Next Friday will be a remarkable day. Not only will Feb. 29 mark Leap Day, it will also be the fifth Friday in the month. February 2008 started on a Friday and ends on a Friday. That hasn't happened since 1980 and won't happen again until 2036.
A leap year is a year with an extra day inserted into February, in order to synchronize the calendar with the seasons. The 365 days of a common year are meant to match the solar year, or the time it takes the earth to orbit around the sun. The problem is that it actually takes the earth a little longer than that to completely orbit the sun it's more like 365.25 days. To make up for that odd quarter day, an additional calendar day is added every four years.
A few hours a year might not seem like a big deal, but over time, the cumulative effects of those extra hours would really make a difference. For example, after 100 years there would be a 25-day difference between the calendar year and the solar year, which would set our seasons way off course. So the addition of an extra day every four years helps the calendar to catch up with the solar year.
Most years that can be evenly divided by four are Leap Years. Exceptions to this rule are century years, which are only Leap Years if they can be evenly divided by 400. So 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not Leap Years but 1600 and 2000 were. Again, this is to help the calendar year align even more exactly with the solar year.
All this talk about math and the earth's orbit has got my head spinning. Time to refocus and get back to a topic I'm a little more familiar with - food.
This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for wintertime, and would make a perfect meal to celebrate Leap Day. It comes from the cookbook "Feast," by British sensation Nigella Lawson. You can catch one of her fun and innovative cooking shows on The Food Network. She's brilliant.
Nigella Lawson's One Pan Sage and Onion Chicken and Sausage
1 large onion
1/2 cup regular olive oil
2 teaspoons English mustard (I use Dijon)
1 tablespoon dried sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 pounds chicken pieces (I use breasts and thighs)
12 sausages (I like mild Italian sausage)
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
Peel onion and cut into eighths. Place onion in a large Ziploc-type bag along with the oil, mustard, dried sage, a generous grinding of pepper and the Worcestershire sauce. Juice the lemons into the mix and cut the rind into eighths, adding it as well. Squish everything around very thoroughly to combine then add the chicken pieces. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and allow the chicken to come to room temperature in its marinade.
Place chicken skin side up in a roasting pan, along with the marinade (onions and lemon rind included). Tuck sausages among the chicken pieces. Sprinkle fresh sage over everything and place pan in preheated oven to cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the sausages over halfway through cooking so they'll brown evenly.
Arrange chicken and sausages onto a large platter and enjoy. I love to serve this with crispy roasted potatoes and a green vegetable such as steamed asparagus or fresh sautéed spinach.
-- Amy Roby can be reached at RanchosRoundup@hotmail.com.