The month of Mary: A Marian Month
Saint of the day:
Saint Dominic of the Causeway
Patron Saint of civil engineers
St. Dominic of the Causeway's Story
St. Dominic of the Causeway (Espanol, Dominic de la Calzada).
According to his vita and other materials in the Acta Sanctorum, Dominic was a peasant from northwest Spain who became a follower of St. Gregory of Ostia and later settled in a hermitage in the Rioja region. This part of the pilgrimage route to Compostela was heavily wooded and infested with bandits. To assist the pilgrims he cleared a roadway (in Spanish, a calzada) and enlisted the help of locals to build a bridge across the Rio Oja. He also built a hermitage and an oratory.1
Because of these works he became known as Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a name also taken by the town that grew up around the hermitage. The town celebrates its patron saint every May 11th and 12th in its elaborate medieval cathedral and continues to keep the bridge in working order.2
After Dominic's death numerous legends developed regarding miracles obtained by those who prayed to him. Two of them involve the resuscitation of a cooked rooster.
In one, a Moorish chieftain who is holding a young prisoner from Rioja is warned one evening at dinner that the youth has been praying to St. Dominic; perhaps the saint might free the captive. The Moor says that is as likely as that the roasted rooster on his plate should get up and crow. Suddenly the rooster does just that, and when the Moor looks in the prison the young man is in fact gone, his cell filled with a great light signifying the presence of St. Dominic.3
In the other legend, a 14th-century pilgrim family stops in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and the young man of the family catches the eye of the innkeeper's daughter. Because he refuses to sleep with her, she hides a silver cup in his hood and later has him arrested for theft. The judge condemns him to death. The distraught parents continue to Compostela, pray to St. James for their son, and return again by way of the town. On the outskirts they see their son hanging from the gallows but alive. He says that Dominic and the Blessed Virgin have kept him alive and that they should go tell the judge.
Like the Moor, the judge is having a chicken dinner and dismisses the story with the same remark about the cooked rooster and hen on the plate before him. But the chickens do indeed rise up, fully feathered, and the rooster crows loudly. So the judge goes to the gallows, where he finds the young man living and has him released.4
In both stories, the people of the town adopt the rooster and hen and make a place for them in the church. Today an ornate Late Gothic henhouse in the Cathedral houses a rooster and hen said to be descended from the chickens of the story.5
PORTRAITS AND ATTRIBUTES
St. Dominic de la Calzada's attributes include, naturally, a hen and a rooster. He also wears a monastic habit with a cowl. Dominic never was accepted into a monastery, but his vita refers to a group of companions that shared his hermitage and saw to his burial. The Roman Martyrology (May p. 16) lists him as a "confessor" (a lay believer) rather than a monk.
The vita says Dominic would pray in his oratory until he became too weak to stand, and he kept walking sticks there to hold himself up. This seems to be the reason for the prayer beads and walking stick in his portraits. (In most of them, the top of the stick ends not in a circle as at right but in a J shape.)
Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain
Torrijas Caramelizadas (Spanish-Style Caramelized French Toast)
11 ounces (320g) pullman or brioche bread (about one-third to one-half of a loaf)
1 1/2 cups (375ml) whole milk
1 cinnamon stick or pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean (2g), split and scraped or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Two 3- by 1-inch strips orange zest from 1 large orange
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (88g) plain or toasted sugar, divided
5 large egg yolks (75g)
2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
If using fresh bread, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 225°F (110°C). Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Using a bread knife, remove crusts from bread, then cut into four rectangular pieces that are 2 inches thick and about 1 1/2 inches wide and 4 inches long (the width and length of the pieces can be determined by the size of your loaf of bread; it's the thickness of the pieces that is most important). Arrange bread pieces on prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch of space between each piece, and bake, flipping pieces over halfway through, until lightly toasted and dry on their surface, 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a heatproof surface to cool slightly, and increase oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). If using stale bread, you can skip the toasting step; cut the bread into pieces as described and preheat oven to 375°F.
Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucier or saucepan, combine milk, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, and salt. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until milk registers 190°F (88°C) on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside to steep for 30 minutes.
While the milk steeps, whisk together 1/4 cup (50g) sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved and mixture turns pale yellow, 2 to 3 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over bowl with egg mixture, and slowly pour one-third of milk mixture into yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly to prevent yolks from curdling. Add remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly until well-combined; set aside but don't clean strainer; wipe out saucepan.
Add bread to custard base and soak, turning pieces occasionally to ensure they are coated on all sides, until fully saturated and soft (they should barely hold together, so handle with care), 5 to 6 minutes. Using a small spatula, carefully transfer bread pieces to a plate, allowing excess liquid to drip back into the bowl of custard base; set bread pieces aside.
Strain custard base through fine-mesh strainer into now-empty saucier; you should have between 3/4 to 1 cup (175 to 240ml) of liquid. Return to stovetop; once again set aside but don't clean strainer, and wipe out bowl. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to prevent egg yolks from curdling, until mixture registers 175°F (79.5°C) on an instant-read thermometer and thickens slightly so that it coats the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Working quickly, remove from heat and pour crème anglaise through fine-mesh strainer back into now-empty bowl. Place piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of crème anglaise to prevent skin from forming, and refrigerate until ready to use.
In a medium cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat until just foaming. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons (25g) sugar in an even layer over butter, then add bread pieces to skillet. Cook, carefully turning pieces occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven, and bake until bread pieces are heated through at the center, about 5 minutes.
Remove skillet from oven, and carefully flip bread pieces over so that bottom sides that were in contact with the pan are facing up. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon (13g) sugar evenly over bread pieces. If using a blowtorch, ignite torch and caramelize sugar by sweeping flame 2 inches above bread pieces, until sugar is bubbling and deep golden brown. If not using a blowtorch, simply serve with the sprinkled sugar on top.
Divide crème anglaise between individual serving plates, followed by bread pieces. Serve immediately.