Monday, January 4, 2010
Posted by Kate at 2:42 PM
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.