Another dreary Winter’s day and Spring is still far on the horizon. This is good weather to be snuggled up in front of the TV to catch another new episode of Season 4 of Downton on PBS and dream of brighter and warmer days ahead.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” (Charles Swindoll). Many characters in S4E4 have tough choices to make and Anna is top of mind as she struggles to keep her attack a secret, afraid of how Mr. Bates will react.
There are happier plot lines this season, my favorite is Alfred’s journey to realize his dream of chef. On that note, this week’s dish is Asparagus Feuilletés, a great first course or appetizer for beginners, which Ivy is trusted to make for the family.
It wouldn’t be a proper weekly catchup without some casting notes and what is happening on and off camera in the world of Downton.
- My interview with the Edmonton Journal: Downton Abbey Dishes the Story of an Era
- Dame Maggie Smith won at the SAG Awards. What she might have said.
- Missed last week’s pivotal episode? A recap.
- How well do you know your Downton? Take the PBS S4E2 Quiz.
- Want another quiz? This one is from last week. PBS S4E3 Quiz
SoupFest 12 in Hamilton, Ontario: January 28, 2014
While I wait for Spring I will be content with enjoying soup. I am thrilled to be invited to be a judge at this year’s FirstOntario Credit Union Soupfest in Hamilton. It is a honour and a delight. In past years the local chefs blew me away with their creations. The local teashop produced a lovely Earl Grey soup, fit for the Dowager.
Soupfest is a community celebration where over 25 quality area restaurants compete for Best Soup, Most Creative Soup, Best Display and the Best Grow Local category.
All proceeds will support Living Rock Ministries efforts in responding to youth-at-risk. Each week Living Rock prepares 900 meals, provides emergency food to 200 youth per week, offers prenatal and parenting, crisis and housing support in addition to employment training and work experience offered 5 days per week. If you live in the Toronto area, check out the event website and head on down.
Downton fans note: Attendees will be eligible to download a free copy of my book, Abbey Cooks Entertains.
What will you you Make for Your Love on Valentines Day? Abbey Cooks Entertain: Only $7.95
With 220 traditional Downton era recipes with a modern twist, this is a great book to create some simple or complex romantic French dishes for your Matthew or Mary. This 432 page ebook sells for $7.95. Book sales help offset my costs in food, equipment and time to keep bringing you new dishes each week. While the book is available on Amazon, you can only get a signed copy here on my site.
If you don’t have an eReader I would suggest the PDF version which allows you to print recipes as you go, if you wish. Buy one for yourself, gift to another. All you have to do is email the download link to your loved ones.
Alfred And The Great Escoffier
I love this new story line. Since arriving at Downton, Alfred has yearned to trade his white gloves for a toque blanche. He saves the hollandaise sauce, lingered over spices at the Thursk fair, and most recently jumped in to make the bechamel for the visiting guests. He announces this week that “They are opening up a training school at the Ritz in honor of August Escoffier.”
Escoffier was at the right place at the right time. King Edward VII had a lavish lifestyle and appetite for fine dining influenced a trend towards lavish entertaining as a regular part of life. French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) rose to the challenge of satisfying the King’s appetite which started a passion for French cuisine across grand dining tables across England.
Escoffier’s legacy is still enjoyed by professional chefs, home cooks and foodies around the world. Did you know he created Peach Melba in honor of Dame Nellie Melba, the singer who sang so beautifully last week at Downton?
Some of his best-known works include Le Guide Culinaire (1903), Le Livre des Menus (1912) and Ma Cuisine (1934). He invented some 5,000 recipes, and culinary institutions around the world continue to teach his methods.
He is famously connected to The Savoy and what evolved into the Ritz Carlton hotel chain, creating many signature dishes. Three of Escoffier’s most noted career achievements:
- Revolutionizing and modernizing the menu the art of cooking and the organization of the professional kitchen. For example, he focused on serving seasonal dishes with lighter sauces, and centralized the professional kitchen into one unit, reducing duplication of efforts
- Escoffier simplified restaurant menus, writing the dishes down in the order in which they would be served (Service à la Russe).
- He also developed the first à la Carte menu.
Stay tuned, this should be an exciting experience for Alfred.
The English are the first to claim they grow the best asparagus so it is not surprising that it pops up on English menus, particularly in May and June when it is fresh off the fields. Once called ‘sparrow-grass’, but now affectionately known in the trade as simply ‘grass’.
There is really not much involved in the dish as you can see from the photo above. If you can cut rectangles and trim asparagus, you are practically there. It is a little labour intensive which is why Mrs. Patmore would delegate it to a junior like Ivy. Feuilletés simply means puff paste in French.
Serves 3-4 as appetizers
- 1- 2 sheets of puff pastry (thawed)
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten with 2 tbsp. of water
- 12 thin asparagus spears trimmed to 6 inch lengths
- finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- Hollandaise sauce (Escoffier’s recipe)
- Unfold the thawed pastry sheet and cut in half. Lightly flour your working surface and roll out each half with a floured rolling pin until it is half the original thickness.
- Use a pastry brush to dust off the excess flour on both sides of the pastry then trim the edges with a ruler and knife to even out the dough.
- See Ivy at it at the top of the page…don’t worry if your work station doesn’t look as tidy!
- Cut crosswise into 12 (6.25″ tall x 3″ wide) rectangles.
- Brush rectangles with some egg wash. Place a spear on one rectangle, sprinkle with a little cheese if using, and then place another on top, pressing the edges to seal in like a pocket.
- Arrange 1 inch apart on lightly oiled baking sheets and brush top with egg wash.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Chill for 15 minute until pastry is firm.
- Bake pockets in middle of oven until puffed and golden, about 16 minutes.
- Transfer with to a cutting board and cut into 1 -2″ wedges or leave whole to dip.
- Serve warm with the hollandaise sauce.
Your Downton S4 Survival Guide
You bought these for others, now stock up on the staples for yourself. Click on the icons to take you to Amazon to order.
Books About the Great Escoffier and his Food
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