Monday, June 18, 2012

FoodTrek: Meatbutter and the Last Supper

It was an oddly apocalyptic weekend when we had two separate conversations about the supposed End of Days a-coming in December of this year. The Mayans predict the Earth bites the dust a few days before Santa Claus comes to town (December 20th, if you want to add that to your Outlook calendar), so if we're going to be robbed of our mad dash to unwrap holiday gifts this year, we may as well start crossing things off on the ol' Bucket List. Which leads to this Dead Man Walking-inspired meal: the Feast of Bone Marrow! Or as I like to call it, Meatbutter.

Meatbutter, because bone marrow doesn't sound much better - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I almost want to create a whole new category of post for this, because this marvelous meal wasn't at a restaurant, and this wasn't something I prepared -- we were lucky to be invited to dine at the house of our friends, the Amazing Katherine and Jimmy, a wonderful couple who travel the world and live a truly bon vivant life with their adorable dog, Marco. The conversation behind this meal originally started out at a restaurant, I was talking with Katherine about food and she mentioned having Melanie Dunea's My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals, an impressive tome of a cookbook that's as much of a collection of portraits as it is recipes. Katherine was inspired by all the suggestions and is hoping to cook her way through it, one dinner party at a time. Homegirl needs to get a blog going, don't you think? Dunea's book is interesting to flip through, as some of the chefs profiled list complex, impossible meals with dinner guests both living and dead (snooty much?) and some list simple dishes with unusual ingredients, not to be eccentric, but to express something they have a genuine connection to, before the Four Horsemen come a-calling. The nice thing about the simpler recipes is you can pretty much reproduce the whole experience, from start to end. Being photographed naked with a freakishly large cow bone(r), optional.

Checking out Bourdain's bone (marrow) - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Katherine wanted to create Anthony Bourdain's last meal featuring bone marrow, topped with a simple herb sauce of fresh parsley and capers. The book's photo is certainly worth a double-take, if nothing else. Is that a femur or are you just happy to see me? So why is the fatty, gelatinous mass encased in the center of bone such a delight? And, no, I'm not talking about Bourdain. Well, there's the answer behind the magic of marrow -- it's basically fat, and when roasted, it takes on the rich, meaty flavor of the bone and the marrow's buttery texture makes it easy to spread on bread, as the French like to do. It reminds me a little of foie gras, a super-concentrated unctuous essence of an animal, but minus the food guilt hangup you may have, if you can't bring yourself to eat foie. If you can eat a hamburger without getting weepy, you can certainly suck the marrow from a cow's bones with guiltless, ghoulish delight. Even if the idea of eating it straight up makes you squeamish, chances are you've enjoyed marrow's flavor in other forms. It's a big flavor component for beef broth, especially if you have things like the Vietnamese soup, pho. If you've ever had ossobuco, an Italian dish made up of slowly braised veal shanks, all the flavor is the goodness in the bones. Food hangups, begone, and just embrace the idea of bone marrow!

Magically delicious with a pasta tossed with fresh pesto and cheese - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Marrow was something Katherine had never prepared at home, it was something on her list of Stuff I Want to Do in Life, and just needed some willing participants. One should never gnaw on bones without eager company. She was thrilled to hear Brock and I have an appreciation for the creamy center of a crunchy skeleton, and honestly, we hadn't seen Katherine and Jimmy in ages and were eager to check out their new backyard and kitchen. Priorities, man.

How does your garden grow? Way better than ours! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Their garden is amazing, as you can see by the photos -- lots of different fruits and vegetables. New raised planters are full of fresh herbs, tomato plants going wild, squash, corn -- an impressive harvest to come, to be sure. The newly-redone backyard goes nicely with their newly-redone kitchen which is beautiful. I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at their stove hood, which is something I'd love to eventually upgrade in our kitchen. We started out the evening in the garden, after pouring a round of local bubbly, we snipped some fresh herbs to add to the glass. Pineapple sage has always been a favorite, and it goes nicely with sparkling wine.

A civilized herb infused cocktail before we get primeval on those bones - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Pleasantries aside, we promptly attacked the platter of veal bones stuffed with fatty, marrow goodness. Bourdain said he likes his marrow meal with a pint of Guiness. The fellas agreed the dark beer went well with the richness of the marrow, but us ladyfolks stuck with red wine, which is just as good, the acidity cutting through that intense texture. The bones were simply prepared, roasted until the insides were soft and spreadable, and the outside bones had a nice, toasted color. The ability of the bones to retain the heat helps keep the marrow warm. You make your way through all this with a savoring pace, so it's important the marrow stays spreadable, or it just hardens into Crisco. The fresh parsley and caper topping was perfect, a bit of brightness to compliment the velvety marrow. We made jokes about Mad Cow Disease, lots of Walking Dead zombie references, but really, the only harm a meal like this could cause would be to someone on cholesterol meds. Sorry, no marrow for you, Lipitor junkies. Enjoyed with pasta and a fresh salad made from goodies from their garden, it's a meal that sounds adventurous, yet tastes comfortingly familiar. It's no wonder Bad Boy Bourdain chose this as his penultimate meal -- it's as much a celebration of simple, basic flavors, as it is showing respect for ingredients by keeping them unfussy.

Pasta with fresh pesto and a cold beer makes everything better - Photos by Wasabi Prime
We were also treated to a delicious buffalo roast, which was excellent. Don't brush off unusual cuts of meat when you're browsing the meat aisle! This wasn't part of Bourdain's final meal on earth, but we wanted to make sure it wasn't our last meal on earth by just having a feast of cholesterol. Jimmy made a lovely peach and nectarine crumble, and we all sat around the table until midnight drinking lots of wine and talking about the Zombie Apocalypse. Because, really, that's what life is all about, don't you agree? I think the only one disappointed was Marco. He didn't have his own plate, but I'm sure he got a few nibbles of meatbutter goodness, just so he didn't feel left out. Big thanks to Katherine and Jimmy for having us over, and we won't wait a whole year, a new dog/kitchen/backyard to get together again.  

Bring it on, Apocalypse, I can die a happy girl - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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