The first Columbus Day celebration in America took place on October 12, 1792, when the Columbian Order of New York held an event to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the historic landing. Ironically enough, Columbus never “discovered” North America. His first landing was probably in the Bahamas.
It wasn’t until his third voyage that Columbus landed in South American. On his fourth and final voyage, Columbus explored parts of the Caribbean and the eastern coastline of Central American. Yet school children were once taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, as in the US of A. Now we all know people were here long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And Vikings visited the people who called America home way before Columbus. But that’s neither here nor there. Americans were never been big on detail, especially when it comes to history. We much prefer a nice story.
Columbus Day wasn’t celebrated again for 100 years. On March 14, 1891 a group of Italian Americans were acquitted of the murder of David Hennessy, the chief of police in New Orleans. There was a widespread belief in the city that Italian-American organized crime was responsible for the slaying of the police chief and of paying off the jury. An angry mob of anti-Italians took it upon themselves to hand out justice. They broke into the jail where the men were being held and killed them. Most were shot, some were hung. The incident caused strain between the US and Italy. The following year, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time National Celebration in an effort to smooth things over.
It would be another 13 years before Columbus Day became a legal holiday – in Colorado. Columbus Day did not become a Federal Holiday until 1966. Since 1971, Columbus Day has been observed on the second Monday in October. More recently, the whole idea of Columbus Day has fallen out of favor. Some states have dropped Columbus Day completely, others have replaced it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Still others, not wishing to add yet another holiday to the legal calendar have traded Juneteenth for Columbus Day.
I get why Columbus Day has fallen out of favor. While Columbus might not have landed in Florida, he did sail across the ocean blue and he did “discover” lands that the Old World didn’t know existed. He was an explorer, and should be remembered for his accomplishments.
This year I thought it would be nice to celebrate Columbus Day with a Spanish dish, since Spain footed the bill for his voyages. And finish up with an Italian dessert, since Columbus was Italian. Happy Columbus Day!
Spanish Chicken with Mushrooms and Green Onions
Frangelico Brownie ala Mode
Spanish Chicken with Mushrooms and Green Olives
1 can condensed Tomato Soup
1 1/2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
6 oz White Mushrooms
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 lb boneless Chicken Thighs
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Pimento-Stuffed Green Olives
Warm Italian Bread for serving
In a bowl, mix soup with Italian Seasoning, Oregano and Garlic Powder. Set aside until ready to use.
Clean, stem and slice mushrooms, set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove and place on warmed serving platter, tent to keep warm. If necessary, brown chicken in batches, adding a bit more olive oil as necessary. Just remember, your skillet has to be large enough to hold everything including the sauce once the chicken has been browned.
Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook mushrooms until tender and liquid has evaporated, stirring often.
Stir in soup mixture, chicken stock, olives and wine. Heat to boiling. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender and is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken to serving dish, keep warm. Increase heat, stirring sauce until slightly reduced and thickened, about 7 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.
Serve with plenty of warm bread to soak up all the goodness of the sauce.
Frangelico Brownie ala Mode
1 box Fudge Brownie Mix
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Orange Zest
1/4 cup Frangelico
1 can Whipped Cream
1 pint Chocolate Gelato
Heat oven to 350-degrees for a shiny metal pan or 325 for a dark, non-stick pan. Grease bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray or shortening, set aside. Zest orange, set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir brownie mix, water, oil egg and orange zest until well-blended. Spread batter out in the prepared pan.
Bake in the heated oven for 35 minutes. Remove from oven. While still warm, sprinkle top of brownie with Frangelico. Let cool.
Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut circles from the cooled brownie. Arrange each circle in a dessert plate.
Top each brownie with a scoop of gelato. Garnish with whipped cream, finish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Serve and enjoy.