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Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore Hardcover – October 25, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's a lot more going on in Bones than the glorification of beef marrow. True, you will want to serve roasted marrow bones after even a casual reading. Jennifer McLagan, chef, food stylist, food writer, and now cookbook author says this is where it all began for her, this journey that has become a singular determination to rehabilitate bones in the family kitchen: "Scooping out the soft, warm marrow and spreading it on crisp toast is a sensual delight. A touch of salt, and all is right with the world."

Bones is about meat on the bone, plain and simple. Beef or veal, lamb, game, poultry, fish--it matters not. If the meat is on the bone as it enters the cooking process, be that roasting, braising, steaming, baking, or grilling, it has every chance of being far superior to meat divorced of the skeleton. Think how boring skinless, boneless chicken breasts can be. But McLagan's underlying theme is about taking time to treat a product like meat with the respect it deserves. If you demand that it morphs into some sort of time-and-labor-saving protein package you end up with chicken fingers, not food. If it is about anything, Bones is about good food, and good food takes time. And time is the most precious ingredient any cook can add to the broth. The time it takes isn't a burden, it's where the cook truly learns and grows and matures.

McLagan divides Bones into sections devoted to Beef and Veal, Pork, Lamb, Poultry, Fish, and Game. Each section begins with a precise description of the basic animal from the skeleton on out before moving on to stocks, concentrated stocks, and consommés. As for recipe enticements you'll find Beer-Glazed Beef Ribs, Osso Buco with Fennel and Blood Orange Sauce, Spicy Korean Pork Soup, Roast Leg of Pork with Crackling, Olive-Crusted Lamb Racks, Lamb Shanks in Pomegranate Sauce, Poached Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables, Grilled Quail with Sage Butter, Coconut Curry Chicken, Sardines on Toast, Cantonese-style Steamed Fish, and Herb-Roasted Rabbit (one of four rabbit recipes!).

While the novice cook should not shy away from Bones, a firm foundation in basic western cooking technique is a plus. There's a lot of learning available between these two covers. Some of it is about meat and bones, some about cooking and serving, and some is about an attitude to bring to the kitchen: If you take a little time the rewards will be far superior to any shortcuts along the way. All of which makes Jennifer McLagan something of a revolutionary in our midst. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

In this expansive tome, food stylist and writer McLagan offers an alternative to the rubbery chicken breasts and fish filets now standard in Western cookery. By eliminating bones (and fat) from our diet, McLagan passionately argues, we've traded flavor for health and efficiency. Indeed, her book operates on the premise that the pleasure of gnawing on a lamb chop cannot be underestimated. More than a cookbook, this is a compendium of folklore, literary quotes and historical facts that refer to bones' significance across cultures from ancient times to today. There are chapters on beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish and game, each with an introductory section explaining anatomy and recommended cooking temperatures. Sidebars offer suggestions for carving, using unlikely parts, and recovering endangered bone-cooking arts like "spatchcocking," or removing the wishbone from a bird. McLagan's recipes range from arcane (Lancashire Hot Pot, which traditionally consists of a deep dish of stew covered with a potato crust, and long lamb bones piercing through the topping) to contemporary continental (Osso Bucco with Fennel and Blood Orange Sauce). While some recipes are time-consuming, McLagan's instructions are generally clear and precise. With its emphasis on tradition and technique, this work won't appeal to the 20-minute chef, but it will be a welcome addition to the slow-food aficionado's library. Photos. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; First Edition first Printing edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060585374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060585372
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
`Bones' by Australian chef and culinary writer, Jennifer McLagen, currently of Toronto, Canada is a major contribution to our understanding of so many things which are good about food, and which we have forgotten, or tend to ignore. There is a conventional wisdom, aphoristic expressions of which are sprinkled liberally about the margins of this work, which endorses the value of bones and the meat which lies closest to same. And yet, my mother, in the name of modern culinary frugality, and in spite of growing up in a Pennsylvania Dutch household that should have known better, constantly harangues me on not buying meat with embedded bones. This leads to all sorts of cases where I'm entreated to give up the joys of a leg of lamb on the bone, not to mention lamb shanks or `osso buco'.

The pretext is that pound for pound, the boneless meat is a better value for the money. This monotone doctrine is probably wrong much of the time even if one did a careful pound of protein per dollar analysis of the two products, but that misses the point. This book is one long argument for the value added obtained from bones with our meat.

One thing I wish to stress is that one should not assume this book is a long essay or memoir in the style of Peter Kaminsky's `Pig Perfect'. The subtitle, `Recipes, History, & Lore' is a quite accurate statement of the distribution of content between recipes and `other stuff'. In fact, one can easily acquire this book as a general cookbook on how to cook animal protein, as it covers protein on the hoof, on the wing, and on (and in) the water. Virtually the only kind of protein it does not cover are those beasties such as the crustaceans and mollusks who wear their stiffening body parts on the outside.
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Format: Hardcover
With so many overnight cooking sensations (people who don't actually know anything about food) and so many quick and breezy non-recipes floating around of the toss-spaghetti-with-olive oil-and-pepper variety, it is a relief for serious eaters like me and for people interested in real cooking to come across a proper cookbook like Bones.

BONES is clever idea (McLagan deserves points just for coming up with it), well-researched, timely (I'd almost say urgent) and very beautiful to look at. Above all, this book is an inspiration for better eating by someone who really knows her food.

I've made Jennifer McLagan's recipes from magazine articles before and my experience is that they are always imaginative (without being wildly exotic) and they always work. Every recipe I have tried has been beautiful and delicious. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This will indeed sound strange: I am preferentially a vegetarian (which means that I love and prefer vegetables and such, but will also occasionally eat meat, but only if it's wonderful and worth it). "Worth it" does not begin to describe some of this food! I am also an experienced cook and a total foodie who owns several hundred well-used cookbooks, and I just loved this book. I received it as a gift and happily sat up half Christmas night just reading it and drooling. Marvelous information! Marvelous recipes! Excellent writing! If you've never experimented with cooking with bones--you must try. It's classic cuisine but somewhat unusual now in home kitchens. (How many people do you know who would recognize, let alone own a marrow spoon?) I loved this book SO much that I have now myself given it as a gift to the two best cooks I know--and I didn't wait for their birthdays or Xmas to roll around, either!
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Format: Hardcover
I recently reviewed this same author's book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes and gave it a well-deserved 5 stars. I am afraid I cannot do that here. When my wife saw the book she said she thought it would be hard to fill a book this size with interesting stuff about bones. She was half-joking but after reading it I think she may have been correct. There was some fairly decent stuff on making stock from bones but nothing I haven't seen elsewhere. Most of the other recipes were not very special; there was a recipe for Chicken with Riesling, for example, that was nice enough, but the only relevance it had to the book topic was that it used drumsticks (ie: the meat was still on the bone. Indeed, that pretty much seemed to be the rationale for including the vast bulk of the recipes in this book. As a final criticism, although the dearth of pictures in 'Fat' did not diminish the value of the book in my mind, here it did. Pictures are always helpful in cookery books but in this case some pictures illustrating the carving and jointing techniques described would REALLY have been helpful.
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Format: Hardcover
From the first receipe I tried I was won over.

Beefsteak Fiorentina is the fastest way that you can satisfy the need for meat that I've tried so far.

The simplicity of the writing is such that one easily understands what they need to do to achieve success. But there is enough detail and history that those of us with a need for information will be satisfied and digging for more.

The illustrations and photographs complete the straightforward design of the book, which will make it a neccessary addition to any meat lovers library.

It's a purchase that you won't regret.
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