Repurpose beefed-up poaching liquid with beer

The Whole Dish podcast: ‘Pure and simple’ bone-marrow preparation

Boiling up some leftover bones — roast ham, chicken and the like — with a few other odds and ends, essentially constitutes a free meal.

Even highlighted on their own, bones are incredibly inexpensive. Or so I realized when I paid $3 for a half-pound of grass-fed beef marrow bones to serve as an appetizer with bread, which actually cost more than the marrow. This is a dish I’ve seen priced anywhere between $8 and $12 in restaurants.

And there’s very little preparation involved. Just simmer the marrow bones in a court bouillon — the French term for a poaching liquid, enhanced with wine, aromatics and a bouquet garni (or fresh herb bundle). After about 30 minutes, when I could pierce the marrow with a fork, I removed them from the liquid, cooled them down and, just before serving, sprinkled them with some fine-quality sea salt and popped them for a few minutes under the oven broiler to slightly caramelize, along with some baguette slices.

The poaching liquid, while not flavorful enough to constitute stock, begged to be repurposed. Maybe it was because I used a red onion, or maybe it was the bones themselves, but the stock was deeply colored with a sheen of fat from the bones’ remnants of connective tissue.

The one-note flavor isn’t anything that a tomato product, wine or beer wouldn’t remedy. Enriched with stout beer, this recipe for lamb stew would be a fitting way to stretch those marrow bones over yet another meal. It’s a favorite for St. Patrick’s Day, of course, but still a hearty one-pot meal for the recent rainy days. The recipe comes from the Detroit Free Press.

Tribune News Service photo

Classic Stout Stew

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons butter, divided

2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cubed into 11/2- to 2-inch pieces (pat cubes dry with paper towel)

8 ounces frozen or fresh pearl onions (see note)

1 cup Irish stout such as Guinness

1 cup defatted beef stock or reduced-sodium beef broth

Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

1 bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaf

1 1/2 pounds favorite potatoes, peeled and cut into thick slices

8 ounces large white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon brown mustard

Fresh thyme sprigs and minced parsley for garnish

In a large, heavy Dutch oven or stockpot heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the lamb pieces and brown evenly. Remove lamb and set aside. Add the pearl onions to pot and brown for 3 to 4 minutes. Return browned lamb to pot, add the stout and beef stock, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the bouquet garni and sliced potatoes. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.

Add the sliced mushrooms, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove meat and vegetables and place on a warmed, deep-rimmed serving platter. Cover with foil and keep warm in a 200-degree oven. Strain cooking liquid from pot; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook until bubbly and golden, whisking continuously. Slowly stir in reserved cooking liquid and cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of a spoon. Whisk in the mustard and adjust seasonings to taste. If mixture is too thick, add more stout a little at a time. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables; garnish with thyme and parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

NOTE: If using fresh pearl onions, place in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 5 minutes, then drain. Skins should peel away easily.

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