Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life


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Downton Review, Episode 7

Downton Review Episode 7

A Desire of Suitors: Downton Abbey Episode 7

Here we are at the penultimate episode of Season 4.  Le sob – it’s almost over!!

As we all breathe a sigh of relief, Anna tells Mary about her attack and reveals that the rapist was Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green.  She makes Mary promise not to do anything with the information, citing her fear that Bates will kill him and then hang for the crime.  Mary’s reaction was wonderful: after falling backwards into a chair with an “Oh God,” and looking as if she would vomit, she immediately decides to cancel Gillingham’s upcoming visit and make him fire Green.  When it proves too late to get ahold of him to cancel (where are you when we need you, Victorian text messaging?), she plans to go to London to convince him Green needs to go.  Meanwhile, Gillingham and his evil valet make their visit to Downton and Mr. Bates uses the opportunity to ask Green where he lives.  Subtle, Mr. Bates.   And if I may say, pretty snarky asking your poor wife if she’d “gone off” Mr. Green since the last time, reminding her how much she initially liked him.

Mary is managing her “desire” of suitors quite well between avenging Anna and keeping the estate running.  I love that she has a cache of men again.  Her scene in London with Mr. Gillingham was a master class in productive flirtation.  Between the outfit, the eyes, the hand gestures, and her sarcastic admittance that she does indeed like him, it’s clear why the men of the series are so enthralled by Icy Mary.  “I find that both irritating and beguiling in equal measure.”   When she walked out of the restaurant; she didn’t saunter, simper, or strut.  Her exit was a perfect example of how to catch the eye and admiration of everyone around you simply with your self-confidence.

Also on her errand list for London, Mary breaks up Rose’s scandal.  Rose has gotten herself engaged to Jack Ross sort of out of love but mostly to irritate her mother.  She admits this to Mary who reveals this to Jack who in turn admits his mother already told him this and also he figured it out.  He says he was planning to call off the engagement and end his relationship with Rose, but wouldn’t if “the world were just a little bit better.”  Of course, if the world were just a little bit better, Mary “wouldn’t want him to.” And thus the Race plot-line is neatly resolved and wrapped in a pretty bow.  (Eyeroll.)

While Mary is breaking hearts, Branson continues to run into New Girl who has found some lipstick and is the village teacher.  Goading him at turns about being a socialist land manager for the aristocrats and allowing himself to be a “beast of burden,” for the Family, she is an interesting, though slightly irritating love interest for dear Branson.  However, she is a teacher, so more points to her side.  And not bent on ruining his life, which is a huge improvement over Braithewaite.  It is sweet to see Branson speak of the hard work the Family actually does when he defends Cora, calling her “another beast of burden.”  Also, it gives us hope for his happiness that he no longer falls apart at the mention of Sybil.  All in all, Branson will need someone to spar with, and this teacher might be just the one.

Downstairs, we have Steady Freddy returning to Downton after writing to Ivy to tell her his father has died, admit his love, propose marriage, and invite her to live in London where he will get her a job.  (Maybe we don’t need Victorian text-messaging after all…)

“He puts a lot in a letter, does Alfred.” ~ Mrs. Patmore

Ivy declines, and Mrs. Patmore gives Daisy the day off to avoid more heartbreak when Alfred does visit.  She spends the day with Mr. Mason (her father-in-law from her first marriage) at his farm.  It’s easy to forget she is to inherit this farm and has an open invitation to come live with Mason and learn to run it.  Mr. Mason encourages Daisy to go back to the House to say a final farewell to the man she has loved.

“There won’t be too many people who you love in your life, Daisy.” ` Mr. Mason

She does, in a very sweet scene.  Alfred realizes that he perhaps never saw what a great gift was in front of him, but Daisy gracefully refuses to settle for second best.  She tells him she loved him, but that now she must go her way and he must go his.  I really wanted Carson to eavesdrop and start singing Loch Lomond at this point.  Instead, we had an even sweeter scene in the yard in which Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy,

“If you were my own daughter, I couldn’t be prouder of you than I am right now.”

Speaking of daughters, Cora is clueless as ever to her middle child’s anguish and, um, pregnancy.  Thankfully, Edith has a wonderful Aunt in the form of Lady Rosamund, who comes to Downton to take charge.  Edith wants to give the baby to the new Pig Man to be raised on the Estate, but Lady Rosamund convinces her to go abroad and have the baby adopted by a couple in need.   This way, she says,

“They are happy.  The baby is happy.  And you are, well, if not happy, at least free.”

They announce first to Cora then to the collected company at dinner that they are going together for several months to Switzerland to improve their French.  Why not France?

“Ugh.  You know what the French are like.” ~Lady Rosamund

The Dowager Countess for one is not convinced and summons Rosamund and Edith to tea.  After seeing that she must “take the slow road” to get the story out, she finally gets Edith to admit

“If I told you the truth, you would never speak to me again.”

Counters the Countess,

“Then you have told me the truth.  Now I would like to hear it enunciated more clearly.”

As usual, Edith was wrong and not only will the Countess speak to her, she counsels her and offers emotional and financial support, including offering to help find the long-lost Gregson.

Finally, we come to the Bazaar.  After much wringing of hands and passing off of responsibilities, Cora successfully pulls off the Village Bazaar.  Robert returns in time to make out with her on the lawn and sing her praises to the family.  Hooray for one Intact Love Story.  Also at the bazaar, Molesley and Baxter cement their friendship/flirtation/alliance which has been sweetly brewing throughout the episode.  Molesley wins at a Feat of Strength game and finds the courage to tell Thomas to stop bullying his new friend.  It was adorable and those two are in trouble now.

We also discover that Mr. Green has met his death by falling into the street or in front of a train or something in front of a lot of people in London.  Did we mention that Bates asked for a day off to “go to York” the same day Anna was in London with Mary?  And Green died that day?  Shocking.  Bates, please tell us you learned something from your last non-murder and at least have an alibi.  Probably not though.

Now it is time to get ready for the last episode for an entire year – le sob!!  No, we mustn’t complain.  After all, to quote the Dowager Countess:

“My dear, life is a series of problems that we must solve.  First one, and then another and another and so on until at last we die.”

To buck you up and give you courage to face the End, I will leave you with this recipe for Bread Pudding:

Bread Pudding

Lady Katy's Bread Pudding

4-6 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes.  Rest time: 1 1/2 hours  Cook time: 1 hour  Total time: ~3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of English Muffin bread, cubed in thick cubes (4 cups) (You can substitute any bread; baguette, cinnamon raisin bread are also delicious.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat oven to 350*  In an 8-inch square pan, toast cubed bread in the middle of the oven until bread is crisp but not golden, about 5-7 minutes.  Mix melted butter in with bread, tossing to coat bread completely.  In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.  Pour over bread, stirring to coat.  Cover and chill pudding at least 1 1/2 hours.  Bake pudding in middle of oven until it just sets but still trembles slightly, about 50-55 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines

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Lady Katy’s Bread Pudding

Lady Katy's Bread Pudding

4-6 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes.  Rest time: 1 1/2 hours  Cook time: 1 hour  Total time: ~3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of English Muffin bread, cubed in thick cubes (4 cups) (You can substitute any bread; baguette, cinnamon raisin bread are also delicious.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 TBS maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat oven to 350*  In an 8-inch square pan, toast cubed bread in the middle of the oven until bread is crisp but not golden, about 5-7 minutes.  Mix melted butter in with bread, tossing to coat bread completely.  In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.  Pour over bread, stirring to coat.  Cover and chill pudding at least 1 1/2 hours.  Bake pudding in middle of oven until it just sets but still trembles slightly, about 50-55 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines


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Downton Review, Episode 6

Downton Review, Episode 6

“I’m FINE.”

“I’m not going.  They’re my pigs!”

Far and away, my favorite bit of Episode 6 was the rescue of the pigs.  Mary and Mr. Blake walk down to visit the starter pigs that are to revolutionize the farming of the Estate.  To their dismay, they discover that the pigs are dying from lack of water.  Mr. Blake picks up a pair of pails and runs for the water pipe.  After a proper, “Wait just a moment,” Mary, in all of her evening finery, picks up two more and runs after him.  The montage of the two pumping water in the muddy barn and racing back to the pigpen ends with Mary falling in the mud, submerging her shoe, and giving the perfect woman’s response to her predicament: an icy, “I’m FINE.”  The pigs are saved, and Mary and Blake sit to take a rest.  They get into a literal mud-slinging contest, perhaps symbolizing the verbal sparing that has characterized their relationship.  The scene concludes with Mary giving the most phenomenal cackle her character could produce.

Back at the house, Mary makes the smirkiest, flirtiest plate of scrambled eggs imaginable.  She and Blake enjoy breakfast and banter until they are interrupted by the shocked Ivy.  Immediately, Mary (who does not know her employee’s name), reverts into Ice Queen mode, bids Ivy good morning, and stalks upstairs.  In the course of a single scene, these two have gone from enemies to frienemies, to flirt-emies.  I love that Mary discards the two proper English Lords as suitors in favor of a man who is willing to speak his mind and get his hands dirty.  A lot like her late husband, don’t you think?  In other news, poor Evelyn.

In a long, drawn-out plot, Tom goes to a political meeting and meets a girl.  Full lipped, talkative, kind, modern.  A lot like his late wife, don’t you think?  In other news, maybe Sybil left behind some lip-stain for New Girl to inherit.

Lord Grantham is summoned to America to save his hapless brother-in-law.  Both he and we do not understand this plot twist.  Another funny bit was the farewell on the lawn, where Lord Grantham is most concerned with the welfare of his most beloved girl: his dog.  Bates begs off as his valet to stay with Anna.  Mrs. Hughes intervenes with Mary who intervenes with Robert.  Mary now knows that Anna was “attacked,” but Mrs. Hughes does not reveal the identity of the rapist.  This results in three tender scenes: Mary comforting Bates, Mary offering help and understanding to Anna, and Jimmy and Thomas (who is going in place of Bates) showcasing their friendship.  Later, it is revealed that Lord Gillingham and the rapist valet Mr. Green return to Downton and we are all relieved that Bates is in the house.  After Anna’s terrified reaction and Green’s admittance that he hated the opera performance and went downstairs, Bates puts the pieces together.  He sends a look of death to Green and his butter knife shakes.  Green is clearly going to be killed.  I say Bates in the boot-room with a cane and butter knife and Mrs. Hughes covering the traces.

Thanking our lucky stars, we discover that the Dowager is sick, but not mortally so.  She has bronchitis, and is nursed from the brink of pneumonia by her own frienemy, Isobel.  Even in the depths of a fever, the Dowager manages to complain about her “nurse” and deliver some scathing one-liners.

“Bring me a new nurse.  This one talks too much – like a drunken vicar.” 

“The food is disgusting.  Everything she puts into my mouth is suddenly disgusting.”

Without sleep, and with a curt dismissal of wannabe nurses Mary and Lady Grantham, Isobel succeeds in bringing the Dowager back to health and we all rejoice.

Next we travel to London with Edith and Rose.  Rose meets her scandalous boyfriend.  They go boating.  I want to be interested in this, but I can’t be.  I don’t know if it is all the simpering or Rose’s own ambivalence to her love affair makes this boring, but we’ll see where it goes.  I bet Robert discovers it, blows up, and we all roll our eyes.

And finally we come to Edith.  She has come to London, as we all might have guessed, to get an abortion.  Her scene with Lady Rosamund describing her thought process, fears, and determination was well done.  Lady Rosamund “refuses to be shocked,” encourages her to keep the baby, but says she will support Edith in any decision including accompanying her to her appointment.  At the appointment, the office is dark, dingy, and filled with weeping women.  After the rape scene, I was quite nervous about how gruesome this scene was going to be, but thankfully we were spared.  Edith takes a look into the operating room, decides she’s making a mistake, and leaves.  A relieved Lady Rosamund follows her out and later promises to help Edith break the news to her parents.

Many people have expressed disappointment in this season of Downton Abbey, writing phrases like “the bloom has gone off the rose” and “the jewel has lost its sparkle.”  I myself tweeted after the Rape Episode that Downton may have jumped the shark.  I think these statements don’t quite cover it.  The scenery is still beautiful, the clothes are gorgeous, the writing is witty…

The stories have simply lost their subtlety; lost their grace.

When I first became enamored with this show in Season One, The Hubs asked me what I liked so much about it.  I answered, “Even though it is set a century ago, they are telling stories of family, losing homes, bad investments, a shaky economy, the uncertainty of the future, rebelling against your parents, rebelling against tradition, love.  The plot lines have classic and modern elements – everything is relatable.  But in addition, the show is set in this gorgeous landscape, with beautiful music and costumes.  It’s truly a rare treat.”  In Seasons 1 and 2, the show dealt with classic and modern conflicts such as PSTD, war, unrequited love, living with handicaps, homosexuality, defying your parents, exploring other cultures.  It was graceful, personal, subtle.  The stories were explored in depth and throughout several weeks.  Then suddenly we had Season 3 and Sybil’s gruesome, vivid death in childbirth.  The show took a turn for the sensational.  Almost every episode after that can be labeled.  The Car Crash Episode.  The Child Abuse Episode.  The Rape Episode.  The Premarital Sex Episode.  The Abortion Episode.   Of course, these conflicts are also both modern and universal.  I maintain that the way they are presented has changed.  There is more shock value, more sensationalism, and I wonder if this is missing the point.

At any rate, I miss the subtlety.  I miss the grace.  I miss the idea that we might weather the blows of life and still walk upon the high road.

Thoughts?


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Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken

If this recipe were a piece of clothing, it would be your favorite pair of jeans.  It goes with anything, meets any occasion, you can dress it up or down, and it makes you feel wonderful.  And it’s easy.  I make this almost every week, and it’s my go-to if I’m delivering a meal to a neighbor or new parents.  I’ve also dolled it up to serve for big family dinners.  I haven’t met anyone, including my picky toddlers, who won’t eat Orange Chicken.

This is also Mimi’s recipe, and she was quite proud of it.  What would the Queen say?  I believe she would say it is delicious.

Ingredients:

6 chicken breasts

2 cups of rice

1 stick of butter

2 T flour

2 T sugar

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2-3 cups of orange juice

Salt and Pepper

An orange, sliced.

Method:

Boil your rice according to package directions.  Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on both sides (cook in batches to avoid over-crowding).  Remove to plate.  Stir in spices and flour and cook over low heat until it forms a smooth paste.  Gradually stir in orange juice, stirring constantly.  Bring to a full boil.  Place chicken back in pan (you can squish them together now) and drape some sauce to cover chicken.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove one breast, check doneness.

Arrange for table:

Weeknight dinner:

  • Individual platings: Rice, chicken breast on top, drizzle sauce over both
  • Sauce in a gravy boat

Fancy dinner:

  • Rice in covered serving dish with a pat of butter in middle
  • Chicken arranged nicely on plate, drizzle sauce over
  • Slice orange, then, make a cut in middle of orange through one part of rind.  Twist orange slices into S shape and arrange on chicken
  • Sauce in gravy boat because people with LOVE it.

As a Meal-On-Wheels:

  • Buy a square disposable foil pan with lid
  • Pour in rice and stir in all but a little sauce until fully mixed
  • Arrange chicken on top, drizzle sauce
  • Place 3 flat orange slices in middle

Mimi always served this with steamed broccoli, but a salad is easy and crowd-pleasing.  This recipe also freezes well.

For more Dinners en Famille, see this


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Chicken Slop

Chicken Slop

Chicken Casserole, or as it will forever be known in my family, Chicken Slop, is one of the best meals for a crowd I have made.  Everyone loves it, it’s just different enough, and it is filling.  Embodying the spirit of my late grandmother Mimi, it is interesting, a little eccentric, and exceedingly warming to the soul.  Viewer Warning:  This recipe contains 2 ingredients my generation of cooks despises as much as they love quinoa and kale: Butter and Cream of Chicken Soup.  Is this recipe low-fat?  Absolutely not.  Is it an economically delicious treat for a crowd.  A thousand times yes.

(Katy, why did you link The Blue Danube Waltz to this?  Because this)

Chicken Slop

Ingredients:

8 boneless chicken breasts

2 cups of rice\

4 T butter plus 1 stick of butter

1 can Cream of Chicken soup

10 oz fat-free sour cream,

1 small can of diced green chiles

1 can of water chestnuts

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 sliced hard-boiled eggs

1 can French-fried onions

Salt, pepper, and thyme

Method:

Preheat oven to 375*  Bake chicken for 30 minutes in a 13×9 pan with a little water.  Cover tightly with foil.  Cool.

Cook rice with 3 cups of water (or chicken broth) and 4 T butter

In a big casserole dish, mix can of soup, sour cream, green chiles, almonds, water chestnuts, and eggs.  Cut up cooled chicken.  Add chicken and cooked rice to casserole, mix well.  Add salt, pepper, and thyme.  Melt a stick of butter and pour it over the top of slop, then add entire can of french-fried onion rings.

Bake 50 minutes at 350*

Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.

For more Dinners en Famille, see this


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Dinner en Famille

Dinner en Famille

Finally, we come to the final performance of a guest visit: The Dinner.  I’m sure you have a dinner or two up your sleeve that you love to make, and I do too.  Sometimes however, my favorite recipes are time-consuming make for a crowd.  Or someone doesn’t like an element, or I feel like it’s boring, etc.   Today I’m going to leave the creativity to the memory of one of the most creative people I’ve been privileged to know:  my grandmother Mimi.  I pass along two wonderful Dinner en Famille recipes from Mimi’s kitchen.

Mimi was an amazing woman.  Imaginative, kind, never knew a stranger, and a lover of our family’s English heritage.  Once while babysitting my brother and me (as well as a flock of neighborhood children), she allowed us to paint her entire face blue, made a full High Tea as a snack, and went out to chat with the mailman still looking like an extra from Braveheart.  She taught us to build fairy-houses in the woods, stay still long enough to catch dragonflies on our fingers, and play Phantom of the Opera on the stereo LOUD.  She kept a portrait of Queen Elizabeth in her china cabinet as well as every picture of her grandchildren and the children of her friends ever sent to her on the fridge.  Many of my dishes, teacups, and assorted serving pieces were from her ever-growing collection of antiques.  She loved buying interesting items and immediately handing them down to us.  One Christmas, she couldn’t serve her punch because she had given all three of her punch ladles to us grandkids.  She was a woman who took us all to see The Phantom of the Opera (I was the oldest at 9) to which she was talked out of wearing wearing a green bridesmaid gown from the 80’s paired with a blue velvet cape.  She invested her time and interest in those around her, and was a constant supporter of her children and grandchildren.  Mimi was fun, dramatic, and completely unembarrassed to be herself.

It is this spirit that embodies her signature dish: Chicken Slop.  Now, ever a stickler for propriety, she is probably shrieking from Heaven that I am calling this dish by its nickname rather than “Chicken Casserole.” (“Oh!  What would the Queen say!!”)  Somewhere along the line, it was renamed Chicken Slop and the nickname was solidified by a little ditty my cousin and I created for it when we were children.  In the throes of rainy-day boredom in an Up North summer, we heard that Chicken Slop was being made for dinner and wanted to see how much we could get away with.  Pilfering dishes, spoons, and dishtowels as props, we choreographed a song and dance to the tune of The Blue Danube.  Every word of the song was Chicken Slop.  It went a little something like this, “Chicken chicken chicken chicken, slop slop!  Slop slop!”  and continued through the entirety of the waltz.  We presented our performance as a pre-dinner show to the family.  As no grandchild could do wrong in Mimi’s eyes, we got away with our making fun and the Chicken Slop Song has remained in family lore ever since.

(I consider it a testament to our raising that we knew all 9 minutes of The Blue Danube Waltz by heart)

Chicken Casserole, or as it will forever be known in my family, Chicken Slop, is one of the best meals for a crowd I have made.  Everyone loves it, it’s just different enough, and it is filling.  Embodying the spirit of my late grandmother Mimi, it is interesting, a little eccentric, and exceedingly warming to the soul.  Viewer Warning:  This recipe contains 2 ingredients my generation of cooks despise as much as they love quinoa and kale: Butter and Cream of Chicken Soup.  Is this recipe low-fat?  Absolutely not.  Is it an economically delicious treat for a crowd.  A thousand times yes.

Chicken Slop

Chicken Slop

Ingredients:

8 boneless chicken breasts

2 cups of rice\

4 T butter plus 1 stick of butter

1 can Cream of Chicken soup

10 oz fat-free sour cream,

1 small can of diced green chiles

1 can of water chestnuts

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 sliced hard-boiled eggs

1 can French-fried onions

Salt, pepper, and thyme

Method:

Preheat oven to 375*  Bake chicken for 30 minutes in a 13×9 pan with a little water.  Cover tightly with foil.  Cool.

Cook rice with 3 cups of water (or chicken broth) and 4 T butter

In a big casserole dish, mix can of soup, sour cream, green chiles, almonds, water chestnuts, and eggs.  Cut up cooled chicken.  Add chicken and cooked rice to casserole, mix well.  Add salt, pepper, and thyme.  Melt a stick of butter and pour it over the top of slop, then add entire can of french-fried onion rings.

Bake 50 minutes at 350*

Serve with a big salad and crusty bread.

Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken

If this recipe were a piece of clothing, it would be your favorite pair of jeans.  It goes with anything, meets any occasion, you can dress it up or down, and it makes you feel wonderful.  And it’s easy.  I make this almost every week, and it’s my go-to if I’m delivering a meal to a neighbor or new parents.  I’ve also dolled it up to serve for big family dinners.  I haven’t met anyone, including my picky toddlers, who won’t eat Orange Chicken.

This is also Mimi’s recipe, and she was quite proud of it.  What would the Queen say?  I believe she would say it is delicious.

Ingredients:

6 chicken breasts

2 cups of rice

1 stick of butter

2 T flour

2 T sugar

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2-3 cups of orange juice

Salt and Pepper

An orange, sliced.

Method:

Boil your rice according to package directions.  Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on both sides (cook in batches to avoid over-crowding).  Remove to plate.  Stir in spices and flour and cook over low heat until it forms a smooth paste.  Gradually stir in orange juice, stirring constantly.  Bring to a full boil.  Place chicken back in pan (you can squish them together now) and drape some sauce to cover chicken.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove one breast, check doneness.

Arrange for table:

Weeknight dinner:

  • Individual platings: Rice, chicken breast on top, drizzle sauce over both
  • Sauce in a gravy boat

Fancy dinner:

  • Rice in covered serving dish with a pat of butter in middle
  • Chicken arranged nicely on plate, drizzle sauce over
  • Slice orange, then, make a cut in middle of orange through one part of rind.  Twist orange slices into S shape and arrange on chicken
  • Sauce in gravy boat because people with LOVE it.

As a Meal-On-Wheels:

  • Buy a square disposable foil pan with lid
  • Pour in rice and stir in all but a little sauce until fully mixed
  • Arrange chicken on top, drizzle sauce
  • Place 3 flat orange slices in middle

Mimi always served this with steamed broccoli, but a salad is easy and crowd-pleasing.  This recipe also freezes well.

I apologize for the skipped week, but this little girl came into our family last Friday and I’ve been a bit consumed.

Lucy

Lucy, our 8-week-old lab/shepherd/hound puppy

It is my best intention to present an Encore: le dessert, next week.


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Downton Review, Episode 5

Downton Review Episode 5

This was by far my favorite episode of the season and perhaps my favorite ever.  It was a soothing balm of classic Downton-ness after a rough, emotional season.

The sparring between the Dowager and Isobel Crawley was at its height as the ladies battled over gardener Pegg and the missing “things, things, things!”  Grasping at her purse, Isobel rages against the Dowager over the firing of young Pegg and the accusation that he stole both a pen knife and a very valuable piece of china.  She’s so affronted at the Countess’s perceived prejudice that she claims she would indeed burn the Abbey down and dance around it “if it would help.”  Later, Isobel’s sneaky search through the Dowager’s drawing room resulted in the best delivery of the word “Eureka!” in recent.  Ever the wise one, the Dowager acknowledges to Robert that Isobel’s fury at her is merely a way to work through her grief:

“It is her fuel. Some people run on greed, lust, even love. She runs on indignation.”

In the end, the Dowager discovers that young Pegg was not the thief; in fact, the missing things were merely misplaced.  She restores him to his position, apologizes, and asks forgiveness.  Isobel discovers this during a meeting of the ladies refereed by Dr. Clarkston.  As he declared, it was

“… Game, set, and match to Lady Grantham.”

In all, the Dowager’s plot felt very conclusionary, and tonight we may find out why.  The teaser for the next episode showed her in bed, obviously very ill.  Dame Maggie Smith, I acknowledge that you are 79 years old, but please please don’t leave us yet.  The loss of your character might be the death knell for the show.

Upstairs, we have a pregnancy, an illicit affair, race politics, and Mary whipping everyone into shape!

Edith is pregnant, as evidenced by the note from her doctor.  Her baby-daddy is AWOL in Germany.  If I were a betting woman, I’d guess that Michael Gregson is not so much captured by the bad guys as he is one of them.  On the bright side, she has a closetful of baggy jumpers that should take her right through the first two trimesters.

The illicit affair award goes to Rose who is caught by Mary in the basement making out with the band leader!  (This is starting to sound like Clue…)  This would be scandalous enough, but this affair is laced with…

Race Politics!  A black man in Downton.  Just in Downton, guys.  Jack Ross, the inexplicably terrible crooner from London has been hired by Rose to play Robert’s birthday bash.  Carson lunges for his butter knife when Mr. Ross enters the servant’s hall, and later asked him if he’s visited Africa.   Mr. Ross responds with the quip,

“And why should I go to Africa, Mr. Carson? I’m no more African than you are. Well, not much more. My people came over in the 1790s. We won’t go into why or how.”

Mary.  The sweetest scene in this episode took place in the nursery where she, Isobel, and Tom play with the babies and discuss their beloved late loves.  There is much healing both of hearts and relationships in this little scene.  Isobel essentially gives Mary her blessing to pursue love again, and Mary tells her that she is simply “Not quite ready to be happy.”  Although it sounds sad, the laughter, memories, and love what’s left  (the babies) is a beautiful illustration of another part of grief.

Mary also still holds Evelyn Napier’s heart in her teeth.  His “friend,” Lloyd George’s anti-aristocrat toady, is another story.  She slams him down repeatedly and this should prove a wonderful sparring partner for her.

Downstairs, we have Mrs. Patmore squirming over Rudoplh Valentino, Carson being disturbed by everything, the love rectangle being smashed, and the Bates not enjoying a heart-wrenching date night.

Jimmy is allowed to take Ivy to the movies, and quickly makes a pass at her on the way home.  When she refuses, he tells her she owes him and she’s “not playing the game.”  She yells and runs off.  Cutesy music and beautiful moonlight accompany this lesser sexual harassment.  Eye-roll.

With Ivy disillusioned by the handsome fellow, she turns her attention to Steady Freddy who has been accepted to his culinary course after all.  Alfred prepares to leave, thanking Mr. Carson and the Family, and lastly Daisy.  As his parting shot as the Good Guy, he soothes her heartache by telling her that although he was never going to be her man, her approval and friendship meant a lot to him.  She wishes him well, and we all say, “Awwww.”

Mrs. Patmore’s management of this heartbreak by putting the girls to task and giving Daisy dignified exits when she needed them was wonderful.  It was so motherly and I loved it.

Poor Anna and Mr. Bates.  They agree to go on a date night, are granted a few hours furlough, and Anna makes a reservation at a nice hotel restaurant.  Their goal is to have “a night away from the shadows.”  Sadly, when they arrive, the maitre-de snubs them, but Lady Grantham who is there for a charity dinner swoops in to save the day.   We discover that Anna is still so broken over the crime committed against her that their happiness is crushed.  It is just sad.  Real and awful and sad.

I am very excited for this night episode, but am sure tricky Mr. Fellowes will throw us a curve ball.  I can only hope that he isn’t aiming to strike out the Dowager…