I am about to make my greatest pizza with meat from a cow’s tail and bone marrow. Like a great loaf of bread, oxtail is a labor of love that can only be perfected with patience, observation and a keen sense of mercy. That is, letting the lusciously fatty, greasy and savory strands of protein braise in juices that don’t overpower their natural flavor.
This pizza is like alot of the best pies you’ll ever make or taste: Time consuming in its preparation, simple in its bake, rewarding in its taste. Take a bite and enjoy velvety and sharp gruyere, meaty oxtail, crunchy-sweet cippolini onions and marrow, extracted from large round femur bones.
It was procuring dem bones that turned out to be the biggest challenge of this pizza. Not cooking them, but getting past cultural stigmas and nasty but (in hindsight) laughable customer service thrown at me by a jerk at the meat counter.
I had rushed to the large chain grocery store to buy the bones.
“Excuse me sir,” I said as I craned my head over the butcher counter.
“Yup.” A young man in his 20’s tilted his head. His acting skills betrayed him total distain for the middle-aged clod before him.
“Do you have femur bones?”
“Do you have any large bones?”
“Maybe like in yes, or maybe, like in no?” I asked.
“Got dog bones.”
“Are they from cows, or like rawhide?” I continued.
“Rawhide is from cows too,” he muttered triumphantly.
“Yes, I agree, but I asked for bones.”
“Rawhide bones is in isle 18.” He said and turned away.
“Hey, Excuse me,” I said, beckoning him back again. This time more forceful. I was now reenacting the same uphill battle I had weeks before when I asked the seafood guy if I could smell the fish. He refused, saying I’d have to buy it first. I finally convinced him to put it 2 feet in front of my nose. It stank.
“May I see the dog bones you have?”
“They ain’t packaged yet.” He turned to let as much air as possible separate him from me.
“Can you go back there and grab one for me and bring it here and show me?” I asked, really loud now.
This is bone marrow that has been sitting in a salty brine for 2 hours and frequently refreshed. It just popped out and all the impurities and blood were pulled out by the water. This you can dredge in flour and saute if you have a light touch and don’t over cook. (It’ll turn to mush) I prefer to roast the marrow in the bone because my dog likes the bones roasted after I take the marrow.
He looked over his shoulder, shook his head and went in the back. I waited as he returned with a femur bone that had a big tapered end like a vase. It was the end of the femur, and did contain some marrow, but because the huge flared end had a thin layer of bone protecting the marrow, it would be hard to get the marrow out in one cylindrical chunk.
“O.K., this is close to what I’m looking for,” I said. “Only do you have four or five that look more like a pipe than this one?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He stared at me, scowling. I reverted to my mindset from years of living in Boston.
“Listen man, here’s the deal. If you help me out, I’ll stop acting like a stupid customer with a special request and go away. If you continue to be a jerk about this, I’m gonna find a manager to help me out.” I waited for an escalation, just a nuance of a negative response before completely unloading on this guy who should not be serving customers. None came.
He turned and went into the back for what seemed like 10 minutes (of course he took his time) and returned with four fairly large femur (dog) bones wrapped in plastic. As if to taunt me, all four were pipe bones but just flared enough to be a hassle getting a chunk out. He slid the package labled “Dog Bones” onto the fancy glass case.
“Thanks for all your tremedous efforts, my kind sir,” I responded. Then I took a chance. “Do you know what I’m gonna do with these?” I asked with enough distain for him to retell our interaction to his co-workers.
He nodded, a scowling but restrained “no.”
“Eat the marrow out of them.”
“Yum.,” he muttered, with an unmistakable nuance of “I hope you die.”
“Damn blog,” I thought. Then I turned to make my oxtail pizza.
Yesterday morning, I finally saw my doctor because of an incessant pain in my foot that had been nagging me for weeks. He uttered the term “I’ve got some bad news.” My foot had been broken for a some time, the result of heavy usage and strain, a real stress fracture. Now I am trying to sit on my ass but will attempt the oxtail pie in the morning.
I dream of marrow seeping out of my foot as it sits in a plastic-wrapped tray marked “Dog Bones.” No biggie, just par for the course of the Pizza Goon.