Thursday, December 1, 2011

in four acts

I've been staying in lately, seeking some calm amid the merry onslaught which emerged in full force a week ago.

Since it takes this large pot of stock about the same amount of time to cook as it takes the tragic tale of La Boheme to be played, I've found peace and quiet with Puccini in the confines of a warm and steamy kitchen.

Vegetable Stock

5 carrots
5 stalks of celery
2 baking potatoes
2 leeks
1 large, sweet, yellow onion
a handful of parsley
a handful of thyme
2 bay leaves
a dozen black peppercorns

Act One
In a cold studio apartment in Paris, Rodolfo, one of four struggling, hungry artists, meets Mimi whose candle has gone out on her way up the stairs to her room.  She has a terrible cough and he invites her in.  They fall instantly in love and sing two of the most famous arias in all of opera.

Fill a large stockpot with 16 cups of cold water and place over medium high heat.

Carefully wash the carrots, celery, potatoes, and leeks, giving close attention to the dirt which may be in the layers of the leeks.  Set all aside.

Act Two
They join Rodolfo's friends for a crowded Christmas Eve celebration around the corner at Cafe Momus.  Rodolfo's friend Marcello, a painter, is reunited with Musetta, his former lover.  She sings Musetta's Waltz, another very famous aria. 

Peel and roughly chop the yellow onion, adding it to the stockpot.

Trim both ends of the carrots and the celery, chopping each and adding them to the pot.

Peel the potatoes and add the skins to the pot.  (Reserve the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for another use. I suggest a quick boil for potato salad while the stock cooks.)

Act Three
Mimi goes to a tavern hoping to talk to Marcello about Rodolfo's increasing jealousy which she fears is forcing them apart.  Rodolfo, with Mimi out of sight, tells Marcello it is his fear of Mimi's failing health that is scaring him away.  The two lovers decide to suffer the winter together before parting in the spring.

Rinse the parsley and the thyme.  Throw the thyme sprigs in the pot but give the parsley a rough chop then add them to the stock.  Toss in the bay leaves and the peppercorns.

Bring the stock to a boil and cook over medium high heat for about forty-five minutes. 

Act Four
Months later, the two romances have failed.  Musetta arrives at the artists' apartment, with a dying Mimi who has asked to return to the room where she was once so happy.  The friends leave, hoping to barter their personal belongings for medical help.  They return to find Mimi reminiscing with Rodolfo about their first meeting before taking her last breath.

Reduce and simmer, covered, until the opera is over. 

Allow the stock to cool then strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Discard the vegetables. 

Pat your eyes dry.

La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini
Premiered at Teatro Regio, Turin, Italy, February 1, 1896

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