Perhaps you heard that the Pope was in town last week? In typical DC fashion, his visit was preceded by weeks of anxiety around how the heck we would all make it to and from work with the rolling road closures and heavy security. Being a car-less, Metro-less commuter, I could blissfully ignore this preamble and go about my merry way. Until my Wednesday morning run. I was headed up Mass Ave on my usual route, when I was stopped by two policemen at the corner of Rock Creek Parkway. “Ma’am, you need to cross here. You can continue north, but not on this side of the street.” “But that messes with my route,” I heard myself say aloud to the cop, as I dejectedly backtracked a block to Belmont.
Now that I’ve complained about the terrible inconvenience of having a major historical event unfold in my back yard, I finally feel like a true Washingtonian. In all seriousness, I live for moments like these. Ten years ago Matt and I stood in line for more than eight hours, winding our way through the streets of Vatican City, to see another pope, John Paul II, lying in state at St. Peter’s (good Jews that we are). Whenever a motorcade passes by, I try to play nonchalant as I peak awkwardly into the windows of every black suburban, hoping to catch a glance of whoever’s inside. When Biden’s caravan pulled over in front of the Brooks Brothers on Connecticut and Uncle Joe got out and walked into the store just steps away from us, I was giddy for days. I love being in the center of so much excitement, power, and history.
Here’s what I don’t like about DC. While the calendar tells me it’s officially fall, it’s still eighty degrees and humid here. Still, I’m cooking according to the calendar, not the weather, and so I give you lamb stew. (It’s been waaaayyy too long since I cooked lamb.) This will make your kitchen smell like a spice stall and will warm you to the core, so you may want to wait to cook this until the weather catches up to the calendar. Or if you’re stubborn and impatient like me, you’ll turn on your air conditioning, put on a sweater, and pretend.
Durban Curry Buns from Marcus Off Duty by Marcus Samuelsson
2 pounds boneless lean lamb, preferably from the leg, cubed
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2–3 curry leaves or grated zest of 1/2 lime
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons Durban masala, or 4 teaspoons mild curry powder plus 2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped kale
1/4 cup chopped tomato
3 loaves crusty rustic bread, or 6 Kaiser rolls or large brioche buns
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Massage the lamb with the garam masala and leave it on the counter until you need it.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, and curry leaves. Cook until the onion is light golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, Durban masala, and turmeric. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes cook down, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the lamb and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan partway, and simmer over low heat until the meat is tender and the potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
4. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. When it’s almost smoking, add the kale and sauté, stirring, just until it starts to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add to the stew, along with the 1/4 cup chopped tomato.
5. Split the bread and pull out some of the soft insides (fold it into the stew, if you’d like). Spoon the curry into the hollowed-out loaves of bread, garnish with cilantro, and serve.