Br. Rick Curry, SJ, gets the credit for inspiring this article on recipes. After earning a PhD in theater arts from New York University, he founded the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH); his work there as director was profiled on “60 Minutes” not too long ago.
But that’s just his day job. He trained as a baker when he first joined the Jesuits, and that led to his publishing The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking in 1995 and an appearance on “Good Morning America.”
Br. Curry’s latest culinary publication is The Secrets of Jesuit Soupmaking, which includes recipes he collected from Jesuit kitchens around the world. Both can be ordered through NTWH; call (800) 618-6622 or order on- line at www.ntwh.org
Families certainly have traditional, favorite recipes, those passed down through generations and served on special occasions or as standard weekly fare. Jesuits are no different. They live in community at novitiates, retreat houses, high schools, universities, and colleges, all the way to retirement homes, and gather with fellow Jesuits “at table,” as the phrase is.
For years Jesuit brothers were the creators and stewards of many of the recipes enjoyed by the members of Jesuit communities. But other Jesuits have honed their culinary skills over the years, starting the night they drew the short straw and had to prepare dinner for the whole house on the cook’s night off. Today, many of the keepers of Jesuit gustatory lore are lay men and women at retreat houses and larger Jesuit communities who continue this tradition of traditional dishes.
Company magazine’s test kitchen presents here a sampling of some of these dishes and wonders why it didn’t do this before. You will not find in these next few pages any recipe that calls for north-slope free-range Brazilian strawberries or beurre blanc seasoned with early spring Canadian chives and North Sea salt; the exigencies of cooking for 50 do not allow for a great deal of complexity. Instead, what we offer here is Jesuit “comfort” food—dishes that have satisfied the appetites of members of the Society for years. From our kitchen to yours.
Creole Red Beans Serves 10–12
Fr. George Wiltz, SJ
“It’s a hobby, but it’s almost a passion,” a newspaper once quoted Cajun cook Fr. George Wiltz, SJ, as saying about cooking. “I read cookbooks like novels.”
As director of Montserrat Retreat House, he sees to people’s spiritual needs. As cook, he takes care of other needs as well. Fr. Wiltz recalled recipes from his Creole upbringing in Louisiana when he was a young Jesuit drafted to cook at residences on Sunday nights or holidays. Here’s one of his favorites.
Soak beans in water overnight, keeping covered with water; drain and rinse. Put in a crock pot with the olive oil. Roughly chop sausage and sauté it, and then sauté the green pepper, onion, celery, and garlic as well (don’t let the latter burn). Put all in crock pot and add the last ingredients. Pour in enough water to cover everything. Cook on high for approximately 4 hours for soft beans; cut back time for firmer beans. Leave cover of crock pot cracked a bit to allow for evaporation to bring out the flavor better. Serve over white rice.
Crab Cakes Serves 4
Ms. Jeanie Forbes and Ms. Freda Wells
Ms. Forbes, who has been cooking at Loyola for 25 years, and Ms. Wells, whose tally is 12 years in the kitchen there, are the current keepers of this Maryland recipe, a dish familiar to many of Loyola’s retreatants. Fr. Tim Stephens, SJ, director, tells of one of his predecessors who actually removed these from the house menu. The outcry, even from those attending silent retreats, changed that. “We get requests for this recipe a lot,” reports Ms. Wells, who accompanies these crab cakes with stewed tomatoes and rice pilaf or a baked potato. Ms. Forbes recommends using back fin crab meat, but canned crab meat works as well.
The quantity of red pepper is a suggestion, but it is possible, Company’s test kitchen reports, to overdue it.
Mix all ingredients except paprika thoroughly but gently. Use an ice-cream scoop to make 8 generous ball-shaped servings and place on a greased cookie sheet. They are served at Loyola in this “croquette” style, but feel free to flatten them a bit to get the cake effect, if you want. Sprinkle with paprika; bake for 20–25 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.
Halibut Supreme Serves 8
Br. John Buchman, SJ
Br. John Buchman, SJ, who serves the Jesuit community at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep in Indianapolis as assistant to the rector, house manager, and cook, entered the novitiate in Milford, Ohio, in 1951. That is where he learned this dish from Br. Phil Anton, SJ, who cooked for many years for fellow Jesuits at Milford, as did Br. Buchman after him. The countless Jesuits who sing this dish’s praises do not have to rely on their memories; it is still served frequently at many Jesuit houses in the Midwest, including the Milford retreat house.
Br. Buchman OKs the substitution of any mild white fish, such as tilapia, orange roughy, or cod for the halibut, and suggests serving this with steamed asparagus and a tossed salad or a fruit salad.
Mix melted butter, bread crumbs, onion, green pepper, and sage to make the stuffing. Layer some stuffing over one filet and cover with another filet (you can make two filets out of one if they are very thick). Alternatively, take one filet, spread stuffing on top, and roll it up. Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and a little more of the stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees for 25–30 minutes.
Boston Fish Chowder Serves 6
Mr. Mike Killeen
“It would be a sad Friday dinner if a chowder was not on the menu at the Jesuit residence,”says Fr. James O’Brien, SJ. He should know. He lives there. “If you can find old-fashioned crackers to crumble into this, especially on a cold day, you’ll think you’re in heaven.”
This recipe comes from Mr. Killeen, the chef whose task it is to feed a Jesuit community of 75 on a daily basis. He says you can turn this into clam chowder by substituting clams for fish. If the clams are already cooked, put them in for the last 5 minutes only; otherwise they will get tough, he warns.
Make the roux by melting butter in a small saucepan and adding the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously until flour and butter are thoroughly mixed and bubbling a bit, about 5 minutes. Put roux in dutch oven or other heavy pan with cover, add clam juice, and bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened. Reduce heat and add potatoes, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Add onions and celery and cook until onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add fish, thyme, and bay leaves and simmer for 10 minutes (potatoes should be tender). Add half-and-half. Continue simmering for 10 more minutes. Put a pat of butter into each bowl, ladle chowder over, and garnish with parsley.
Beef Stew & Golden Corn Bread Serves 9
Br. Don Schlichter, SJ
Br. Schlichter joined the Jesuits in 1975 and went to Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado, for his second year as a novice. “That’s where I learned a lot about the life and the work of a Jesuit brother from Br. John Schwendemann, SJ, who was in charge of the kitchen. Br. John taught me these recipes as many brothers were taught before him.”
These two recipes count as one; many Jesuits, particularly in the Midwest, wax poetic over this combination; they cannot mention the stew without mentioning the cornbread.
Brown the meat in a skillet and drain fat. Put meat into a large crock pot with gravy and vegetables. Cook on high for 1 hour and then on low for 3 hours. Stir in wine for the last hour. Make sure each diner gets a square of cornbread, next recipe.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in cornmeal. Beat eggs with fork, add milk and shortening, and then add to flour mixture. Stir with fork just until moistened; don’t worry about stray lumps. Pour into greased 9” x 9” pan or a greased cast-iron skillet and bake at 425 degrees for 20–25 minutes or until golden brown.
Cajun Seafood Gumbo Serves 10–12
Fr. George Wiltz, SJ
One of the items that has always drawn multiple bids at school and parish auctions in Dallas, Atlanta, and Tampa is Fr. Wiltz’s offer to come and cook a meal for 10. This is the second recipe in this article by Fr. Wiltz. Company’s test kitchen happens to like Cajun food, too.
Sauté the onions in a frying pan with a splash of vegetable oil over medium heat until soft, about 4 or 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add green pepper and celery; sauté for an additional 3 or 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, and then remove from heat.
Bring the seafood or chicken stock to boil in a large pot, reduce to simmer. For the roux, heat the vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet until it just begins to smoke. If oil is not hot enough, the flour added in the next step will clump; if oil is too hot, the mixture will scorch. Slowly add flour to oil, reduce heat to medium, and stir constantly until mixture is thickened and brown (about 5 minutes—don’t let it burn). Add this mixture to the simmering stock, but do so carefully to avoid spattering.
Add vegetables to the stock and roux mixture, stirring constantly until simmering once again. Add all other ingredients except shrimp and filé and simmer for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until the sauce “oozes” (Fr. Wiltz’s word) from a spoon. Stir in shrimp and filé and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serve over a generous scoop of rice in a soup bowl.