The Taste Bone’s Connected to the … Soup Bone

MAKE A SPOON HAPPY Meaty beef shin bones are the base for this borscht.

By JANE SIGAL
Published: February 20, 2009

If it’s damp, I haul out the soup pot. Usually I prefer water-based vegetable soups, because I think stock muddies the flavor. Besides, no matter how easy it is to simmer a few bones with an onion and a carrot, I hardly ever do it. To me, making stock is a hassle, and antithetical to home cooking. It belongs to the realm of professional kitchens with salaried dishwashers.

And I don’t like the taste of most store-bought broth. (Some people call it “crayon water.”)

But while waiting for my faucets to start flowing again, I felt as if I needed a soup with more richness, more body. My cousin Marion’s steaming borscht, for instance.

The recipe for that, which comes from her mother-in-law, calls for beef shin (also known as shank) bones. Without benefit of broth or bouillon cube, the taste is meaty, balanced by the freshness of raw diced beets that cook in the soup as the gentle bubbling releases the marrow in the bones.

Even some chefs appreciate that adding soup bones to the pot is a step saver.

“You make the stock as you make the soup,” said Sean Rembold of Marlow & Sons restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Less is almost more.” When the meat and bones have lots of flavor, you do not really need stock.

Jennifer McLagan, the author of “Bones” (William Morrow, 2005), values the textural qualities that marrow, collagen and cartilage lend to soup.

“It’s the difference between a glass of water and a glass of cream,” Ms. McLagan explained. “A bouillon cube is never going to give you that.”

And in this economy, soup bones are a deal. Beef shin at my supermarket is $1.89 a pound. Chicken backs are 49 cents a pound.

Even at the Greenmarkets and top butcher shops, where prices are generally higher — $1.50 to $5 a pound — bones are a good value.

Soup bones are becoming more available as health- and eco-conscious farmers and butchers revive customs like using every morsel.

“There’s a good portion of the weight of a steer that is bone and offal,” said Dan Gibson, a corporate refugee who started Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent, N.Y., in 2002. “The more you can sell the better. Otherwise it goes into the rendering pile.”

Tom Mylan of Marlow & Daughters, a butcher’s shop that is a sister to Marlow & Sons, recently started selling bones to customers instead of immediately passing them along to the restaurant for use.

“It sounds odd coming from a butcher, but I think that Americans eat more meat than they really need,” he said “If they could eat less and better meat, it would be good for everybody.”

Some farmers are selling bones from animals beyond the cow, pig, lamb and chicken. At the Union Square Greenmarket, Ron Kipps sells bison marrow and knuckle bones from his Elk Trails Ranch in West Clifford, Pa. DiPaola Turkey of Hamilton Township, N.J., has wings, necks and backs. And Patches of Star Dairy of Nazareth, Pa., can occasionally provide goat bones.

Unusual pieces of the skeleton, too, are being popularized for soup by young butchers. Tia Harrison at Avedano’s in San Francisco buys whole carcasses and breaks them down herself. But she sometimes runs out of familiar cuts like lamb shanks while lesser known cuts don’t sell.

“When we don’t have lamb shanks, we have lamb necks,” she said. “It’s the best part. In our food culture, we’re so used to the skinless, boneless chicken breast and rib-eye steak. My mother never cooked with a bone.”

Tanya Cauthen, the owner of Belmont Butchery in Richmond, Va., favors beef neck bones.

“They’re awesome in soup,” said Ms. Cauthen, a former restaurant chef who opened her shop in 2006. “You’re pulling out the gelatinous richness. If you’re a smart cook, you’re sucking on the bone. After you finish sucking on it, give it to your dog.”

I asked butchers if soup bones and the “dog bones” pet owners ask for are the same thing.

“No difference,” said Josh Applestone at Fleisher’s butcher shop in Kingston, N.Y., though he said he thought soup bones should have more meat, with a plug of marrow.

Mr. Mylan of Marlow & Daughters, a traditionalist, believes dog bones should be recognizable as such.

“Just a long and narrow bone a dog would want to eat,” he said, “with two big knuckles at the ends.”

It’s only February. There’s still time to lay in bones for soup and for Fido before the next snowstorm.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/dining/25soup.html?_r=1&

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: