On this day in 1879, a 35-year old woman named Bernadette dies in a nunnery in Nevers of tuberculosis. Her fame began at age 14 in Lourdes, with her claim of visitations by a young woman, believed to be the Virgin Mary, now known as Our Lady of Lourdes.
Young Bernadette reported a total of sixteen separate apparitions. While many of the townspeople in Lourdes believed Bernadette had been visited by the Holy Mother, her claims created a division in her town. There was even a call to have her put into a mental asylum, believing mental illness was the only possible explanation.
Church authorities and the French Government conducted rigorous interviews of the girl to get at the truth. In 1862 authorities and clergy agreed Bernadette spoke the truth. While millions have visited Lourdes, only 69 of the cures claimed to have come from the water have been deemed miraculous, with no other explanation possible.
Bernadette withdrew from the attention of public life. She spent the remainder of her life as part of the Sisters of Charity in Nevers. Her humility and spirit of sacrifice were often noticed by those around her. As part of the canonization process, Bernadette’s body was exhumed three separate times. The first was in 1909. She appeared to be nearly perfectly preserved. Unfortunately, the nuns took it upon themselves to wash her body. In 1919, when exhumed a second time, decay was visible. According to the doctors performing the examination in 1919: “The body is practically mummified, yet covered with patches of mildew.” They did note that while her skin had disappeared in some places, it was still present on most of the parts of the body. Upon the third exhumation, the church elected to cover her body with a thin wax coating the hid the prior mishandling of her remains. The wax coating was designed by Pierre Imans, a designer of fashion mannequins in Paris at the time. It was believed that the coating would enhance her appearance while halting any further decay. Bernadette was move to a crystal coffin. Saint Bernadette continues to be on display in a chapel at the abbey where she had served as a nun during life.
While I believe in the existence of Saints, and visitations of our Blessed Mother, I’m not sure how I feel about a pilgrimage to visit the dead on display. That said, hers is an amazing image.
Today is also National Day of the Mushroom Day and Eggs Benedict Day. What a delicious combination – mushrooms and Eggs Benedict. Hope you enjoy.
Mushroom Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce
10 tablespoons Butter
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Pinch or 2 Cayenne Pepper
Melt the butter in a small pot and keep warm.
Separate eggs, use whites for another purpose, place the yolks in a blender. Add lemon juice, and cayenne into a blender. Blend the yolks for 20-30 seconds at medium to medium high-speed until lighter in color. Turn blender down to lowest setting and slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter while the blender is running.
Continue to blend for a few seconds after all of the butter is incorporated. Sauce with thicken and become silky. Taste the sauce and add more salt or lemon juice if needed.
Keep warm until ready to serve.
Note: Before making the Hollandaise Sauce, fill a wide-mouth thermos with boiling water to warm. When the sauce is ready, pour out the water, pour in the sauce. It will keep warm for about an hour without “cooking” the sauce and causing it to break.
Portabella Eggs Benedict
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
4 large Portabella Mushrooms
8 slices Canadian Bacon
4 large Eggs, cold
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons White Vinegar
Parsley for garnish
To Prepare the Mushrooms: Heat oven to 200-degrees. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, oregano and thyme.
Clean mushroom caps with a damp paper towel. Remove stems and gills from the cap. Brush mushrooms with the balsamic vinegar mixture.
In a skillet over medium heat, brown mushrooms tops until the center is still firm. Flip mushrooms over, brown bottoms for a few minutes. Transfer caps, bottom side up, to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.
To Prepare the Canadian Bacon: In the same skillet, cook bacon until lightly browned. Place on the baking sheet with the mushrooms to keep warm.
To Prepare the Poached Eggs: Bring a large skillet or shallow pot of water to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium. Add salt and white vinegar to water. Break each egg individually into small cups. Very gently, with as little motion as possible, slide each egg into the edge of the water. Make sure to leave plenty of space between each egg. Cover pot and turn off heat. Set timer for 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid until the timer goes off.
To Assemble: While eggs are poaching, remove baking sheet from oven. Arrange mushrooms, hollow side up, on a serving plate. Top each cap with 2 slices of Canadian bacon.
When the eggs have poached, remove with a slotted spoon and set on top of the bacon inside the mushroom caps.
Ladle Hollandaise Sauce over the eggs. Snip parsley and garnish.
Serve with warm toast. For an elegant spring brunch, asparagus wrapped in Pancetta is delicious and compliments the Hollandaise Sauce nicely.
Note: Eggs can also be poached in a pan designed for eggs. Fried eggs, over easy, will also work if not comfortable poaching eggs.
1 bunch Asparagus Spears
8 thin slices Prosciutto
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Heat broiler to high. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Trim woody ends from the asparagus, wash spears and pat dry.
Cut each strip of prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap each asparagus spear with a strip of prosciutto, beginning just below the tip, moving downward to the trimmed end. Only the tip should remain unwrapped when finished.
Arrange prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears on the prepared pan. Do not overcrowd for even broiling. Brush spears with olive oil, season with fresh black pepper, to taste.
Note: salt is not necessary as the prosciutto is naturally salty.
Place baking sheet under the broiler and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove from oven; carefully turn each spear and continue to broil for another 2 minutes, or until the prosciutto is crispy and the asparagus is tender.
Transfer asparagus spears to on a wire cooling rack to allow excess grease to drain. Dab lightly with a paper towel, if necessary.
Transfer spears to a serving platter to accompany the Eggs Benedict, serve and enjoy.