A Subtle Grace Before Meals–Victorian Fish Curry

I’m delighted to host my editor and friend Ellen Gable, as she makes her way around the blogosphere promoting her latest book, A Subtle Grace. You don’t know Ellen? Let me introduce you!

Ellen Gable (Hrkach) is a bestselling, award-winning author of five books. She is also a freelance writer, publisher, editor, book coach, NFP teacher and President of Catholic Writers Guild. When she’s not writing, Ellen enjoys spending time with her family, watching old movies, playing trivia games and reading on her Kindle. Originally born in New Jersey, USA, the author now calls Canada her home. She and her family reside in rural Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.

Here’s Ellen’s cover:

Here’s the Book Blurb/Synopsis:

1896, Philadelphia. In this sequel to In Name Only (2009 FQP), A Subtle Grace continues the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan Family as they approach the dawn of a new century. At 19, Kathleen (oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects. Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match. But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true beloved? A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires.

Dr. Luke Peterson (the family’s new physician) also makes quite an impression on Kathleen. His affection for her leads him to startling revelations: about Kathleen, about his practice and, most importantly, about himself.

Will (oldest son) believes God may be calling him to a religious vocation. Eventually, he discovers the hidden circumstances of his humble beginnings, compelling him to embark on a pilgrimage to Rome.

(Although “A Subtle Grace” is a sequel, it can be read as a stand alone book.)

Go visit my author page for my 7 Quick Takes interview with Ellen. My review of the book is on Amazon, and my endorsement is on the endorsement page (my first ever book endorsement! and I was QUITE happy to give it).

And now, as this is my virtual kitchen, I won’t just leave you with book stuff. A Subtle Grace takes place in the late Victorian era, and as Ellen’s virtual book tour is taking place in Lent. I wanted to combine the two and blog a meal that the lovely O’Donovan family might have been eating on a Friday in Lent of 1896. Alas, this is a meal that Dr. Luke would not enjoy, as that character does not eat fish. Let’s pretend he’s out doing a corporal work of mercy and it’s just the family for dinner tonight. No food makes me think “Gilded Age” like a nice curry, and as soon as I saw Cauliflower in the German Style on Recipes Past and Present, I couldn’t resist; as much as you may think Irish when you think Catholic Philadelphia, Philly’s Catholic population was, for a very long time, mostly German–as was most of the population of any faith. Did you know that up until recent decades, the most commonly printed language in the U. S. of A. was not English but German? This is why I’m not a fan of making English the officially official language of my country, because the language, like the people, is always in flux–the second we codify it will be the second that law is outdated and cripples how We the People serve We the People. Anyway, not like anyone wanted to hear from me on that subject. So, without further ado…

The Menu– A Supper in Three Courses Suitable for an Upper-Class Lenten Friday

Codfish Curry

Cauliflower in the German Style

Boiled Potatoes with Chive Butter

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Codfish Curry (inspired by Victorian Curried Fish on Recipes Past and Present)

2 lb cod or other white fish
1/4 c butter, divided
1 onion, quartered then sliced
1 T flaked coconut
1/2 T of curry powder
1/2 t Kosher salt
a “dusting” of sugar
1 T flour + 1/4 t of pepper (white would look best, but we only had black)
1 c of vegetable stock or fish stock
2 T lemon juice

In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 T butter then immediately add fish (this will keep the butter from smoking). Fry fish on both sides until fish just starts flaking with fork but is not quite cooked through. Remove fish from pan and cover. With pan still over medium-high heat, add remaining butter and sliced onion and stir until onions just start to brown, reducing heat as needed to keep butter from smoking. Return fish to pan, then add coconut, curry, and salt, then sprinkle with flour/pepper mixture. Pour in stock and simmer, covered, over low heat for five minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Use a fork to flake all the fish. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.

Cauliflower in the German Style is pretty much here, only I didn’t toast the bread crumbs in butter first, since the bread crumbs we buy in paper canisters from the store are already toasted. The cauliflower was good, but it could have used some more flavor, like rubbed sage or at least some parsley. We make spaetzle in the same way, so the cauliflower was a nice change.

All you have to do for the chive potatoes is skin, chop and slice as many spuds as you’d like (usually 1/person being served), then boil them until tender; then while still steaming-hot, toss with butter and chives (fresh if you have them, but if you have dried, reconstitute them in water for 10 minutes before adding them).

When I first told Ellen I’d celebrate her latest book with a Victorian meal here on Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP, I imagined a meal of boiled stuff in butter. I wasn’t far off, but what was a surprise was how good it was, overall. I’m more of an oven-roasting, microwaving, slow-cooking kind of girl. Taking some time to step back in time, both in my kitchen as well as with A Subtle Grace, was a journey well worth taking, and I didn’t even need a TARDIS or to put my life in mortal danger to do it. Quite nice indeed.

 

 

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I thought I didn’t like clam chowder.

It turns out I just don’t like canned clam chowder. We have two Lenten birthdays in the Mackerelsnapper household. No matter what we do, those birthdays will always be in Lent. One year when we were dating, Mr. M’s birthday fell on a Friday, so I invited him over to my apartment to make him dinner. I was just starting my cooking career, and it was so long ago that I couldn’t go to the internet to find recipes, because it was mostly AOL chat rooms and X-Files fanfic and whatnot. Anyway, I went to my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook to find a dinner that would be easy yet elegant, romantic but not overbearing, and special enough for the agnostic steak-lover but meatless enough for me to eat alongside him.

“What is this?” he asked as I served him his dinner.

“Salmon mousse in puff pastry,” I replied, waiting for him to voice his admiration.

Salmon mousse?”  He bust out laughing. “Are you trying to kill me?”

“Kill you? What are you–? Oh! Oh no!”

::facepalm:: I never made him salmon mousse again.

Anyway, many years later, and this was another year in which his birthday fell on a Friday, only this time around he and all of our brood are Catholic. There are three ways that practicing Catholics may approach a Lenten Friday birthday.

  1. Say, “I’m sure God won’t mind if we celebrate such a special day!” and make steak.
  2. Say, “It’s Lent, and you’ll have another birthday another year. Bread and water for us sinners.”
  3. Say, “It’s Lent, but it is your birthday. Let’s break out something that is meatless but slightly luxurious.”

We went with #3. We made bread bowls directly from this recipe,though we did skip the cornmeal and egg wash bits. We also halved the recipe and shaped them into five bowls instead of four. They held up well to the hollowing-and-filling process. We filled them with clam chowder. We used this recipe as a starting off point but made a few changes, even beyond the leaving out of the bacon slices.

Clam Chowder

2 T olive oil
5 T butter, divided
2 onions, finely diced
1 8oz bottle of clam juice or 1 c clam broth (you can make that by treating clam shells like the vegetable trash in veggie stock)
2 10oz cans of minced clams, drained, juices reserved
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 c half and half, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 T flour

In a large stock pot, soften onions in olive oil and 2 T butter over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes (you want them translucent but not quite brown). Add bottled clam juice and the juice from one of the cans of clams, then add potatoes and salt. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes or until potatoes are nice and soft.

Meanwhile, pour 1/2 c of half and half into a shaker bottle and add flour and black pepper. Shake until blended and smooth.

Once potatoes are ready, add half and half, clams, remaining clam juice, and remaining butter. Heat over medium, but don’t allow it to boil. Once heated through (butter has melted), add reserved half and half/flour/pepper liquid, and stir over medium heat until thickened, reducing heat as needed to avoid boiling. Serve immediately.

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Adding the black pepper to the thickening flour & cream may just be a quirk of mine. I find that the pepper helps to break up the flour and makes for a smoother thickener, with fewer lumps to be worked out in the final product.

I made clam chowder for the Birthday Honoree, because Mr. M loves clam chowder, but I am not a fan. Or, at least I thought I wasn’t. I am, however, a fan of this stuff for sure. Next time his birthday falls on a Friday, I have even more reason not to think about making salmon mousse.

Rice, Rice Baby

So it seems that when I called this Leftovers Lent, I wasn’t kidding. Did you ever have, like, 1/4 c of rice left in the bag and not know what to do with it? Now you know. Here’s a mix-up of congee and good old fashioned egg drop soup. The kids loved it, too.

Chinese Slow Cooker Soup

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Whatever bit of rice you have left, <1c
Vegetable stock and/or water (see below)
1 t freshly ground ginger (we used more)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 t onion powder
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 c shredded cabbage
3 carrots, cleaned, peeled and shredded
1/2 c frozen kernel corn
2 T chopped cilantro

Pour rice into your slow cooker. Add enough stock and/or water to come up about 1″ over the rice. Add ginger, garlic, onion powder, and salt. Cook on high 3-4 hours. About 1/2 hour before serving, whisk eggs until light and lemon colored, then slowly drizzle eggs into soup while whisking. Add cabbage, carrots and cilantro. Reduce heat to low (I don’t know if this made a difference or not, but that’s what I did), and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

The less rice you use, the thinner your congee-like soup will be, but that’s not a bad thing. I think I had about 1/3 c of rice in ours, and it was just the right thickness. If you’d like your veggies softer, you can probably throw them in when you first turn on the heat. Let me know what works for you?

Lent 2014: The Leftovers Lent

No, this year’s challenge is not surviving on leftovers for 40 days (though that would be interesting). I started this blog as a way to get myself back in the discipline of writing on a regular basis: just once a week, I told myself, might get me back in the daily groove. Once a week for God, and maybe that would open up enough of a crack in the door for the writing grace to walk back in and spend a little time with me. The good news is that it worked.

The bad news for this blog is that my fiction career, piddling though it may be, is demanding what spare time I have.

But it’s still Lent. I still have to cook, and we’re still going Pre-VII-style meatless. The blogging of it, however, will be extremely limited. This year will be a “best of” with a few new recipes thrown in. For instance, in the event our mint comes back enough before Easter, I really want to make samosas with mint chutney.

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For tonight, however, we’re pulling out a family favorite: Slow Roasted Potato Leek Soup.

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No, that doesn’t look slow roasted to me, either. I had to hurry things along because the slow cooker was otherwise engaged first thing this morning making a batch of veggie stock. So, if you’re in a rush, you, too, can soften your leeks in butter then soften them some more with the diced potatoes in the recipe’s 2 c veggie stock before adding it to your slow cooker.

We’re serving it with our… Homemade Beer Bread

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3 c flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 T salt
1 T sugar
120z bottle of beer
Optional: 1/4 c butter

Grease two loaf pans. Preheat oven to 400F. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and beer together and divide between loaf pans. Slice butter into pats and place on top. Bake at 400F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

One Pot Wonder IS truth in advertising!

We followed the recipe for One Pot Wonder at Kim’s Simple Recipes.  It was a hit!  One might even say it was a wonder!

We used fettucine instead of linguine, and we used fresh oregano instead of dried because that’s all we had), but the results were smashing!

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, meatless Friday recipe, click the link above and enjoy!

Cool Caribbean Tilapia

Too hot to use the oven? Ran out of propane and propane accessories for the grill? Break out the microwave-safe dish for a dinner of…

Cool Caribbean Tilapia
(or, as Middle Dumpling likes to call it, “Fishy Colada”)

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3 tilapia fillets
Salt & pepper to taste
1 can coconut milk
1/4 c chopped cilantro, divided
1/4 c lime juice, divided

Salt and pepper fish and place in a microwaveable dish. Pour coconut milk over all. Sprinkle with half of the cilantro and half of the lime juice. Microwave covered on high for 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Let rest five minutes before serving. Drain and sprinkle fish with remaining cilantro and lime juice.

Then after family rosary, enjoy one of these:

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Lent 2013 Challenge Day 44: Good Friday Krabby Stuffed Potatoes

Outwardly, this seems luxurious for Good Friday: Seafood? Really? With white wine? When seen in the light of using stuff up in the fridge, though, hopefully the indulgence factor drops. I also based this on a family recipe that called for a can of condensed lobster bisque, but we’re aiming for from-scratch per the rules.

I had wanted to have some deep, meaningful reflections for the most solemn day of our faith year… but between choir practices and making sure Mr. M was equipped to manage a loud, squirmy preschooler through collective hours of Triduum doings… stuffed potatoes with salad it as good as it got. Humility can just show up in the form of a recipe without a reflection.

Wait. Did I just give a reflection in spite of the humility? Sheesh, you can’t even dress me up, much less take me out.

Krabby Stuffed Potatoes (prep time: 3 min + 15 minutes)

5 baking potatoes, scrubbed and baked in the slow cooker on low 6-12 hours
1 T butter
1 T flour
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 c white wine or vegetable stock
1 8oz can PLAIN tomato sauce
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c shredded sharp cheese
1/2 lb “krab” pollock seafood flakes

As your potatoes are baking in your slow cooker, melt butter over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk flour with salt and pepper. Sprinkle seasoned flour over butter, then whisk in wine/stock. Let that reduce over medium-high for about 3 minutes, then whisk in tomato sauce and cream. Once that’s all bubbly, fold in cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Fold in “krab” and heat through.

Cut potatoes open on their individual serving plates, then pour “krabby” stuffing inside.

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Speaking of humility, it tasted way better than this picture looks.

And, folks, there you have it: a meatless, cheapo Lent for 5. I shall post our obligatory “I Learned Something Today” reflection sometime soon. Stay tuned, Mackerelsnapper fans. Erm, all three of you.

OH! Gluten-free friends? Corn starch for the flour should work.