Angelina’s Bachelors-A Novel with Food written by Brian O’Reilly, Recipes by Virginia O’Reilly

July2

I am entranced by symbols: a heart shaped stone reminds me that I am loved, turquoise fabrics, vases and pottery remind me of the solace that I find while sitting by the sea, branches and sticks teach me that I am a small part of a greater whole and the flowers in my garden, that we are all part of a continuum of life.  In the culinary fiction that I devour, when symbols are set in meals lovingly prepared, I am particularly satiated: like a convergence of all that I feel and am.

Angelina’s Bachelors in the first novel by Brian O’Reilly but foodies may already know him as the writer of “Dinner-Impossible“.  His wife is his recipe collaborator and together, they have created a lovely summer read.  Here is my favourite excerpt:

“You have my baccala?” asked Angelina.

“Baccala, that’s the salt fish, cause God’s word gives a flavour to the world.”

Each of the fishes traditionally had a special religious reason for being served at the feat, and Angelina ran through the checklist with Angelo as if reciting a liturgical call and response at mass.

“Clams and oysters?” asked Angelina.

“‘Cause God is your armour from trouble,” said Angelo.

“Calamari?”

“‘Cause God can reach out his arms and find you everywhere you go.”

“Got my eels?”

“‘Cause God’s Word goes so quick like a flash to your ears.” Big, white paper packets of wrapped fish landed on the counter with each benediction.

“The smelts?”

“Even the smallest will be the biggest when Kingdom comes.”

“And the flounder?”

Angelo looked at her and playfully tapped one eye.  “God’s eyes are always open.”

She reached over and shook his hand and put all of the packages into her basket.  “Thanks Angelo, merry Christmas!”

The old man blew her a couple of kisses as he looked for his next customer.  “Ciao, baby.  Buon Natale.”…page 179-180

 

Soon, things were heating up in the kitchen.  The first course was a variation on a French recipe that hand been around since Escoffier, Baccala Brandade.  Angelina created a silky forcemeat with milk, codfish, olive oil, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.  She squeezed in a couple of heads of slow roasted garlic a drizzle of lemon juice, and a shower of fresh parsley, then served it as a dip with sliced sour-dough and warmed pita-bread wedges, paired with glasses of bubbly Prosecco.

Angelina's1.jpg

The second course had been a favourite of her mother’s-called Angels on Horseback-freshly shucked oysters, wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto, then broiled on slices of herb-buttered bread.  When the oysters cooked they curled up to resemble tiny angels’ wings.  Angelina accented the freshness of the oyster with a dab of anchovy paste and wasabi on each hors d’oeuvre.  She’d loved the Angels since she was a very little girl; they were a heavenly mouthful.

angelinas2.jpg

The third course was grilled Marinated Unagi, or fresh water eel, over Arborio Rice Patties.  Angelina marinated the eels all day and flash-grilled them just before serving them on rice-patties laced with Asiago cheese.

This was followed by a Caesar salad topped with hot. batter-dipped, deep-friend smelts.  Angelina’s father used to crunch his way through the small, silvery fish like French fries.  Tonight, Angelina arranged them artfully around mounds of Caesar salad on each plate and ushered them out the door.

angelinas3.jpg

For the fifth course, Angelina prepared a big pot of her Mediterranean Clam Soup the night before, a lighter version of Manhattan clam chowder.  The last two courses were Parmesan-Stuffed Poached Calamari over Linguine in Red Sauce, and the piece de résistance, Broiled Flounder with a Coriander Reduction.

The atmosphere was like backstage at the dinner rush at a good restaurant. p186-187

 

Their fest reminded me of the endless little plates of fish that we enjoyed at La Barcaccia in Monterosso, Italy for our last lunch in Cinque Terre.  The courses are pictured above.

Kath’s quote: “Oh, better no doubt is a dinner of herbs,
When season’d with love, which no rancour disturbs
And sweeten’d by all that is sweetest in life
Than turbot, bisque, ortolans, eaten in strife!-
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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Love-that is all.


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