A Peasant’s Simple Feast

On February 11, 1858, a young girl was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. Two of the girls crossed a little stream in front of a grotto, and walked on, leaving the young girl alone. She had always been sickly, and feared crossing the cold waters of the stream to join the others. So she waiting for her companions to return.

The young girl experienced an “appearance”, the first of many. She would later recount that “something white in the shape of a girl” appeared to her. The place was Lourdes and the girl was Bernadette. Today we celebrate the appearance of Our Lady of Lourdes. While a feast day, Catholics are not obligated to accept the appearance at Lourdes as an article of faith. The Church views acceptance or rejection as a private matter.

Millions make the pilgrimage to Lourdes each year to pray for the miracle of healing. The church has established a medical team, independent from the church, to investigate claims of “miraculous healings” after visiting Lourdes. Approximately 80 cases have received the seal of investigative approval. While that may sound like a lot, it’s only a fraction of those who have made the pilgrimage with hope. That is not to say the rest received nothing. Many who visit Lourdes claim to have experienced a renewal of faith, a desire to care for others and a deeper sense of humility as a result. These are all good things.

Whatever inspires us to be better people, to care more deeply and to connect to one another with compassion and understanding is a miracle in my book. I believe that our creator speaks to each of us in ways only our hearts can hear and comprehend. That’s just my opinion – what do I know?

As for the feast I’ve created for this special day, I wanted foods that were simple, peasant foods to reflect the humbleness that faith often brings. Bernadette was not an educated girl. Even her Catholic Catechism was limited. Some may argue that it is the uneducated, simple-minded among us who see visions of faith. Perhaps, but then blessed are those . . .

Our Lady of Lourdes Feast
Arugula Pear Salad with Pear Vinaigrette
Humble Chicken Stew with Red Potatoes
Twin Bread Rounds

Serve with White Wine

Arugula Pear Salad with Pear Vinaigrette
Arugula Salad
8 cups loosely packed Arugula
2 Bartlett Pears
4 oz Blue Cheese
1/4 cup Toasted Walnuts

Place arugula in a large serving bowl. Set aside.

Cut the pears into 6 wedges each. Top the arugula with pears and crumbled blue cheese. Chop the toasted walnuts, scatter over the salad. Set aside to make the dressing.

Pear Vinaigrette
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Pear Preserves
1/2 cup White or Pear Vinegar
1 Shallot
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 cup Olive Oil

Peel and slice the shallot. Place the shallot in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Process 1/4 cup preserves, vinegar, Dijon Mustard, salt and pepper with the shallot for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until smooth. With processor running, slowly pour the oil through food chute in a steady, stream, processing until smooth. Transfer to a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons pear preserves.

Drizzle vinaigrette dressing over the salad, toss and serve at once.

Humble Chicken Stew with Red Potatoes
1 cup Button Mushrooms
4 small Red Potatoes
12 oz jar Chicken Gravy
1 3/4 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups Petite Baby Carrots
1 teaspoon dried Thyme leaves
2 lb Deli Rotisserie Chicken
1/2 cup frozen Baby Peas
2 tablespoons White Wine

Scrub mushrooms. If the stems are dry, hard or woody, remove that part of the stem.Slice mushrooms, set aside. Scrub potatoes, cut into quarters and set aside.

In a 4-quart saucepan, mix chicken gravy with stock. Whisk until smooth and blended. Add mushrooms, potatoes and carrots. Season with Thyme. Bring saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender.

While the vegetables simmer, cut the deli chicken into serving pieces. Cut the legs from the chicken. Remove the backbone. Remove the thighs. Split the breast in half lengthwise, then split again to create chicken pieces that are uniformed in size.Discard or save the wings for another purpose.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the chicken pieces and peas to the stew. Cover and simmer until heated through, about 6 minutes.

Remove from heat, add wine and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Twin Bread Rounds
1 tablespoon Quick-rising Yeast
2 cups Warm Water (110-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
4 cups Flour
Olive Oil as needed to grease pan
Corn Meal as needed to dust pan
1/4 cup Butter

Place a mixing bowl in the microwave or oven to warm. Once warmed, place yeast, water, sugar, and salt in the bowl and stir until dissolved. Add flour and stir until blended. DO NOT knead. Cover and let the dough rise one hour or until double in size.

Meanwhile, oil a large rimmed baking pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle the baking sheet with corn meal, and set aside.

Once the bread dough has completed a first rise, flour hands, remove dough from the bowl and divide in half. Form two roughly equal rounds on the prepared baking sheet. The dough may be sticky and the shapes might not be perfect, but that’s the charm of the bread.  Let rise an additional 25 to 30 minutes in a warm place free from drafts.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a small cup. Once the bread has risen a second time, brush the tops and sides of the rounds with melted butter. Bake in the heated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush tops and sides a second time with melted butter. Serve warm.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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