Cooking for Columbus

Father Alphonse Stephens in the kitchen.

Father Alphonse Stephenson in the kitchen with his cousin, Anotinette Scillieri.

Joining Father Alphonse Stephenson, conductor and founder of the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, and his cousin Anotinette Scillieri in the family kitchen for a sampling of the foods that appear in their “Le Canzoni Della Cucina – The Songs of the Kitchen” cookbook was a real “Keeping the Feast” highpoint.

 It was right up there with spending the afternoon with Daisy Martinez of “Daisy Cooks” and snagging handpicked recipes from Lidia Bastianich herself.

 I can still summon up the aroma, the sights and sounds of the winter afternoon in Toms River when a happy complement of Stephenson and Scillieri family members gathered round the big wide table to admire and ingest a wonderful array of edibles ranging from roasted peppers to pasta and peas to handcrafted meat balls, stuffed eggplant sandwiches and my own favorite of the day – eggs in purgatory.

 The latter, by the way, is a wonderful concoction of eggs poached in a bath of tomato sauce.

 Memories of that afternoon resurfaced last week when an ad appeared in The Monitor for the “Cooking for Columbus” concert father will conduct at the Algonquin Arts center in Manasquan Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call 732-528-9211.

 Turns out that in honor of the Genoese mariner, Father Stephenson has whipped up a full course menu of Italian musical delights – expect more than a soupcon of folk songs, here. He’s topped it off with a tempting side dish – commentary about Italian food from noted chef de cuisine Joe Leone who dished up the most spectacular St. Joseph Feast in memory this spring at St. Peter Parish, Point Pleasant Beach.

 “Since the program is all Italian, Joe’s talk will match some Italian dishes to the music,” said Father Stephenson who turned to the pages of “Le Canzoni Della Cucina,” for a recipe to share this time around.

The cookbook, by the way, continues to raise funds for his St. Cecelia Foundation at an allegro vivace pace. The foundation awards professional quality instruments to deserving students.

 For Columbus Day, Father Stephenson said he’d set the table with some of his favorite dishes including chicken and wine sauce for the meat course.

Chicken in Wine Sauce


 -3 tbsp. olive oil; 1 onion, halved and sliced; 2 cloves garlic, chopped; 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced; 2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1 four pound chicken cut into serving pieces; 1 cup red wine; 1/2 cup red wine vinegar; 1 cup chicken broth;2 tbsp. tomato paste -salt and pepper to taste

 Directions: Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and parsley and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a dish. Add chicken to the pan and brown on all sides. Remove and add to dish with the vegetables. Add wine to the pan stirring constantly, to deglaze the pan. Collect all the bits of vegetables and chicken and then add vinegar, broth and tomato paste, mixing well to combine all the ingredients; season with salt and pepper to taste. Return vegetables and chicken to the skillet and cover. Lower heat to simmer and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice. Serves 6


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