Recipe 27: Bone Marrow Mac-N-Cheese

This mac is actually the one I had hoped to make for the halfway mark, but as you may recall, while grocery shopping I got distracted by shiny objects, so that didn’t happen.  But I made extra time this week to go not just to my usual grocery store, but also to my friendly neighborhood butcher.  Funny thing – I had originally started calling them that just to sound quaint and cutesy, but for real, every time I have gone there, they have been genuinely polite, helpful, and, well, friendly.

I saw this mac several months ago and was kind of stoked for it.  I can’t entirely justify why: At that point I’d never had beef or veal marrow, but I imagined it tasted like steak with the consistency of butter.  An all natural beef-butter.  I don’t know why I had that notion, but the idea of beef-butter mac and cheese sounded sinfully delicious.

This will buy my dog’s love for a while.

The only trouble with this mac is that it requires you to have some leftover marrow bones from a prior recipe.  So that meant after obtaining the marrow bones from my Friendly Neighborhood Butcher, I had to use much of the marrow first.  I used another recipe on the same site where I got this mac recipe.  I smeared the marrow on my gluten-free bread, just waiting for the beefy buttery flavor-explosion.

It didn’t come.

I was surprised that beef marrow – or at least the bones I got – had surprisingly little beef flavor.  In fact, it had surprisingly little flavor at all.  It was mainly just… fat.  And not like bacon fat or schmaltz that still maintain the flavor or the originating protein.  Sure, a fat that my little diva-dog treated like manna from Heaven, but just fat nonetheless.

Well, I thought, maybe it will taste different with mac.

Bone Marrow Mac-N-Cheese(from $35 a Week)

Ingredients

• Leftover beef or veal bones with some marrow still left in them; enough to produce a few tablespoons’ worth of rendered fat
• 1 1/4 cup good-quality bread crumbs from leftover bread (I used homemade gluten-free bread)
• 8 oz. pasta of your choice (I used corn elbows)
• 3 T flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
• 1-2 T butter
• 1 T mustard powder
• 3 cups whole milk (I even went out and bought whole milk for this!)
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 tsp onion powder
• 1 egg
• 4 oz. grated Parmesan
• Salt to taste
• Freshly ground pepper to taste (white or black)

Directions

Roast the bones standing up in a steep-sided dish at 400 degrees, until all the fat has rendered out of the center.  Toss the bread crumbs with enough beef marrow to coat, add a pinch of salt, spread on a cookie sheet, and toast at 350 degrees until well-browned and very crunchy. (this took about 20 minutes for me)

Grease an 8 x 8 Pyrex dish or casserole dish with similar capacity.

Heat a pot of salted water for the pasta.

Heat remaining marrow plus enough butter, if necessary, to equal 3 Tablespoons in a medium pot over medium heat (I got a little less than 1 1/2 Tablespoons of marrow; the rest was butter). Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep stirring for about 5 minutes; the color should be a light golden brown. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, while still whisking constantly. There should be no lumps. When it’s all combined, add the bay leaf and onion powder and simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

Cook the pasta just until al-dente stage; it should be too firm to consider edible, but not totally hard.

Beat the egg in a medium bowl. After the sauce has simmered, pour about 1/2 cup into the bowl with the egg, whisking all the while (yes, you have to do it like this; if you just add it in the sauce, the egg will be scrambled in there and ruin it). When well combined, pour back into the pot with the rest of the sauce, add the cheese, and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pasta pot. Pour in the sauce, stirring well to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the bread crumbs.

The homemade breadcrumbs were so awesomely crunchy.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Loverman and I are rather divided as to the rating for this mac.  He didn’t finish his helping, explaining, “It tastes weird.”  Although I kind of get what he is saying, I disagree: I thought it was pretty great.  I think the “weirdness” came from the marrow, which did offer a slightly different flavor throughout.  It wasn’t exactly beefy, but it wasn’t bad, sort of savory and mildly salty.  I was surprised, however, that the dominant flavor I got was onion.  Although it was not the beefy-butteriness I had hoped for* it was still cool in my book.

*Oh man, a little beefy flavor with that onion overtone would have made it like a French onion soup in mac form.  That would be awesome.  Maybe something to attempt for the future…

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