On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come! Post something by clicking here.
Grace Under Water
I’m heading down to New Orleans to visit some friends, so this week’s Blast From The Past looks back on a heated competition for best cooking priest between my friend Msgr. Nalty and myself, called “Grace Under Fire.”
(The proud parents, Godparents, me welcome Grace into the faith.)
Speaking of Grace Under Fire, this past weekend, I had the joy of baptizing my Project Manager’s daughter, Grace, bringing her into the church and opening her heart to the Holy Spirit. It was a great celebration and she did wonderfully. We thank God for the beautiful and important sacrament and pray for Joe, Erica and Grace, along with all children, families and individuals seeking to grow in the faith through our holy Mother Church. God bless and have a great week!.
(To hold Grace (and all babies) is to experience God’s Grace. Welcome to the church, Grace!)
Grace Under Fire
Originally Published July 9, 2010
My recent visit to the great state of Louisiana was filled with culture, faith, and lots of food. On one day, I offered a unique presentation unlike any other Grace Before Meals presentation. I agreed to a cooking competition with two of the best chefs in New Orleans!
(Me with Chef Justin of La Petite Grocery.)
I’m constantly being asked to participate in cooking contests – Iron Chef or Throwdown! style. While I’m confident enough in my cooking, I think the aspect of cooking competitions can take away from the Grace Before Meals message. Yes, I did the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. But remember, that was a complete surprise! Also, preparing for a cooking competition requires incredible amounts of logistical preparations. It’s like creating a mini-Iron Chef cooking stadium!
On a more philosophical point, I normally turn down cooking competitions, because it makes more out of the Bobby Flay Throwdown! victory than necessary. Although that competition was very real, very serious, and very much a surprise, the primary objective of the show was to highlight the Grace Before Meals movement. Food should result in stronger family ties, not competition.
(Bobby Flay and Me – June 2009.)
However, I agreed to enter into this culinary combat against Chef Justin of La Petite Grocery and Chef Christopher of Commander’s Palace. This competitive cooking presentation was a favor to my dear friend, Msgr. Nalty – the doo-rag wearing priest who assisted me with grilling the steaks on the Throwdown! show.
(Me and Msgr. Nalty – getting hot under the collar.)
A few years ago he was appointed the pastor of the second largest parish in the New Orleans Archdiocese. He also had the difficult responsibility of merging two other church communities. Talk about a difficult task! While most Catholics feel at home in any Catholic church anywhere in the world, human nature attaches great importance to an actual church building. It’s understandable to feel at home where your family was baptized, married, or buried. A parochial mentality can make transition into a new community quite difficult. The closing of a parish building can feel like a death in the family. However, our Faith is not only parochial, it’s also universal. And unfortunately, nothing on earth remains the same forever. It was time for the community to get a little closer, necessitated by diminishing numbers and finances.
(Speaking to a sold out crowd at the “new” Good Shepherd Parish.)
Msgr. Nalty, being a faithful and innovative pastor (and a big foodie), had an idea to host a “food event” that would bring all three parishes together. He would invite local chef celebrities to “compete” against me. That could generate some local buzz and help bring merging community members to share an evening of fun, faith, food, and family! They called this event, “Grace Under Fire!” My cooking skills would be challenged again.
Perhaps people wanted to taste the Famous Fusion Fajitas or sample the cuisine from professional and popular chefs. Regardless of the reason, the crowds came and ticket sales had to close a few days before they could really even advertise!
(Participating Family. Ticket were sold individually or a lower priced for an entire family. What a bargain! Delicious gourmet food for everyone!)
What an opportunity to share the Grace Before Meals message with a community that hungers for a renewed sense of a parish family. The cooking demonstrations and competition became a means to a greater end: fun for this new parish family!
The emcee of the evening was Mary Matalin, Republican strategist, a recent Catholic convert, and the wife of Democratic strategist, James Carville. Talk about a unique opportunity to merge a marriage out of two completely diverse political backgrounds.
(Mary Matalin acting as emcee and asking me questions as I chopped the “Trinity.”)
Giving the final verdict was Judge Martin Feldman. Feldman, a Jewish born Catholic Convert (Justice Antonin Scalia is his godfather), expressed sincere gratitude to be part of this community-building event. Recently he made national news as the judge who declared Obama’s federal ban on oil drilling illegal. Rather impressive to know his decisions made national news!
The criteria of this cooking competition was simple. Create a family friendly recipe in 30 minutes or less, and use only 10 ingredients. Five points for plating and design, 10 for creativity, and 10 for taste. Time went quickly. Competition was fierce. The judges had quite a challenge. Both dishes were worthy and delicious! Judge Feldman read the verdict: a tie!
(After the decision – a “family picture” with the competing chefs and the judges.)
While it would have been great to “boast” another victory against some impressive chefs, it was much better to boast about the wonderful event that proved the power of our Grace Before Meals movement. This event showed Grace Before Meals, even when under fire, brings family and friends closer to the table!
Coconut Bourbon Cream Chicken and Trinity Rice
The two Chefs presented a delicious local black drum fish with a preparation called “Court bouillon,” which is usually served as a stew. Instead, he beautifully pan seared and then braised this dish over some popcorn rice. The Cajun-French, with their accent, simply call it “coo-boo-yon.” Whatever you want to call it, the first thing that came out of my mouth when I tasted it was, “OMG – delicious!” (Okay, that was more like 4 words!)
(“Coo-boo-yon” – short for black drum court bouillon.)
I prepared a dish that truly used only 10 ingredients, (they counted theTrinity – celery, pepper, and onion as one dish, and they allowed us salt, pepper, and oil as a given). My dish reflected the fusion aspect of my cooking, as it brought together some Asian flavors combined with Cajun spices and a tribute to Bourbon Street – a touch of bourbon to add some extra flavor to my coconut cream sauce. Enjoy!
(Bourbon Coconut Cream Chicken, with Trinity Fried Rice in a grilled red pepper ring.)
When Grace is Under Fire!
Msgr. Nalty’s responsibility to bring different parishes together puts a burden on many people who feel the pain of transition. As I said before, it’s sad to say “goodbye” to a place that means so much to people, especially the sanctity of a church building. I know this personally, as my own home parish no longer has a regular parish priest in residence, and the school was recently closed down due to low numbers and finances.
In such situations our faith can be tested – Grace is under fire! Yet our faith tells us that our citizenship is in Heaven, and our faith gives us the grace to move forward, never letting go of the beautiful memories we may have in the past, but never afraid of starting new ones for the future. As church buildings come and go, we can never forget that God wants “church” to begin in our hearts, minds, and souls – not in a building. Our ultimate goal is not to keep earthly buildings standing forever. Instead, our goal is to bring our souls (where Christ wants to dwell) forever in Heaven!
Let us Pray: Father, when our faith is tested, especially when the tests and challenging situations come from within the Church, give us Grace to stay committed to Your Church family on earth. Help us to have the proper balance of seeking and protecting holy things on earth – like churches, statues, and holy images. At the same time, help us never forget that spiritual faith can only be touched with the heart, mind, and soul; and that practice of our faith is never limited to one building or at one place only. Give us O Lord, the strength to always be Your family on earth and to reach out to those who do not yet feel a sense of community. May You, our Good Shepherd, feed us the Heavenly Food that makes one in the Body of Christ. We ask this, in Your most Holy Name. Amen.
(The Sanctuary of St. Stephen Church, New Orleans. NOTE – this is a correction from last week’s e-mail blast that had two pictures of the St. Louis Cathedral sanctuary. I apologize for the mistake in the photo descriptions.)
- All Souls Day
- Blast from the Past
- Culinary Confessions
- Dinner Discussion
- Faithful Foodie
- Feast Days
- Food for the Body
- Food for the Soul
- Food for Thought
- From the Feedbag
- Grace Before Meals
- In Memory
- Menu Inspiration
- Merry Christmas
- New Year
- Past Emails
- Recipe- Dessert
- Recipe- Pork
- Recipe-Side Dishes
- Restauraunt Reviews
- Savoring Our Faith
- Simply Blogging
- Special Religious Theme
- Spicing Up Married Life
- Taste Tester
- What's On the Table