I begin packing his school lunch when he presses the elevator button. By the time the elevator arrives, the meal is sealed up in his little frog knapsack, and we’re out the door. And we live on the third floor. If any of the major food groups are represented, it’s been a success. I shiver to think of the teachers as they watch him pull out a piece of white bread, goldfish, and a chocolate chip cookie.
But starch is an important part of life, and thus he’ll have a firm head start on those children with bags of mini carrots and organic ham. There is, we’re told, a wide variety of foods out there. Not eating correctly and choosing according to our bodily needs is wasteful, ignorant, and lazy. Or so they say. But a diet of pure fat can be even more sophisticated and clever.
The options are staggering: dairy (cream/milk/cheese/butter/etc.); animal (bacon and every other pleasant item); oils (preferably used to fry stuff); and the healthy area (avocados/nuts, preferably pureed with extra oil in a pesto). Everyone has a favorite. For instance, one might enjoy cream, say in a bowl of clam chowder (ingredients: bacon and cream), or an equally creamy potato gratin (ingredients potatoes and cream).
And then there are the neglected fat delivery systems, such as offal (sweetbreads and liver). And like the pimpled teen Donkey Kong champ, marrow fat is king of offal-fat land. It’s a strange item calling for a strange eating method: stick a tiny spoon into a roasted bone hunting for gelatinous ooze. It’s like mining for gold with a toothbrush . Some of the fat melts and oozes into a puddle in the hot pan while the rest remains inside the bone, soft and unctuous.
The best part of marrow fat, and why it is so prized by chefs, is its ability to donate, in one tiny spoonful, both an interesting flavor as well as a fatty mouthful, to a range of dishes, from salads to pasta, and cooked meats and fish. In this sense, it’s like cream or butter, which, let’s face it, added in small (or large) amounts, improve everything, from soups to sauces or shampoos. But because it has an actual flavor, marrow fat, if you can get your hands on it, can be even more useful.
As I did yesterday, this morning I pried four congealed leftover dumplings and threw them in the kid’s lunchbox for a balanced meal of fat and carbs. When I get the energy, I’ll bring in molten marrow fat for the class snack. It’s a valuable introduction to the wonderful world of fat.
(NOTE: you usually spoon marrow over a crostini and leave it at that, but I draped a few anchovy fillets over the top. It’s pretty darn good.)
Bone Marrow and Anchovy Crostini
Makes enough for at least 20 crostini
5 large marrow bones
few tablespoons canola oil
4 large sprigs thyme, two reserved and leaves minced finely
20 anchovy filets (salted)
1 thin baguette (ficelle)
cracked fresh black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Coat a small pan with oil, season bones all over with a bit of salt and pepper and stand in the pan. Roast for about 15-20 minutes, depending on size. The interior should be thoroughly soft and melting when pierced. Remove to a platter, add two of the thyme sprigs to hot fat in the pan and fry until lightly browned, add to plate with bones.
3. Meanwhile, slice bread into thin (no more than ¼ inch) slices and arrange on platter with bones, fried thyme, and demitasse spoons for spreading marrow. Drizzle hot fat in pan over the bread as well as the minced fresh thyme.
4. Serve immediately with anchovy filets.