Bring Home the Bone

As you know, I eat a lot of steak and consume large quantities of meat. If Conehead is to Johnny Prime, then beer and chicken embryos is to rib eyes and porterhouses.

As you might imagine, my steaks and meats are often still connected to some kind of bone when they come to the table.

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“Bring Home the Bone” is a project of mine that’s meant to keep that meaty, beefy, steakhouse goodness going all week long, after the meal has concluded. I’ve even seen this starting to become a trend in the food world, with a few articles discussing the idea.

Chow article.

NY Times article.

Some places just serve broths now. There’s even a video about it too:

What exactly happens in my BHTB initiative? This isn’t fucking rocket science, people. I take home the scraps and bones in a doggy bag. If we get a bone marrow app, the bones get packed. If I eat a bone-in rib eye, or a porterhouse for two, I’m taking those fucking bones home.

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It’s a great way to conserve and save too. Shit is expensive these days, even the offal, less common/cheap-o cuts and bone bits are pricey at the grocery store – especially marrow. People are waking up to how good these things can be if put to the right use. The market is responding to the demand and costs are rising. And there’s simple inflation as well.

So what am I making with the bones and scraps?

BROTH/STOCK

According to the great Alton Brown, a broth is a liquid that has had meat cooking in it, and a stock has to be made from bones. In most cases, I’m making a broth or stock, but in the case of BHTB it is stock. Boil the bones and scraps with some other herbs and spices, add a little salt, and after a while you can strain it off into a container to use later as a soup base. Some flavors I like to play around with are what I like to call “faux-pho,” which is star anise, cloves, cinnamon and sometimes cardamom. Add noodles and some of your own thinly sliced eye round and you’re set for a delicious meal.

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If not, even a hot cup of clarified broth is sometimes enough to do the trick, especially in winter. Hot beef liquid is better than coffee, tea or hot chocolate in my opinion. More nutritious too.

SAUCES/GELATINS/FATS

In other situations, I’ll make a sauce or concentrated beef gelatin of some kind. Essentially this means I just keep reducing the above broth until it becomes less liquid. I don’t do anything to thicken, solidify or gel up the base other than to keep boiling. The fat, marrow, gristle and cartilage break down into collagen and blend into the water and these substances will naturally thicken on their own. Most times, when I do this, I pop the stuff into the fridge and the liquid gels up into a substance that is more like jello than liquid. I can then scoop or spoon that out to use as a flavoring or cooking agent while cooking something in a pan, or to coat some pasta after boiling, during the saucing phase.

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Here’s a shot of a friend’s process. His bones cooked for a few days. Look at the delicious jelly-like stuff:

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Here’s his recipe:

  • ~15 pounds of Frozen grass-fed beef marrow bones
  • ~8 frozen chicken feet (from local farm, pasture raised chickens)
  • Fresh thyme (whole package from grocery store)
  • ~10 Fresh Bay Leaves
  • 2 Onions
  • ~ 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

He filled the 20 quart pot up with water to the top. He put in enough bones to reach the top of the 20 qt pot, then applied water to match the top of the bone level.

On the second day he added in two 8oz beef shanks to add some more meat flavor.  He noticed an improvement to the broth on the second day.  First day was mostly clear, second day turned a golden color.

While cooking he was skimming off the fat, and removed roughly 48 oz of fat from the top of the pot over the course of 2 days.

The fat also rises to the top in the fridge and naturally separates from the beef gel or stock. You can sometimes lift it away with your fingers and put the solidified fat into a separate container. I use this like I would use butter or olive oil. Beef fat is a great way to grease your pan for cooking eggs, cornbread or whatever. Even better if you’re using pork bones in your “Bring Home the Bone” endeavors. The fat is softer.

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STEWS/LEGUMES/GRAINS

It’s always good to add a bone of some kind when you’re making barley, stewed beans or lentils, rice or even something like split pea soup. Throwing in a ham hock, or a bone with some bits of meat still clinging to it, is an excellent way to add flavor and depth to all these items.

In it’s simplest form, you can just gather all your bones and put them on a baking sheet. Roast them in the oven to punch up the flavors.

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Once your house or apartment smells amazing, take them out and put them into a pot with some onions, garlic, and whatever spices you want. Boil or simmer for several hours, at least until all the excess scrap meat comes off the bones and is falling apart with the touch of a fork or stirring spoon.

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Pretty simple, right? Bring home the fucking bone, yo.

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