A Very Ruth Bourdain Valentine’s Day

I have a crush.

I have a serious crush on Ruth Bourdain.

There, I’ve said it, and I don’t care who knows.

And today being Valentine’s Day, I’ve done what any sensible person would do: I’ve prepared a four-course dinner for my Special Lady, complete with drink pairings, and comprised of all her favorite foods.  I’ve dimmed the lights, and put on gentle music.  I got roses.

For the first course, only roasted marrow bones will do.  Accompanying are lightly-toasted baguette slices, and a vibrant breadcrumb topping with celery, scallion, parsley, and cayenne.  There are eight bones, because I want to make sure Ruth has enough to be satisfied.  Hell hath no fury like a woman with too little bone marrow.  A jammy, tannin-heavy Australian Shiraz is a fantastic match for the unctuous stuff, and gets the evening off to a properly-buzzed start.

The second course, a soup course, features honeycomb tripe in a flavorful broth, with tomatoes, onions, and celery.  Slowly simmered for hours, the frilly tripe softens into a lush tenderness, proving that even the most leathery flesh can be made supple with the right treatment.  The wine, a Chenin Blanc/Gewurtztraminer/Chardonnay blend from California, with its whip-crisp and flinty tone, lets her know that I’m not all warm fuzzies and sweet poetry.

As much as I would like, I can’t literally give Ruth my heart; but perhaps a veal heart will suffice instead.  The entrée, slices of braised veal heart stuffed with mushrooms, onions, bacon, breadcrumbs, and parsley, features a gratuitous pile of carrots alongside.  I don’t believe she’ll eat them, but a little color is always nice on the plate.  We devour with our eyes first, of course.  For such a special evening, I must open the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to pair with this course.  It’s only from 2005, but usually I can’t keep any wine around for longer than about a week; I found this one in the back of the cellar, hidden behind the Two Buck Chuck.

And finally, the pièce de résistance created especially for my Little Sweetbread: a smoked tangerine panna cotta.  I smoked cream, steeped it with tangerine zest, star anise, and cinnamon, and set it softly into a cool custard.  Tangerine suprêmes brighten the plate, and a simple almond florentine lends a crunching contrast to the yielding smooth flesh of the panna cotta.  Cocktails are in order at this time of night, and I present a ruby-red rye, Campari, Herbsaint, and sweet vermouth mixture called a New Pal.  The bracingly well-balanced drink is simple to whip up, and it’s a good thing, because I’m ten sheets to the wind at this point.

So, humbly, I present myself and this simple meal, in hopes that I might catch her eye, in hopes that she might notice me.  I don’t presume that she will deign to answer, but even a word from her savory lips, or a note written by her meat-slick fingers would lift my hungry soul to the company of angels.  Then, oh then, we might feast blissfully together on buffalo Seraphim wings and whole roast Cherubim, and be happy together.

Ruth Bourdain, will you be my Valentine?



Roasted marrow bones, breadcrumb topping, baguette
Australian Shiraz

Tripe soup
Californian Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, and Chardonnay blend

Braised stuffed veal heart, carrots
Californian Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2005

Smoked tangerine panna cotta, almond florentine
New Pal


Roasted Marrow Bones with Breadcrumb Topping
Makes about 1 1/4 cups breadcrumb topping

I don’t give an amount for the marrow bones here, as it is determined by the number of guests being served, and the rest of the menu.  Four people will handily finish off the marrow of eight three-inch bones, if the following courses are reasonably light (and if RuBo hasn’t been invited).  The breadcrumb topping makes more than enough for such an amount, and the leftovers (kept refrigerated) make a fantastic topping for pasta or fried eggs, if re-crisped briefly in a hot pan.

1 cup (about 2 ounces) panko, or fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup finely minced celery hearts
2 scallions (white and pale green parts only), finely minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, ground
1 large pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper, as needed
Marrow bones, cut into 3 to 4 inch lengths or split lengthwise by butcher
Baguette, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 275º F.  Toss panko with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until well-browned and very crunchy.  Cool completely.  Increase oven temperature to 400º F.

2.  Meanwhile, roughly chop the garlic.  Sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt, and smash into a paste by dragging the flat side of a knife across the garlic.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Toss with the minced celery, scallions, parsley, thyme, coriander, and cayenne until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

3.  Place marrow bones cut-side up in a shallow oven-safe dish just large enough to hold all bones and keep them level.  Roast at 400º F for about 20 minutes (less if your bones are split lengthwise), or until marrow bubbles and offers no resistance at all when pierced by a skewer or thin, sharp blade.  Remove from oven and let cool briefly.

4.  Meanwhile, lightly brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just barely toasted.

5.  When ready to serve, toss browned panko with the celery and herb mixture.  Taste, and correct seasoning with salt and black pepper as needed.  Do not do this too early, as the breadcrumbs may lose their crispness.

6.  To serve, run a thin blade around the edge of the marrow to release it, if needed.  Serve warm either in the bone, or released onto a plate, with the baguette slices and the breadcrumb topping.

Stay tuned, more recipes to come soon!