|Cooking on the Bone: Recipes, History and Lore|
|Publisher: Grub Street, Country: UK|
|ISBN: 9781906502201, Edition: paperback, Year: 2008|
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|This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.|
A book smacked down on display tables around the world in 2005-6, with one word prominent – BONE(S). The US edition, Bones, had a warm cover image of three marrow bones and a marrow spoon, while the UK edition, Cooking on the Bone, sported a cool, crisp white cover with carving knife and fork. The book followed in the wake of Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating, republished in 2004 and destined for stardom. These were books about meat and the rediscovery of things that had gone out of fashion. While Henderson became famous for his use of offal, Jennifer McLagan’s book of bones attracted rightful acclaim for its presentation of recipes, knowledge and tips about cooking and eating meat on the bone, eating marrow from the bone, and using disfavoured cuts of meat to produce delicious dishes. It’s not all pig’s feet and oxtail: fish and game are discussed alongside the usual suspects.
Cooking on the Bone has now been republished by publishers Grub Street in paperback with endflaps, sporting a rack of venison as its cover motif. The 248-page book has a section devoted to each type of meat, and there’s also a brief (and weak) section called Bonelogue, about the use of bones, gelatine, marrow and suet in a sweet role. Cooking on the Bone ends with a good bibliography and an index.
Each section gives refreshingly clear, concise descriptions of where cuts of meat come from on each animal’s carcass and how best to cook them, tips about buying good meat, and a number of tasty recipes. These include such delights as fish head curry, flemish-style rabbit, roasted pigeon with fresh figs, lamb neck with anchovies, or pork hock cooked with spiced honey. Tables of desirable internal temperatures for different meats are provided. Disappointingly, the author writes just a short paragraph about mutton and goat, while pig’s and calf’s heads don’t get a mention at all. Frog’s legs get a recipe in the fish section.
It’s a slightly quirky book, reflecting perhaps the broad interests and personal preferences of the author. There are also random recipe tips and tidbits of trivia about bones dotted around the book, from antlers to fish bone superstitions (though these are sometimes a little weak on informative value, overlooking, for instance, that antlers had culinary uses in powdered form as a leavening agent). There will be some terminological issues for readers in different markets, but I don’t think those will be insurmountable.
Despite a few oddities or omissions, Cooking on the Bone is a book which achieves its goals very well for the most part, with attractive recipes and a wealth of information about getting the most flavour out of a range of meats and cuts (and encouragement to use them!). Although she discusses most animal parts, McLagan doesn’t assume every reader will want to eat every piece of the animal and explains how to use these parts for stock or other applications (e.g., pig’s tails can be used for stock if you don’t want to try the three recipes she provides). McLagan’s clarity of explanation and evident passion makes Cooking on the Bone stand out.
|: 5 stars. Highly recommended
: Likely to be strongly appreciated
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