Saturday, April 23, 2011

Promises, Promises

So I tried to keep the promise of blogging more often in 2011.  However, that was better in concept then in practice. 

I am following a new to me credo for 2011.  If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.  Given that - the missive of raising a tween who is about to cross the bridge into a teenager is taking everything out of me.  I don't mean to bitch and moan about how difficult it is, any parent of a teenager knows this.  All I am saying is that it takes every bit of energy, compassion, and discretion to make it through a 24-hour period with this man-child.

Because of this, I have turned to an more internal life and have found silence to be the most enjoyable moments of the day.  To be alone, still, and breathing are the only desired things I wish to do.  It is a craving that I have never had and nothing else will do.

I am not a Buddhist, but Suzuki Roshi talks about finding your composure and being settled. He spoke of it as "being settled on the self." Being settled on your self means never losing your composure. This is more than just having some false way of holding yourself. It means not being pulled off your place by anything. Not reacting to someone’s anger, not reacting to someone’s emotions, or feelings, or ideas, in a way that pulls you off your place. It also means taking good care of things, not just of yourself, not just of the people around you, but of your whole environment.

I have found that I must find ways to incorporate this into my daily life in order to keep sane and secure.  For now, I will look to find purpose and being settled.  The discomfort that must co-exist is something I must endure.  The sadness, pain, fear, and uncertainty will have to ride shotgun as if it is my co-joined twin.
To celebrate the rites of Spring and to enjoy some traditional French food, I have chosen to make a braised of lamb shoulder with the "caviar" of beans, flageolets, which I found at a special foodie store in Culver City.

Epaule d'Agneau Confite aux Herbes de Provence
- One shoulder of lamb, central bone still in, about 1.5 kg (3 1/3 pounds)
- Olive oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons herbes de Provence (a mix of dried thyme, rosemary, basil, and marjoram)
- Half a head of garlic
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Salt, pepperServes 4 to 6.

Coat the meat lightly with olive oil and rub it with the herbs to cover all sides. Wrap tightly in plastic (or return to the butcher's paper wrapper), and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Remove the meat from the fridge half an hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Separate the garlic into individual cloves, but leave each clove in its own skin.

Place the meat in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid -- cast-iron is ideal.  Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, place the garlic around it, and pour the wine into the pot. Cover and slip into the oven.

Cook for 4 hours, flipping the meat and basting it with its juices every hour or so. If the juices run a bit low -- this may happen if the lid of your pot is not perfectly tight -- pour in a little more wine or water. The meat is ready when it is dark brown and very tender. Serve with flageolet beans (recipe below).

- 300 grams (10.5 ounces) dried flageolets beans (substitute the smallest dried white beans you can find)
- Olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- Stock or 1 bouillon cube
- Salt, pepper

Serves 4 to 6

You don't have to soak the beans overnight.  Just cover with 4" of water, bring to a boil and cook until done. Rinse and drain.

Heat a little olive oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Add the beans and onions and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft.

Pour in cold stock (or cold water plus one bouillon cube) to cover, bring to a simmer, and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the beans are tender but still holding their shape. Season with salt 30 minutes into the cooking, and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper just before serving.