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
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.
Appetising Asparagus Feuilletés
Downton's Appetising Asparagus Feuilletés
- 1- 2 sheets puff pastry* (thawed)
- 2 large egg yolks lightly beaten with 2 tbsp. of water
- 2 tbsp. finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- 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.
- 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. Chill for 15 minute until pastry is firm.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- 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 (recipe below).
Easy Peasy Hollandaise, the Mother of Sauces
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 cup clarified butter*
- 1/2 medium lemon, juiced to thin the sauce if required
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp. salt to taste
- Make the Clarified Butter by melting the butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the top, and slowly pour into a container, discarding the milky solids in the bottom of pan.
- Place yolks, water and vinegar in a metal bowl, whisking until incorporated.
- Place the bowl on a pot of simmering water, and quickly whisk until yolks are lighter in color and a ribbon consistency, then remove from heat.
- Heat clarified butter to 125 F (warm, not hot).
- Slowly add butter to yolks, whisking constantly. Add a few drops of lemon juice to thin the sauce if you need to. Season to taste with salt, cayenne and lemon juice.
- You can hold the sauce at 125F for 1.5 hours. The best way to keep it warm is by putting over a pan of lukewarm water, it will hold perfectly. Too warm and it will curdle.
- If the Sauce is too Thick: beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons of hot water, vegetable cooking liquid, stock, milk, or cream.
- If the Sauce Refuses to Thicken: if you have beaten in your butter too quickly, and the sauce refuses to thicken, rinse out a mixing bowl with hot water. Put in a teaspoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of the sauce. Whisk for a moment until the sauce creams and thickens. Then whisk in the rest of the sauce half a tablespoon at a time, beating until each addition has thickened in the sauce before adding the next. Your patience will be rewarded.
- The Downton Cure when the Sauce has Broken or "Curdled: if a finished sauce starts to separate, a tablespoon of cold water beaten into it will often bring it back. If that fails, whisk another egg in a separate heated bowl, and then slowly whisk in the curdled sauce.
- Leftover Hollandaise: you can keep leftover hollandaise for a day or two refrigerated but freezes great. You can add it to other sauces as well to enhance flavour. To reheat, whisk a couple of tablespoons over very low heat or over another pot of simmering water, then gradually whisk in the remaining 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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