I first noticed the smell two weeks ago.
I walked into the parlor and EW!!! A seriously funky odor that could only indicate that something had died.
Shit like this happens when you live in an old house in the country. I remember visiting our friends Geri and Stephen at their house in Northern Westchester County. I walked into my guest room greeted by a standing fan, going full blast, facing the wall. This was in November, mind you, so I looked at Geri for an explanation of the fan, but before she could answer, the explanation hit me right between my cheeks.
“Ugh. A mouse died in the walls,” she explained. “There’s no way to reach it, so we’re trying to get rid of the smell.”
This was right around the time I first met Bertrand. As a matter of fact, our second date was in Pound Ridge. He had been hanging with the kids a half hour away in Larchmont, so he drove up and took me out to dinner. I remember the date like it was yesterday.
I remember the smell, too. And now, it was our problem. We searched under sofas, behind books, between cushions, but any physical evidence eluded us. I brought it up during a text with my friend William (who is becoming a regular on this blog, my voice of reason, sort of like Tim’s neighbor Wilson on “Home Improvement.”). He confirmed that he and James have had many a stuck dead mouse, too.
“It’s in the walls. Or vents. Nothing you can do,” he wrote back. “Do you have flies around it, too?”
Ok, now this was getting grosser. I thank my lucky stars that this death has occurred in when it is literally one degree outside.
“Seriously? Will it eventually go away?”
“Of course. It’s not like a dead cow.”
Which brings me to the worst transition ever: Christmas dinner. After our virtuous vegetarian Christmas Eve, we decided to make a rib roast for the following night. Germanna, our butcher at Guido’s carved us a tidy single-rib slab, and we were set.
Then Luke decided to drive back up to the house with us on Christmas Eve, so we’d be three. A few hours later, Astrid texted, asking if she could join, too. Hurrah! I’d make Yorkshire pudding to fill out the meal. God bless us, everyone.
Roasts are not a regular in our repertoire, so I googled Craig Clairborne roast beef, recalling my father’s lived-in New York Times Cookbook that he’d relied on for decades. I have pretty distinct memories of a 425-degree setting, but all I could find was a recipe that directed blasting the meat at 500 for a half hour, then turning the oven off and leaving the roast in for two hours. Hmm…Several more google attempts failed me, so I went for it, but only left it in for about a half hour: there was Yorkshire pudding to bake. A bit of trial and error (read: return the roast into pudding’s now-400-degree oven for another 15 minutes), but happy to report it came out pretty perfectly. I had also tossed in a few shallots, and their caramelized result is my new favorite side dish.
As dinner drew to an end, I thought back to the October afternoon I’d spent with Angie Mar, the bad-ass owner and chef of the Beatrice Inn. Mar had told me that she encourages guests to pick up the big rib or steak bones to really enjoy all the bits. As Astrid assessed the bone, I told her what Angie had said, and that was all she needed.
“I should make bone broth,” I decided. “Is one bone enough?”
It was. And now I understand why people live for bone broth. It’s been warming our own bones in this week of single-digit temperatures for three days now.
Meanwhile, the critter stench continues to linger. We will make one more attempt to locate an actual source, but tomorrow we return to the real world, crossing our fingers that by next Saturday, it will have—pardon the pun—died down.
I must confess I am a tad sentimental about the odor since I connect it with the early days of our love. Of course, I stayed out of that smelly guest room as much as possible back then, but I so vividly remember seeing the headlights of Bertrand’s car pulling up the driveway to take me to dinner, as well as our first kiss outside in the freezing cold. Of course, to bring the bone broth story full circle, I could make a “bone” joke here, but that would be tacky.
And, please. It was only our second date.
- 2 T olive oil, divided
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 t kosher or sea salt
- 1-3 bones from a cooked roast, or roasted alone
- 1 t flavored salt
Preheat oven to 350. In roasting pan, mix one T olive oil with the next six ingredients. Place in oven and let roast for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven. On stovetop, bring 6-8 cups of water to a boil, then add bones and ingredients in roasting pan. Bring to boil again, then let simmer for 2-3 hours on low heat. Before serving, sprinkle in flavored salt.
I’ve been using Aftelier French Finishing Salt in Tarragon & Bitter Orange, and found it adds a wonderful kick to the flavor.