math of 15 minutes per pound of meat, including that first 20 minutes. So, if you have a 10-pound roast, multiply that by 15 and you get 150 minutes. Subtract the first 20 minutes from that, and you need to cook the roast another 130 minutes at 325 degrees. This is by no means a guarantee of success, but a very general guideline.

If you have a meat thermometer, you know that you can leave the roast in the oven at least an hour before taking the first temperature reading. Then play it by ear.

For me, using the probe, although I had my beeper set at 120 degrees, I took the meat out at 115, removing the roast from the pan, and placing it on a cutting board. Then I wrapped the roast with foil, and covered the foil with a clean bath towel, keeping all the heat in, letting the meat rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes. The meat inside continued to cook and reached a temperature of 130 degrees before it started to slowly cool down.

After at least 30 minutes of resting, I unwrapped the roast and started slicing!

 

This is where you can pour off all the pan drippings and make a sauce if your spice mix wasn’t too crazy. As I mentioned, I chose to go with a classic horseradish cream sauce instead…

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons prepared horseradish (more if you like it!)
the juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all the ingredients, mixing well. Keep this refrigerated until ready to serve.

 

For our family reunion, the roast was just one part of our meal. Surf and turf with amazing lobsters from Sakonnet Lobster in Little Compton, RI!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef flap or flap steak is a cut from the lower sirloin. It’s a long, thin cut that resembles skirt steak or hanger steak, though they come from a different part of the animal.

You can stuff and roll a beef flap, as I did in a previous blog, but it’s really hard to beat the flavor of a slab of beef that was simply marinated and thrown on the grill.

Though the beef flap is a relatively thin piece of meat, I carefully butterfly it by slicing it lengthwise with a sharp knife, to get 2 thinner pieces that really absorb the marinade.

grill3

 

1 lb. (or more!) beef flap steak, sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (red wine vinegar works just as well)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
salt and pepper

rill2

To make the marinade, combine everything but the beef in a bowl and whisk to mix thoroughly. Place the beef in a large Ziploc bag and add the marinade. Squeeze the bag so that the marinade reaches every part of the beef. Squeeze the air out of the bag, zip it tightly, and place it in a bowl (in case of accidental spillage) in the fridge. Let it marinate overnight, squeezing the bag every few hours to let the marinade do its job. Remove the bag from the fridge about an hour before grilling so the meat comes to room temperature.

Light a hardwood fire. When the coals are really hot, place the steak on the grill and sear each side. Then flip to sear the other side. Flip again to get those fancy diamond marks on the beef. Then flip again.

grill1

The meat has little fat, so it should be nicely seared on the outside, but still medium-rare on the inside. Let it rest before slicing. When slicing, cut the beef on an angle against the grain.

Although my daughter goes crazy for my Ragu Bolognese, pasta with meat sauce is one of the easiest things to make, with ingredients you probably have in your home. This sauce is really rich with flavor, and once you put all the ingredients together, it requires nothing more from you than an occasional stir every now and then.

 

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1/4 cup olive oil
3 strips bacon, finely chopped, raw or pre-cooked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 lbs. ground beef (I use grass-fed beef)
2 cans (28 oz. each) whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 bay leaves
1 small can (6 oz.)  tomato paste

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In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the bacon. Once the bacon is sizzling, add the onions and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic salt and mix. Add the ground beef and cook until it has browned.

Pour the 2 cans of whole tomatoes into a food processor and blend until chunky…or go the old-fashioned route and simply squeeze the tomatoes with your hands, breaking them up. Pour the contents of both cans into the pot and stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the orange tomato foam disappears.

Add the oregano, basil and parsley and stir. Add the salt and pepper and stir. Add the anise seed and fennel seed and stir. Throw in the 2 bay leaves and stir. (I think you get the idea, there’s a lot of stirring going on!)

When the sauce starts to boil, add the tomato paste and stir well. Let it come up to a boil again–the paste thickens best at high heat–then turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pot.

Let the sauce simmer on low heat for several hours. Whenever you walk by, give the sauce a good stir.

Serve the sauce over pasta, with some grated Parmiggiano Reggiano.

 

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CHIVE BLOSSOMS

Posted: May 22, 2019 in Food, garden, pizza, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

This is the time of year when the chives in my herb garden are busting out with blossoms. Before they pop, I head out every few days and snip the larger ones off the chive plants with about 3 inches of the green stem, wrap them in freezer bags and freeze them.

 

image

 

I use those blossoms over the course of the year on a variety of dishes, but they really shine on my signature marinated beef and chive blossom pizza. I just take a packet of chive blossoms out of the freezer, and sauté them lightly in olive oil and salt and pepper, then sprinkle them on the pizza before baking.

 

My signature marinated beef tenderloin and chive blossom pizza.

My signature marinated beef tenderloin and chive blossom pizza.

 

Pick 'em and freeze 'em in May!

Pick ’em and freeze ’em in May!

Chive blossoms not only add great flavor, but they look cool on the plate, too.  I’ll add them as a side to almost any meat dish, or chop them after sautéing and sprinkle them in rice or quinoa. Great for stir-frying.

 

Instead of opening a nasty can of Manwich or other similar product, the classic Sloppy Joe sandwich is easy enough to make from scratch.

My version takes on a Mexican twist (hence the name Sloppy José), using seasoned taco meat and a great barbecue sauce. Putting them together with a sprinkling of Mexican cheese on a bun with lettuce and tomato makes for one sloppy but delicious sandwich!

sloppy jose

 

For the barbecue sauce…

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

 

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for a few months.

 

For the seasoned taco meat…

1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
olive oil
2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef

 

Combine all the spice ingredients in a bowl.

Sauté the onions in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add the beef and sauté until cooked, mixing in the spice mixture a little at a time until you’ve used it all.

 

For the sandwich…

Take some of the taco meat and place it in a small non-stick pan and heat on medium. Squirt in as much of the barbecue sauce as you like, mixing thoroughly. Sprinkle some grated Mexican cheese on top. (I like Cotija, which is like a Mexican feta, but a bag of mixed cheeses works great, too.) Mix thoroughly, letting it all melt together into one warm, gooey mess. Throw it on a bun. Add lettuce, tomato, avocado slices, whatever you like!

 

Here’s an old recipe that I brought back, since comfort food is the name of the game here in New England, where we’re getting nothing but cool temperatures and way too much rain. I think we’re going to miss spring entirely this year and go right into summer…

I like to think that I was the force behind my daughter’s sudden interest in cooking, but the fact is, it was probably the Food Network. Shows like “Chopped Junior” and “Kids Baking Championship” are her favorites, and I have to admit, watching a 9-year-old displaying knife skills better than mine does have me feeling somewhat inferior at times.

A gift of a kids’ cookbook from our friend, Stacey, was what finally got my daughter to ask if we could cook together. She chose the Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I never really analyzed my own cooking style until my daughter started reading the recipe step-by-step and I heard myself saying: “Oh, we can skip that…Oh, we don’t need to do that…Oh, let’s use another ingredient.” She’d look up at me and say: “But, Dad, the book says you have to do this.” Lesson one, kid: improvise to make the recipe your own.

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

Peeling potatoes without peeling your fingers!

The original recipe called for lamb. We used beef. The original recipe had a huge proportion of potatoes to meat. We doubled the meat and veggies.

Mastering knife skills.

Mastering knife skills.

3 lbs. potatoes (I like organic gold potatoes)
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free flour)
1 cup beef broth
olive oil

 

Peel the potatoes just to remove any blemishes. (I like my mashed potatoes with the skin included.) Cut into smaller pieces and place in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes, and put them back in the pot. Add the milk and butter, add salt and pepper, and mash until smooth. Set aside.

Chop the onions and dice the carrots. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil, then add the onion and carrot. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the beef, and cook until it’s browned, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add the tomato paste and flour, and mix thoroughly. Add the beef broth and mix again. Cover the skillet with a lid, reduce the heat, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce in the pan thickens.

FullSizeRender (18)

Find an ovenproof pie pan or lasagna pan. Pour the beef and carrot mixture into the bottom of the pan and smooth it out. Add the mashed potatoes on top. Place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven and bake for about 20 minutes if the potatoes are warm–a little longer if they’ve cooled down–until the potatoes start to turn a golden brown.

Proud chef.

Proud chef.

Let the pan rest for a few minutes, then serve.

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One of our favorite restaurants here in Rhode Island is Fluke Newport in…well…Newport. We’ve dined there for years, but big changes happened last summer when they hired a new chef. We met Chef Eddie Montalvo just after he had arrived at Fluke, and we were impressed with his new menu.

We came back for another visit just over a month ago, and meeting Eddie again, we thought we would invite him and his family to our home someday for a visit.

Well, that “someday” is tomorrow, and the reality that I’m going to be cooking for a real chef for the first time in my life is making me a bit nervous!

I went to Twitter for some help. Since I follow a number of chefs, I asked the question: I’m cooking for a real chef for the first time. What’s the #1 tip you can give me? Only one chef answered, but it was none other than Andrew Zimmern, and he said simply: “Be yourself.” Be myself? Yeah…I think I can fake that!!!!

So I started thinking…Chef Eddie works with seafood all day at Fluke. Skip that. He’s Italian and makes amazing homemade pasta. Skip that. What do I love to cook and do pretty well…?

Barbecue!

I have a beautiful grass-fed Angus beef New Zealand brisket in my freezer. That’s what I need to make! A simple, comfort-food meal. Barbecued brisket…twice-baked sweet potatoes…a big old salad…and as an appetizer: my no-fail recipe for Oysters Rock-a-Fellow! (OK, I had to get a little seafood in there.)

When I smoke my brisket low-and-slow in my smoker, I use a coffee steak rub that I developed a couple of years ago. It gives a deep, rich crust to the meat that is just fantastic.

 

 

 

Low and slow is the way to go! Deliciously smokey and juicy.

 

Depending on the size of the brisket, you might need to double the recipe.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

If the brisket is frozen, I like to thaw it a couple of days ahead of cooking it, rubbing it down with the coffee rub, and placing it in the fridge for about 24 hours to rest. I bring it out about an hour before smoking, to let the meat come back to room temperature, and then I place it in the smoker for about 12 hours at 225 degrees, smoking it with hickory wood.

When it’s done, I remove it from the smoker, and wrap in foil and let it rest at least 30 minutes before slicing diagonally against the grain of the meat. If I’m not serving it right away, I place the wrapped brisket in the oven at the lowest setting, about 150 degrees, just to keep it warm.

When I’m ready to serve, I always slice the brisket on the bias, against the grain of the meat.

 

Read my blog about Chef Eddie and Fluke here: https://livethelive.com/2018/07/08/fluke-in-newport-a-new-chef-brings-new-creativity/

Check out my Oysters Rock-a-Fellow recipe here: https://livethelive.com/2018/11/01/oysters-rock-a-fellow-improved/

St. Patty’s Day is this Sunday, so supermarkets are full of packages of processed corned beef in preparation for the big celebration. Too bad corned beef isn’t an authentic Irish dish!

The phrase “corned beef” was actually coined by the British, and although the Irish were known for their corned beef throughout Europe in the 17th century, beef was far too expensive for the Irish themselves to eat and all of it was exported to other countries. Owning a cow in Ireland was a sign of wealth, and the Irish used theirs for dairy products, not beef.

The Irish ate pork, and a lot of it, because it was cheap to raise pigs, and they traditionally prepared something like Canadian bacon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

In the 1900’s, when the Irish came to America, both beef and salt were more affordable, and the Irish, who lived in poor, tight-knit communities, often next to Jewish communities, bought much of their beef from Kosher butchers. And so many of the Irish learned how to corn their beef using Jewish techniques, but adding cabbage and potatoes to the mix.

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef. But now that you know it’s not Irish anyway, that’s OK! (If you’re dying to have it on St Patty’s Day anyway, just buy yourself a supermarket slab this time, then make your own when the craving hits again.) Doing it yourself is not difficult. It just takes time…and you get a really delicious slab of beef.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used in England before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving meat and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed with more spices and then smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and its contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

 

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine the coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add the salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat your smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.

 

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

I have to give credit for this recipe where it’s due. Last year, we traveled to Washington, DC and one of our best dining experiences was at the Blue Duck Tavern, a stunning restaurant matched by its unique and beautifully prepared plates. It is the restaurant I recommend to any friends in the DC area, and one I would go back to in a heartbeat. One of the incredible appetizers I enjoyed was the roasted beef bone marrow, which had a delicious pretzel crumble on top. The moment I had a taste, I knew that I would have to recreate this for myself.

The amazing bone marrow plate at the Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC.

 

Bone marrow played an important role in the evolution of early man. Perhaps that’s why some of us still have that primitive craving for it.

Early man had small teeth and ate anything he could lay his hands on, especially meat. But he was no hunter. Attracted by circling vultures, he probably scavenged the leftovers from a big kill such as an antelope left in a tree by a leopard, or a large animal such as a wildebeest that had been slaughtered by lions.

Because meat is relatively easy to digest and rich in calories and nutrients, early man lost the need for the big intestines of apes and earlier hominids. This freed up energy for use by other organs. This surplus of energy seems to have been diverted to one organ in particular – the brain. But scavenging meat from under the noses of big cats is a risky business, so good scavengers needed to be smart. At this stage in our evolution, a big brain was associated with greater intellect. Big brains require lots of energy to operate: the human brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy production. The concentrated calories and nutrition found in meat was responsible for an increase in the brain size of early humans.

But around two million years ago, telltale cut marks on the surface of animal bones reveal that early humans were using crude stone tools to smash open the bones and extract the marrow. Stone tools allowed early man to get at a food source that no other creature was able to obtain – bone marrow. Bone marrow contains long chain fatty acids that are vital for brain growth and development. This helped further fuel the increase in brain size, allowing our ancestors to make more complex tools. Many historians believe that the blunt force required to break bones with tools to extract the bone marrow was a crucial ingredient in the development of the human hand, and the unique dexterity it has over that of apes.

Of course, these days, we can simply go to our butcher and ask them to slice some beef bones for us so that we can enjoy the marrow like our ancestors did. It’s much more civilized.

My box o’ frozen bones. I ordered about 25 lbs. of marrow bones from a grass-fed beef farm in Texas.

 

They key to roasting marrow bones properly is to keep an eye on them. The bones can go from frozen solid to blazing hot in no time, and that means the marrow can go beyond its rich, gelatinous perfection into a puddle of fat at the bottom of your pan in mere moments.

 

3 lbs. beef marrow bones (I like them sliced lengthwise)
3/4 cup finely ground salted pretzel sticks
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
olive oil

 

I keep the beef bones frozen, moving them to the fridge until I’m ready to roast them.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Grind them up!

Place a handful of salted pretzel sticks in a food processor, and pulse them until the pretzels are ground fine. When you’ve got 3/4 cup of ground pretzel powder, move it to a bowl and add the parsley, onion, garlic and black pepper. No salt is needed if the pretzels are salted.

 

 

Lay the bones flat on a baking pan. If they wobble, place them on a layer of coarse salt to hold them steady. Sprinkle the pretzel mix on the bones, a little drizzle of olive oil on top, and place them in the oven.

 

Now you watch…there’s that one point where they go from “not quite yet” to perfection to “Oops! Too much!” …so be careful!

Perfection!

 

Some toasted bread on the side is all you need!

 

If you’re cooking gluten-free, try Snyder’s of Hanover GF pretzels. They are awesome…you’ll never know the difference.