The Feast Day of Our Lady of Altagracia, the Protector of the hearts of the Dominican People, centers around an image of our Blessed Mother. There are two different stories about the painting. One is boring, and probable the truth. The other requires faith to except.
First the facts. The portrait of the Virgin Mary, our Lady of High Grace, is a small painting. It is just 13-inches wide by 18-inches high, painted on cloth. Considered to be a primitive work of the Spanish school of art, it is a Nativity scene. Mary is dressed in a white scapular (devotional cloth) that covers her chest. The eight-pointed start represents the Star of Bethlehem, while the twelve stars around her head represent the 12 apostles. Or perhaps it is a reference to the 12 wise men said to have visited the Christ Child bearing three gifts.
Next the more plausible tale. Some say two Spanish brothers; Alfonso and Antonio Trejo, two of the early European settlers to Santo Domingo, brought the painting to the island some time prior to 1502. It was eventually donated to the parish church at Higuey. The first shrine was finished in 1572. In 1971 the painting was moved to its present Basilica. The image has been crowned twice, first on August 15, 1922 during the pontificate of Pius XI. Due to its age, centuries of handling by the faithful, and exposure to candle smoke, the painting was in poor shape. It was restored in 1978. On January 25, 1979, Saint Pope John Paul II crowned the image with a gold and silver tiara, his gift to the Virgin. This history of the painting makes sense, is easy to accept.
But there are others who believe there is more to the story of how the painting came to be a symbol of protection to the island. As the story goes, an old man with a long beard gave the painting to a merchant as a gift to his daughter, who had earlier had a dream about the painting that no one knew existed. The merchant and his family had the image placed on their mantle, yet each night it disappeared only to be found outside in an orange grove. The family realized that the image of the Virgin wanted to watch over the people of the island, and to be a part of the entire Catholic community, so the family gave it to the church. The Basilica is said to have been built on the exact spot where the painting appeared each night. The Feast of Our Lady of Altagracia was originally celebrated in August. However; after the victorious Battle of Sabena Real in 1691 over French forces, her feast was moved to January to commemorate that date.
Today a pilgrimage of nearly a million faithful travel to the Basilica each year on the eve of January 21st.
A Feast Fit for a Lady
Wine Baked Breaded Pork Chops
2 Eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons Milk
1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
1 tablespoons Parsley Flakes
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
3 (5 oz) boneless Pork Chops
1/2 cup White Wine
Heat oven to 325-degrees.
In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. In a separate small bowl, mix the bread crumbs and parsley.
Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Remove garlic, reserving for green beans.
Dip each pork chop into the egg mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating evenly. Place coated pork chops in the skillet, and brown about 5 minutes per side.
Add wine to skillet. Place the skillet and pork chops in the heated oven, and cook 25 minutes, internal temperature of 145 degrees.
While the pork chops bake, make the rice and green bean sides.
Remove from oven. Melt a little butter into the skillet to create more pan drippings. Place pork chops on a platter, spoon pan dripping over chops and serve.
Farmhouse Rice Pilaf
1 box Farmhouse Rice Pilaf
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 cup Water
Empty rice into a saucepan. Add chicken stock, water, mix in seasoning pack.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, let rest for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff and serve.
Sautéed Italian Green Beans
1/2 lb Green Beans, thawed
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
3/4 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1 dash Red Pepper Flakes
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Trim green beans. Place in the basket of a vegetable steamer and steam beans until tender crisp, about 5 minutes.
Prepare a bowl of ice water for the beans. When they have steamed long enough, plunge the beans into the water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
In a fry pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add reserved garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute.
Add green beans. Toss to evenly coat the oil and seasonings. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot.
In keeping with the Oranges of Our Lady, an amazing dessert.
Orange Creamsicle Bundt Cake
3/4 cup Oil
1 box White Cake Mix
1 (3.9 oz) box Vanilla Pudding Mix
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/4 cup Milk
3/4 cup Orange Juice Concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees-degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan, set aside.
Beat eggs with oil until frothy. Add cake mix, pudding, sour cream, milk, orange concentrate, sugar and vanilla. Mix on low for 30 seconds, then high for 3 minute.
Pour cake batter into the prepared bundt pan, spread out smooth. Place in the center of the heated oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let sit in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Turn right-side up, set aside. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting
3 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
12 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 Orange, zested
Sift powdered sugar, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the softened cream cheese.
Add powdered sugar, beat on low to prevent sugar from exploding. Increase to high and beat until creamy.
Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with with a large round tip. Pipe the frosting over the cake in a back and forth method.
Zest orange. Garnish cake with orange zest just before serving.
Have a Blessed Day today and always.