Next Course: Fish marrow
January 11th, 2013
03:30 PM ET
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At Eatocracy, we eat like it's our job - because it is. There's no crystal ball for food editors to peer into or a Ouija board that contacts Escoffier from beyond the grave for culinary guidance. Instead, we rely on the tastemakers – the chefs, the farmers, the artisans – and our own eyes, ears and mouths to keep us informed of the latest movements in the food world. This series, Next Course, looks into what’s coming up in the food world.

"Pssst! Hey buddy, you looking for any of that goo? I know a guy."

An unusual product, popping up in hushed conversation among chefs and their fishmongers, may soon be swimming to a restaurant near you. It's fish marrow. Yes - bone marrow from fish.

Once the domain of dogs' dinners and the working class’s cucina povera, in recent years, bone marrow oozed into chef territory. Platters of sawed-open bones with rich marrow soon popped up on high-end menus across the country. Anthony Bourdain coined it "butter from god," and it gained a devout following accordingly.

Those who grew up with the Italian braised veal dish osso buco will remember spooning out (and fighting over) the gelatinous marrow to savor along with the sauce, browned shanks and gremolata. Those who didn’t grow up with it quickly adopted the same zeal.

The broth from hangover favorite, Vietnamese phở, is traditionally enriched by marrow bones that have been simmered for hours upon hours. And, the classic French technique calls for the marrow bones to be roasted and served with toast and rock salt to smear and sprinkle accordingly.

Most of the bone marrow served in restaurants is from cows or veal calves. For its marine counterpart, it takes a big fish with proportionally large bones; think swordfish, tuna and sturgeon.

Keith Fuller, the chef and owner of ROOT 174 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been experimenting with swordfish marrow (pictured above).

"It has the texture of a silicone implant," Fuller said. "Then, when you put it in your mouth and it bursts, it tastes like a hint of the sea – but it's not super salty."

Fuller has featured it on his menu three times. Each time, it sold out, but not before a few diners asked, "What is this?" and "Is it supposed to be raw?" He served it like an oyster: raw and with a mignonette, a sauce of vinegar, minced shallots and cracked pepper.

Harold Dieterle, who many may recognize as the first winner in Bravo’s “Top Chef” program, just opened his third restaurant in New York City – appropriately called The Marrow. He's been playing around with tuna marrow and hopes to put it on the menu soon.

"I kind of compare it to whipped pork fat. It’s very mild, but it definitely has a fish flavor," Dieterle explained.

As often happens, what's old is new again. Vesiga - or the dried spinal marrow of sturgeon - was a favorite of the Russian czar set. Slices of it were also served atop a consommé preparation on the ill-fated Titanic.

If fish marrow was good enough for the unsinkable Molly Brown, it’s worth diving into.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Campstove Jack

    Yann Martel gave a wonderful description of raw fish marrow in his book, The Life of Pi. It made me wonder why I never saw any offered in any sushi restaurant I've been in.

    January 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  2. neddy

    I have to wonder if fish marrow, coming from such large – and presumable old- fish, has a high mercury content (or other toxins)??

    January 14, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Good question.

      January 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  3. Ann

    It's not something I would seek out, but I'm willing to try just about anything. (Not eyeballs – I do have my limits.)

    January 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  4. Bo

    That just sounds ... FISHY!!!!!

    January 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  5. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    When you can your own salmon (which we did A LOT of when I was growing up) you don't even have to take out the bones. They cook under the pressure and become just as soft as the fish flesh itself. Lots of vitamins, I bet.

    January 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
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