Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have a Downton Abbey Christmas then onto Season 3!

 By Laura Medina

This scribe can't think of a more appropriate time to have a taste of Downton Abbey than this holiday season, especially one leading up to the hotly anticipated premiere of Season 3 where the series marching into the real 20th century, the Twenties, debuting Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 9/8c.

Thanks to professional baker and caterer, Emily Ansara Baines, after having the privilege of scanning and reading upper-class, pre-World War I British recipes in her "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary's Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore's Christmas Pudding - More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs," this scrumptious scribe now has a mouth-watering taste for the sterling yet comforting craving for clean, classic seafood swimming in butter and cream sauces.

At first glance, the ingredients may look too much and the technique too complicated, but if you dash off to your local supermarket, take a pinch from a packet of ready-made hollandaise sauce, whip it up then pour it over freshly grilled shellfish then you'll the drift.

Why take out all the fun?

Here are some classic British aristocratic recipes, carefully researched by Emily Ansara Baines, to keep you warm and to make your Christmas banquet ornate and polish as the Crawleys...

Grilled Oysters with Lemon Garlic Butter, according to Ms. Baines, oysters and caviar were the most common appetizers offered before a large mealDuring that time, the upper-class ate their oysters with a fork, similar to how you eat hot-off-the grill escargot out of the shell.  If you're lucky enough to locate those tiny escargot forks, you can use them to eat this low-calorie and easy, succulent hors d'oeuvres, ddelicately poke the oysters then politely pluck out of their shells.  You can present them on a silver tray, as a part of hors d'oeuvres buffet, on a dining table with a white cloth drape over them.  Now is the time to put your parents' or your wedding gift silverware to good use.

Ok, here's the Grilled Oysters with Lemon Garlic Butter Recipe.  This yields 4 to 6 servings...

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1 tablespoon minced parley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoonoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon kosher salt
 11 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon  cayenne pepper
25 shucked oysters, half of each shell reserved and washed.
The Steps:
  1. Mix together all ingredients other than oysters in a large bowl,  then place mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, rolling it into a stiff log.  Freeze until firm.
  2. Move oven rack to middle of oven.  Preheat oven to 350*F.
  3. Place washed oysters shells on a baking sheet.  Top each shell with one oyster.  Remove the butter log from the freezer and unwrap, slicing into 25 rounds. Top each oyster with a pat of butter.
Put oysters in oven then cook for 10 to 15 minutes to where they're cooked through, the edges curl and the butter is bubbling.  To test for doneness, tap the shell.  If hollow-sounding, then the oyster is done.

Here's another simple, chic hors d'oeuvres, Potatoes with Caviar and Creme Fraichecheithche (or Sour Cream).  Yields 4 to 6 servings...

2 Dozen fingerling potatoes, washed and halved lengthwise
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons pink Himalayan sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
One 3 oz. jar of fish eggs-caviar or roe
Fresh chives to garnish and decorate

The Steps:
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F
  2. Toss the halved potatoes in a large bowl, with 2/3 cup of olive oil, the rosemary, pink  Himalayan sea salt, and pepper.
  3. Coat the small pan with the remaining oil.  Place the potatoes in the pan cut-side down. Bake them in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the potatoes are tender in the inside and golden on the outside.
  4. Let the potatoes cool slightly, then place, with cut-side facing upward, on the serving platter or tray.
  5. In a separate small bowl, mix thyme in the creme fraiche or sour cream.   
  6. Dollop each potato with a 1/2 teaspoon of creme fraiche or sour cream mix. Top off with a 1/2 teaspoon of caviar/roe.  Sprinkle chives on them.
Need some uniquely British comfort soup for the soul as a breather between cooking or instead of a punch bowl or an addition to it, fill up another punch bowl with this elegantly simple but heart-warming soup.  Your guests can ladle it into thrifty coffee mugs...

Partan Bree Soup, a traditional Scottish cream and crab soup...with rice!  This is great way to use up leftover rice, milk, and crab...ssshhhh, don't tell your guests that or just leave this to yourself to relax during dinner.  You deserve it.

2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup white rice
1/2 pound crabmeat
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock/broth
Kosher salt & Ground Black Pepper
Finely chopped chives for seasoning

  1. In a heavy saucepan, bring milk and 1 cup of heavy cream to a boil.  Add rice. Simmer until rice is well done.  Remove from heat. Add crabmeat.
  2. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup.  Pour into a larger pot/saucepan then slowly stir chicken stock/broth.  Season with salt and pepper then add in the last cup of heavy cream.  Pour into either bowls or a punch bowl then decorate and season with chopped chives.
Since the United Kingdom is an island nation, British cuisine or traditional British cuisine was prominently and is returning to what it does best...clean, abundant, fresh seafood swimming in butter and cream.  Sure the sauces may be rich but they're there to highlight the seafood.  This "Elegant Third Course Entree" has only 3 simple steps that you can either serve individually on a plates ala "The Crawleys" or pour it into a caterer serving tray so all can share...

Lobster with Mornay Sauce yielding 4 servings....

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 pound lobster meat or imitation, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white ground pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
  1. Melt the butter in a medium-large saucepan over medium heat.  Mix in lobster meat, cooking until opaque. Remove the lobster from saucepan and set aside.
  2. Reduce heat to low.  Sprinkle flour in pan.  Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure not to boil.  Slowly stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Simmer 7 to 10 minutes or until sauce thickens.
  3. Stir in lobster and Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.  Continue cooking for an additional 5 to 7 minutes.
If you crave for more ornate feast ideas, then you have to buy Emily Ansara Baines' "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook,"

This scribe just suggested traditional, upper-crust British dishes can be shared in modern times without the army of help serving the guests, because who has the time and the money?  These dishes can be whipped up ahead of time then easily served on trays and punch bowls where the guests can help themselves at a potluck; huge, crazy family feast, or let-down friends and buddies party.  Lady Violet would be aghast at American casual efficiency. 

If this Christmas special whet your appetite, here another yummy morsel...
PBS and MASTERPIECE Facebook fans will be able to view the first 10 minutes of Season 3 of the Emmy® and Golden Globe® award-winning drama “Downton Abbey” on Facebook beginning December 26! This sneak peek will be available at and at for two weeks before the season premiere on MASTERPIECE on Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 9/8c.

This preview shows the Crawley family at home in the spring of 1920 as preparations are made for the long-awaited wedding of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. For additional information about “Downton Abbey,” please visit

 The Crawley family’s fate hangs in the balance when MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Downton Abbey, Season 3” returns in January. 

 As a warm primer to "Downton Abbey", you can and will learn more about the "real Downton Abbey"...
Sunday, January 6, 2013, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET
It may be more famous now than any time in its 1,300-year history as the setting of “Downton Abbey,” but England’s Highclere Castle has its own stories to tell. In its heyday, Highclere was the social epicenter of Edwardian England. See how all the inhabitants of Highclere lived, from the aristocrats who enjoyed a life of luxury to the army of servants toiling “below stairs.” Also find out how the current inhabitants, Lord and Lady Carnarvon, spend $1 million in annual upkeep funds and what life in a fairytale castle is like today, which leads up to...

MASTERPIECE CLASSIC “Downton Abbey, Season 3”
Sundays, January 6 to February 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m. ET
The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at Downton Abbey as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate. The international hit, written by Julian Fellowes, stars Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern and Hugh Bonneville, with guest star Shirley MacLaine. “Downton Abbey, Season 3” is a Carnival/Masterpiece co-production.

Now brew yourself a warm mug of Scottish Partan Bree Crab, Rice, & Cream Soup then relax with the upcoming guilty pleasure, "Downton Abbey."




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