Monday, January 4, 2010

Using It Up: Deviled Bones

We had a prime rib roast with Yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner, rounded out with carrots from the cold frame and parsnips dug from our garden. Roast beef is a once-per-year extravagance for us. For the past three years, our roast has come from local farmers who raise their beef cattle on pasture. The roasts have all been superb, and a much appreciated change from our normal diet that is contains the occasional roast chicken, or perhaps a little ground pork or ground beef now and then. Roast beef is special indeed for us.

As we ate our way through the delicious leftovers, we looked forward to the ritual of the deviled bones. Even the bones of a prime rib are to be treasured - the wrap up to the traditions in our holiday season. To think of discarding them seems sacrilegious! I like to serve these deviled bones with a green salad to balance out the carnivorous mess that takes center stage on the plate. Eating deviled bones is an extremely primal process of gnawing off the meat clinging to the bones. You can dress it up with wine and a cloth napkin, but this isn't a meal for any but the most intimate company. I feel the regression of a few hundred thousand years when eating this meal. Growling is optional. There's no doubt at all in my mind that human teeth were selected at least partly for tearing meat from bones.

Here's a quick sketch of a recipe for deviled prime rib bones. Take a tablespoon of salted butter for every bone you have, usually it will be three or four. Melt this butter and add 1 teaspoon of dried mustard, plus one teaspoon of cayenne or a milder ground chile pepper. I like to use chile molido. Alternatively, you can substitute two teaspoons of any curry powder you like for the mustard and chile. Add about 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir these ingredients together. Brush the butter mixture over the bones with a pastry brush, coating all sides very well. Dredge the bones in a shallow dish of salted bread crumbs. Place the bones on a baking sheet, resting so that their meaty sides are upward (curving upwards in the center and resting on their two ends) and broil them for about 7 minutes. Turn the bones over (two ends will point upwards) and continue broiling for about 5 minutes. Credit for the general idea of this recipe goes to Jennifer McLagan and her book, Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore.

The bones look impressive on a plate, even though there's very little meat there. Fortunately, the flavor of meat so close to the bone is exceptional. And it takes long enough to eat deviled bones that you will be satisfied by the time you're done with a bone or two and a salad.

When we had gnawed to our heart's content, and our faces and fingers were coated with delicious grease, and the salad had put a civilized facade on our carnivorous glee, I still couldn't bear to throw the bones away. Having slathered them in strong spices, and on account of their meagre quantity, I didn't think they'd be worth making into stock. But I saved them for the hens, thinking about how cold it's been lately, with temperatures not even getting up near freezing. I wouldn't do this with poultry bones, but with a difference in species as profound as chickens and cows, I don't worry about any possible disease transmission.

The girls went absolutely bonkers over the first bone I tossed into their enclosure. With their sharp little beaks, they stripped down whatever tiny shreds of meat we'd left behind. I had intended to save the bones to dole out to them. But there was such a ruckus over that first one that I tossed in the remaining two just to avoid flying feathers. When the ground thaws those bones will be buried in three separate spots in the garden, where they'll slowly leach nutrients into the soil.

In this way, I feel satisfied with having not only gotten full value out of our expensive purchase, but in also respecting the animal that died that we might eat it. We will waste none of it, because someone gave a damn about this food. And because food is precious.

P.S. I failed to snap a picture this year, so that's a picture from the aftermath of 2008's feast.


Striving for a Simple Life said...

Your Christmas dinner sounded yummy. :-) Did you make the Yorkshire pudding? If so, do you have a recipe? I've been wanting to try it ever since our visit to England a few years ago.


Kate said...

Stephanie, provided you have a cooked roast and a blender or food processor, Yorkshire pudding couldn't be easier.

Some just use the drippings from a roast in a clean pan. I use the pan the roast itself was cooked in. When the roast is done, put it on a platter, cover with foil and let it "rest" before carving. Crank the oven way up to 500 F. If there are crusty, stuck-on bits in the roasting pan, scrape them to loosen. There needs to be plenty of fat in the pan, so don't remove any. And if it was a dry roast, this won't work. If there's only a little fat, it'll work, but not so great.

As the oven heats up, put 2 eggs, a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a generous pinch of salt in the blender/food processor. Whip it like crazy, scraping down the sides if necessary. Then whip it some more. Seriously. You want lots of air incorporated in the batter. Pour this in the roasting pan and put it in the oven. Cook for ~10 minutes. It'll puff up a lot, buckle, maybe crack open and get nice and golden around the edges. Then it'll deflate when you take it out of the oven.

If you're like me you'll have cooked your roast no more than medium rare and can enjoy mopping up the juices with your share of the Yorkshire pudding.

Bon apetit!

Kathie said...

That sounds yummy! I save the bones for soup stock, but think I'll have to try this some time...

The Frugal Fraulein said...

Great minds run on the same track! I served rib roast for the holiday as well as popovers. The ribs a day or so later are another part of the tradition. After I have done my cave woman thing to the bones my little dachshund loves to suck on them till they are clean. We make a good pair!

Joel said...

This might be messy, but I'm sure if you split them open with your sledge hammer, they'd love the marrow even more than the meat, and probably even enjoy any slivers they could pry away.

Kate said...

Kathie, have fun with it!

Frugal Canner, gosh it does sound like we made nearly the same dinner. There's not much of a gap between Yorkshire pudding and popovers.

Joel, it's a good thought. The marrow in rib bones is the red type, not the fatty yellow type, so I don't think there would be much there for the hens to eat. But the soil microbes will go to town on it, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

We served home-caught salmon for one of our holiday meals. After we picked the bones as clean as we could, our chickens relished the remains! It is very cold here, and they love getting bits of these rich foods. I'm enjoying your blog!


Striving for a Simple Life said...

Thanks for the recipe! I think I'm going to give it a try this week. :-)


Kate said...

Laurie, welcome and thanks for stopping by. Home-caught salmon! Lucky you! Are you perhaps in Alaska?

Stephanie, you're welcome. Hope it turns out well for you. It's a great favorite of mine.

sv koho said...

stephanie: love your site and your wit but the growling part over the bones makes me a little nervous.

Kate said...

Rv, I'm guessing you meant your comment for me, not Stephanie, though correct me if I'm wrong. From perusing your blog, I wouldn't expect a little growl here and there to make a man such as yourself nervous. But if I ever sit down to dinner with you, I'll restrain myself.

Anonymous said...

After Thanksgiving I fed my hens the leftover turkey legs from our deep fried birds - there was nothing left but bone and cartilage by the time they were done.