Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Second(s) coming

The clivia is a plant whose bloom comes early. Around mid-February a crown of bright orange flowers shoots up from amidst its long, dark green leaves. It’s the perfect plant to have around the house. It’s easy to care for and its early blossom is a reminder that spring, no matter how bleak the February afternoons may seem, is coming.

Spring is always coming. It’s just a question of when.

And so we patiently wait for spring. And we wait. And the weather warms up and trees start to green. And then it goes cold again. A blizzard on April Fool’s Day! Spring proves more elusive than that first blooming promise would have had us believe.

But in order to reach spring, we first have to make it through Easter. Next Sunday is Easter and we are nearing the middle of Holy Week. Here in Spain, Semana Santa is often a veritable Second Coming. The skies darken and rumble. Rivers run over their banks. Mountain passes are cut off with snow. Bridges freeze and seas rage. More people die on the road during that week than all the rest of year.

Many compare it to the apocalypse. Which is strange. After all, Easter is supposed to be about the celebration of life. It is the mother of all Christian holy days. Everyone knows how the story goes: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. His death helped to establish Christianity as a religion based on deity sacrifice and symbolic cannibalism. His resurrection is a promise of everlasting life and is a key belief of Christians all over the world, as is the belief that he will one day return to judge the living and the dead and establish the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Maybe the Second Coming is at hand afterall.

Sadly for those who are still waiting for the return of Christ, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Easter is what is known as a moveable feast – a holiday that is not set to a certain date, but that changes from year to year. The date is determined on a lunisolar calendar. The basic rule of thumb is that ‘Easter is observed on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox.’ It is said here that this relation between Easter and the lunar cycle is responsible for the apocalyptic weather conditions around Europe each Easter. One full moon past the first day of spring, winter celebrates its last hurrah before it finally yields to swim club memberships and barbeques.

These last few days of rain and wind that seem to point to the Second Coming are merely the last vestiges of winter, the final days of dreariness that will have us welcoming spring with open arms. And they are the final days before warm stews and roasted winter veggies make room for fresh salsas and potato salads. The following Second Coming recipes will have those celebrating with you coming for seconds.

Second(s) Coming Lamb Stew

This recipe, adapted from Cook's Illustrated, is a perfect bridge from winter to spring. Here fennel seeds add a delightful kick to the otherwise humble stew...

4 ½ pounds shoulder lamb chops
Salt and fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium large onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup unbleached white spelt flour
2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
4 cups water
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup minced fresh parsley

Trim and reserve fat and bones from lamb. Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Season lamb with salt and pepper.

Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch-oven over medium high heat. Working in batches, add lamb to pot; sauté until brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer lamb to plate. Use additional oil, if needed

Add bones to pot; cook until brown, about 5 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer bones to plate.

Add onions to pot; stir to coat with drippings, and sauté for five minutes. Add the flour and fennel seeds, and stir until the onions are evenly coated. Return meat and bones to the pot. Add 4 cups water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot tightly; simmer until lamb is tender and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours.

Add potatoes to the top of the pot, cover pot tightly, and simmer until lamb is tender and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours.

Discard bones. And serve.

1 comment:

Jada Ach said...

I wonder if this stew has the power to bring on the Second Coming of Marlon Brando. He is dearly missed...

Lovely post!