It’s almost the end of June, and I’ve kept my rules pretty well. I broke them when I went to San Francisco, once or twice when there was free food, once when I forgot my lunch at work, and once when I had a crappy day and ordered takeout because I realized that EVERYTHING would be instantly better if I had lo mein (this turned out to be true). Otherwise I was good.
I know this sounds like a lot of cheating, but actually it was pretty challenging. No running downstairs for lunch, which meant no failing to plan ahead. No throwing in pasta with vegetables when I hadn’t shopped. No getting hungry at work and stopping for a granola bar. Only when I was severely hypoglycemic did I permit myself to get a snack that I hadn’t made – and although I get hypoglycemic pretty often I only had to resort to this once. Plus, I learned a lot. By taking a step back from the things that I habitually cook, I started that much closer to the real origin of the ingredients.
There is one very important thing, though, that I haven’t attempted. My mother makes the best boeuf bourguignon ever, and I make it all the time. It is my comfort food. But it requires beef stock. I knew that if this was to be a real experiment in making everything that I usually make from scratch, I needed to make beef stock, and for this I needed bones. So on Tuesday I turned the opposite way down Massachusetts Avenue and headed to Eastern Market.
Here’s the thing about chickens and cows: cows are bigger. I made chicken stock out of a whole chicken, but the cow legs they had at Eastern Market were the size of clubs. The guy behind the counter was deaf and crabby but when I very timidly asked if he had any that might fit in a stock pot he cut one up for me with a very large whirring contraption that I didn’t really want to look at (still afraid of my mandoline). I headed home with some veggies and my soup bones.
The Joy of Cooking had a recipe for browned beef stock, where you first roasted the bones with some onions then boiled them. This sounded good, and it only needed to simmer for 30 minutes. I figured I would roast them, then go up to my sister’s for dinner, then come down and boil. I threw them in the oven and took a shower, then read the rest of the recipe. It said to boil for the 30 minutes, add lots of veggies, and boil for 6 to 8 hours.
I feel like I do this a lot.
I threw the roasted-ish bones in the fridge and decided to deal with them on Wednesday.
I figured it out when I got home today. The next recipe (for slackers' beef stock) said that you should boil the unroasted bones for about two hours with various vegetables. The vegetables included tomatoes, which surprised me a bit but then made sense when I thought about it more. I didn’t have tomatoes but I threw in whatever I did have and ignored the rest, which means I put the bones in a pot with an onion, herbs, salt and pepper, and water, set to simmer, and periodically skimmed off the foam forming on top. Things were going well. I did laundry.
About an hour and a half later I went downstairs to get my laundry out of the dryer. Now, I know I mentioned that I don’t like raw chicken, but I have absolutely no problem with raw beef. I love beef. I love steaks and I love the way beef smells when it’s cooking. However, making stock from giant cow leg bones does not smell like the beef cooking that I know. It smelled like boiled, dead, damp cow. Which, of course, it is. However, much like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, I had not noticed the smell until I walked in after getting my laundry. When I entered the apartment it was like someone had hit me full in the face with a piece of boiled, dead, damp cow. It was steamy. Steamy with meat vapor, and it hit me right in the back of the throat.
It was late, and I had a very long day. “I HAVE TO MAKE THE MEAT GO AWAY,” I said very loudly to no one in particular.
I strained the beef through cheesecloth into a mixing bowl. This was unpleasant and intensified the dead damp cow smell. I threw away the bones. I put the mixing bowl in the fridge. I washed all the dishes, the counter, and the floor (don’t ask). I took out the trash. Then I opened the windows onto the damp, non-meaty DC night and positioned my fan in the living room facing outward so that it could pump the meat vapor outside.
Right now I’m just really hoping this goes away before I try to sell some of my furniture, or wear some of my clothing.