How to Feast and Fast Like a Catholic All Year

Kendra Tierney’s ‘Catholic All Year’ Book and Website touches on all aspects of daily life — and especially to cooking.

Kendra Tierney
Kendra Tierney (photo: Ignatius Press)

Kendra Tierney is the founder and author of numerous Catholic books and of the website, Catholic All Year. Her most recent book is The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion (Ignatius Press 2021). As a wife and the mother of 10 children, Kendra somehow finds the time and energy to rather do it all. Her website touches on all aspects of her daily life, from prayers to family and home care, to writing, and finally, to cooking.

And the basis of her busy life? Her Catholic faith. “I was raised Catholic,” she said, “and my dad converted when I was in college. I didn’t grow up with any liturgical living in the home traditions, but my mom made sure we received all of our sacraments and always went to Sunday Mass.”

Another aspect of her early family life included cooking with her mom for holiday festivities. 

“My mom was an excellent holiday cook,” she said, “and I have fond memories of special meals at my grandparents' house. But I managed to avoid learning even the basics of cooking before I left home.”

But cooking was something that the young Kendra wanted to attempt and to perfect as a young wife. She recalled in the early days of her marriage, the couple dined out at the snappy Flea Street Café in Menlo Park, the first gourmet restaurant she had enjoyed.

“I loved the type of food there,” she said, “and I bought the cookbook Your Organic Kitchen. I worked my way through it.” It inspired her to not only learn about organic meals but to learn to cook from scratch with homemade meal based on where ingredients come from.

“That was my emphasis to learn to cook,” she said, “and as our family started to grow and my husband and I became more serious about our faith, we wanted to incorporate some of the practices we had heard of such as fasting days and observing Lent.” In addition, what really got her cooking attention was the foods to serve on traditional feast days, and doing that research really involved her in some very serious cooking.

For example, as mentioned in her interview with the Register several years ago, “We eat pasta with our hands for the feast of St. Joseph, who worked with his hands and is the patron of Italy. We have éclairs on the feast of St. Clare. We grill out for the feast of St. Lawrence and have a family joke competition,” she noted.

Recollecting all her recipes noted on her blog and served to family and friends, Kendra picks out one that will appear in an upcoming cookbook. “Probably my craziest liturgical living food tradition is serving mini turducken for the feast of the Holy Trinity. It seems perfect to me: three meats in one main dish for three persons in one God. It consists of chicken breast, duck breast and turkey breast, all butterflied, with several types of stuffing wrapped in bacon, and takes a day to prepare and cook.”

Of course, there are family favorites, and some of the recipes are easy, and others consist of store-bought goods. But she said the most important part of her cooking is to bring the family together at mealtimes. “The conversation that the meal sparks is the most important thing,” she said. “And cooking is a whole family activity for us and at table.”

 

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Recipe: St. Peter’s Fish

This recipe is what Kendra Tierney served her family on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29.  As she noted, “In Matthew 17:24–27 we find the story of the miracle known as the ‘coin in the fish's mouth.’ Jesus tells Peter to go catch a fish in the Sea of Galilee, in which he will find a coin with which he is to pay the temple tax. Galilean tradition tells us that the fish was a tilapia and so tilapia are known there as St. Peter’s Fish. A popular dish in the region is St. Peter’s fish served whole and fried, with chips (or fries, to Americans). This is the dish I serve on the feast of St. Blaise, as we laugh in the face of dangerous fish bones after getting our throats blessed at Mass. But if you’re not feeling that vibe, this recipe can be prepared with fish fillets. The cooking time is the same. For the seasoning, combine dried oregano, basil, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, etc. or use a seasoning mix like Old Bay, Tony’s, taco, Mrs. Dash or Italian. Or omit this and instead top with 2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley after cooking. Or do both!”

Serves 4

  • Oil for frying 
  • 1 whole tilapia, 12 to 16 ounces, or 4 tilapia fillets 4 to 6 ounces each, fresh or defrosted
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dried herbs (can be omitted if topping with fresh herbs)
  • Optional for serving: 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, Thai sweet chili sauce, malt vinegar, lemon wedges, or chips (fries) on the side

Heat the oil in a deep fryer, according to the appliance instructions, or heat about 1 inch oil in a heavy skillet until it is simmering — about 350 degrees F.

Rinse the fish and pat it dry. A whole fish should be scored before cooking. A fishmonger can do this for you, or it can be done at home. With a sharp knife, make shallow diagonal cuts about one inch apart down each side of the fish. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

Combine the flour and dried herbs (if using). Dip the whole fish or the fillets into the flour on both sides and shake off the excess. Fry the fish until crispy, usually 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and place onto a wire rack; check doneness with a fork. If desired, top with chopped fresh herbs and lemon. If you want it to be extra, stick a coin in his mouth. Great with chips (or in America, fries) and served with malt vinegar or Thai sweet chili sauce.

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