15
Feb 05

I have always enjoyed sucking bones

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I have always enjoyed sucking bones

Browsing for dinner components the other week in the supermarket, I examined with great interest a couple of chunky pieces of oxtail. Now these haven’t made any significant appearance for a while, what with BSE panic and the disinterest of the general populace in cooking anything that isn’t chicken breast, so it was with an aura of expectant smugness that I purchased a pack for, as they say, a song. Slightly trepidatious, I prepared them for Sunday supper, sealing in seasoned flour and then braising gently with roughly chopped onions and carrots and red wine (loosely according to the gospel of Nigel Slater). After a couple of hours they were lumps of sticky chewy melting cartiligenous gorgeousness, and the velvety wine gravy and sweet juicy carrots weren’t bad either.

So, is it the (low-effort) time investment that puts people off cooking stuff like this at home? I arranged the ingredients in my lovely cast-aluminium pot up at half-time during the rugby and then left it well alone, adding a roasting tin of par-boiled potatoes tossed in duck fat to the oven after an hour or so, but it does take a good swathe of lazy afternoon to organise. Or is it the graphic anatomical lesson that results once the deliciously gooey flesh has been sucked off the vertebrae? We fitted our two together and speculated about how far along the tail they’d come from, poking fork tines curiously into the spinal canal. I can certainly see how it could be a little alarming, but once you accept that your slab of beef was once part of a muscle moving a cow’s leg around (or more likely a tender underused bum-steak) it’s foolhardy not to embrace knowledge of the skull beneath the skin that comes with picking apart chicken wings or a shoulder of lamb. It’s better for you than mechanically reclaimed sausage meat, that’s for sure.

Messy individual joint type things like lamb shanks (as Robster pointed out while licking his fingers, returned to the posh-restaurant fold by the then-spiky-haired-quasi-bad-boy Gary Rhodes back in the day) have hoven back into view over the culinary event horizon over the past couple of years due at least partially to the renewly perceived sexiness of solid manly British fayre (cf universal [well, not from vegetarians] slavering over St. John). Maybe the humble oxtail is also due a revival after a long period in the wilderness, and I’m not talking soup here. Whatever, I’m going to stock up the freezer post-haste.

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