Bones – Recipes, History, and Lore by Jennifer McLagan

Bones – Recipes, History and Lore – Introduction

Jennifer McLagan is an Australian-born chef who has plied her trade in Australia, England, Europe and Canada. Her books follow an idiosyncratic path, cleverly concentrating on topics that most other writers avoid.

The topics of her books include Bones, Fat, Bitter, Odd Bits and Blood. The book on Bones was her first and the one that left a lasting impression on us, although we like all the other as well.

In the Introduction to Bones, McLagan makes it clear why she wrote the book:

The connection between flesh and bones is primordial and fundamental. Yes today, bones have fallen out of favour. We are all familiar with the expression, “The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat,” but we demand everything precut and prepackaged, and that is, increasingly, how we buy. … We have become so obsessed with ease of preparation and speed that we have lost touch with the visceral appeal of cooking with – and eating – bones. No carcass to cut around, no whole fish to fillet awkwardly…..Carving has become a lost art.

Jennifer McLagan

We can certainly agree with the general sentiment here. We well remember a now closed restaurant in New Orleans called Gerard’s Downtown which featured a whole fish on the menu. The first time we ordered it, the cooked fish was presented at the table with the waiter saying he would take it away and “fillet” it. We asked that the plate be placed on the table and that we would look after the task. The waiter looked horrified. The thought that his customers would be exposed to the sight of bones and the head of the fish was just too horrible to contemplate!

Bones – Recipes, History and Lore – The Book

Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore by Jennifer McLagan is an important cookbook because it refocusses the food community on the importance of bones in providing flavour in food. Jennifer McLagan has put together a well-constructed book with lots of interesting information and recipes.

The book may appear relatively simple on the surface with chapters covering Beef and Veal, Pork, Lamb, Poultry, Fish, Game and a final short chapter on desserts two out of three using bone marrow. But take the time to read this tome and you will realise that it explores important ideas about flavour, lots of ideas about HOW to cook and lots of ideas about how to cut and present meat with bones in it.

There are many excellent recipes in this book but the standouts are the roasted bone marrow recipe, any of the rib recipes, a braised lamb neck recipe, a dish of lamb shoulder braised with preserved lemons and dates and an excellent recipe for Pig’s Feet with an Orange Mustard Dressing.

The bone marrow recipe was influenced by the iconic dish at St John in London, in fact she even includes and acknowledgement of that dish and a recipe for the parsley salad that is so important for cutting through the richness of the dish.

While St John probably has the best know dish, we have also enjoyed various other similar dishes. We can vividly remember a dish of bone marrow on toast with a purslane salad at Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn, a very “meaty” dish at Hearth which had bone marrow with broccoli as one component of a mixed meat plate, a peerless sweet smoked marrow dish at NOMA that we were encouraged to eat with our hands and a dish at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice Beach that was accompanied by a celery salad and, memorably, a Vodopivec Vitovska macerated wine from North-East Italy.

Jennifer McLagan’s book Bones has been included in our Foodtourist Top Fifty Cookbooks.

You can read more about Jennifer and her books on her own Website:

Jennifer McLagan

You can buy Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore by clicking on the link below. We receive a small percentage of the sale which goes towards maintaining this site.