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Photo from Rashelle Stafford / Guests prepare for the Downton Abbey tea at Polly Claire's Tea Room.
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Downton Abbey dining

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Preparing for a royal visit plays out on a grand scale in the new "Downton Abbey" movie, with a houseful of servants tending to the needs of the Crawley family as they anticipate the arrival of Britain's king and queen to their Yorkshire country estate. The owner of Polly Claire's Tea Room says she felt a similar sense of urgency while she and three employees worked "tirelessly" for a Downton Abbey tea this past Sunday in Chattanooga.

"I had thought of doing another tea" later in the movie's run, says Rashelle Stafford, "but I don't know if the staff would forgive me."

The special-event tea was "the first of this magnitude" for the 3-year-old business, located in the historic Dent House on Adamson Circle. The expansive menu featured a dozen food selections, in addition to an unlimited supply of tea and a flute of complimentary champagne for guests at each of the two seatings.

"Some of these we've never made before," Stafford says of the recipes, gleaned from "The Art of Afternoon Tea" by British-born, South Dakota-raised Penelope M. Carlevato. "They're wonderful," Stafford says. "We made them all for our guests on one special day."

Released in 2016, Carlevato's tome — part recipe collection, part guide to the Edwardian era — is one of dozens of cookbooks and other resources released as part of the official Downton Abbey pantheon or inspired by the series.

Among the latest releases is "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Expanded Edition" (Simon & Schuster, 304 pages, $25) from American author Emily Ansara Baines. It offers more than 150 recipes that would have characterized mealtime for the estate's upstairs aristocrats or the working-class denizens downstairs.

Part 1, "Dining With the Crawleys," is chaptered by courses, including the "Elegant Entrees" of the third course, "The Necessary Vegetable" of the seventh and the sweets and desserts that provide "The Finishing Touch." Part 2, "Sustenance for the Staff," pares down the meals, with simpler guides to "Hearty Breakfasts To Start the Work Day" and "A Quick Lunch Between Business" among its offerings.

"While not as ornate, these dishes are certainly filling and are ones that both you and your family could enjoy before, during or after a long workday," writes the author, who enhances the recipes with history notes, etiquette lessons and suggested pairings.

"Downton Abbey" first aired in the United Kingdom in September 2010 before jumping the pond to the U.S. in January 2011 as part of PBS' Masterpiece anthology.

Jennifer Crutchfield, director of public relations for Chattanooga PBS station WTCI, says the season finale, which aired March 6, 2016, "had a record-breaking 9.6 million viewers and is still the most-watched PBS drama."

"It seems to have instantly become a classic and remains very popular with our viewers," she says. The station began rebroadcasts of the series earlier this month, with episodes to continue through November.

Talk of a feature adaptation began shortly after the series ended with the Crawleys at a New Year's Eve party in 1926. The film picks up 18 months later, in 1927, with Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham, receiving a letter announcing an impending visit by King George V and Queen Mary. The television series opened in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic.

Dining scenes have been central to the series, with resplendent formal dinners filmed inside Highclere Castle, a 19th-century country home that has become a tourist attraction. A Wiki fandom page describes the room as "lavishly decorated with large paintings, extravagant candelabras and fine china and glasses." Large parties are accommodated with extra leaves that can be unfolded to extend the length of the table.

June Scobee Rodgers says she and her husband, retired Army Lt. Gen. Don Rodgers, are big fans of the series and appreciate the historic realism conveyed through the costumes, settings and props. The food and wine scenes, she says, "often make us ravenous with hunger."

Sonya Guffey, owner of Mountain Oaks Tea Room in Ooltewah since 2017, says customers often come seeking the "grandeur" of the series.

"They just love to drink tea and feel like they're back in that time," she says. "They will come in and do high tea, the afternoon tea, with tiers, the smaller tidbit trays."

Popular with the Downton crowd is the historic building's Queen's Room. Queen Elizabeth II keeps a regal eye on the proceedings from a prominent painting. Books and magazines feature Princess Diana and other royals. "There's a lot of silver and nicer [tea] sets in this room," Guffey says.

Stafford says she doesn't expect interest in the franchise to wane anytime soon. She wore period attire for Sunday's tea at Polly Claire's, as did numerous guests, many of whom doubled their Downton immersion with a Sunday movie screening.

"Downton Abbey people are like Star Trek people," Stafford says. "They are all in."

Contact Lisa Denton at 423-757-6281 or ldenton@timesfreepress.com.

 

Classic Beef Wellington

Depending on who you want to impress, you could call this dish by its French name, Filet de Boeuf en Croûte, or by its British name, Beef Wellington. Some claim that a rather patriotic British chef named this dish Beef Wellington out of British pride; others claim it is named after a 17th-century duke. Either way, this favorite — consisting of a solid filet of beef covered by pâté and surrounded by a pastry crust — would be a staple for many a dinner at Downton Abbey.

Yields 6 servings

2 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 pound chopped white button or cremini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 ounces liver pate

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 (17.5-ounce) frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 large egg yolks, beaten

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1/4 cup red wine

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place beef tenderloin in a medium-size baking dish, and cover with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until thoroughly browned. Remove beef from pan, and allow to cool completely. Reserve juices.

Heat olive oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together pâté and remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then season with salt and pepper. Spread pâté mixture evenly over cooled beef, then top with onion and mushroom mixture.

Using a rolling pin, roll out pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Place beef in center of dough, then fold dough up and seal all the edges, making sure the seams are not too thick and unseemly.

Place beef pastry in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Cut a few slits at top of beef pastry; then wash pastry with egg yolks.

Cook beef pastry in oven for 30-35 minutes or until pastry is a rich, golden brown. Set aside, keeping warm.

In a small saucepan over high heat, mix together all reserved juices, plus beef broth and red wine for 10-15 minutes or until slightly reduced. Strain, then serve with beef.

— Excerpted from "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Expanded Edition" by Emily Ansara Baines. Photography by James Stefiuk. Copyright 2012, 2014, 2019 by Simon & Schuster Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

 

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Yields 10-12 servings

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 drops hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups poached salmon, flaked into minute pieces

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1 cup whipped cream

10-12 (1-inch-thick) baguette slices, toasted

Sprigs of fresh dill, for garnish

Soften gelatin in cold water. Add boiling water, and stir well, making sure to thoroughly dissolve gelatin.

Let cool thoroughly, then stir in mayonnaise, lemon juice, hot sauce, paprika and sea salt. Mix well. Fold in salmon bits and capers. Add whipped cream, and continue folding until everything is well combined.

Pour mousse into a piping bag, then chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Pipe mousse onto small baguette slices, arrange on a large plate, top with sprigs of fresh dill for garnish, if desired, and serve.

— Excerpted from "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Expanded Edition" by Emily Ansara Baines. Photography by James Stefiuk. Copyright 2012, 2014, 2019 by Simon & Schuster Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

 

Ethel's Crêpes Suzette

Yields 4 servings

For Crêpes:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)

1 1/2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange zest

1/2 cup clarified butter

For Sauce:

1 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped into tablespoons

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)

3 clementines or mandarin oranges, peeled and quartered

Vanilla ice cream, for garnish

For crêpes: In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flour and kosher salt. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and white sugar until pale, then whisk in 1 cups whole milk, Grand Marnier, bourbon vanilla extract and orange zest. Add to dry flour mixture, whisking constantly. If mixture feels too thick, add remaining cup milk. Cover and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Heat an 8-inch skillet over medium heat, then cover the surface with clarified butter so the surface sizzles. Ladle some of the crêpe batter onto the pan, and immediately swirl the pan to evenly distribute batter over the surface. Cook for no more than 60 seconds or until the batter is a light golden brown, then flip crêpe over and cook for an additional 20 seconds. Remove to a room-temperature plate, and continue with rest of batter.

For sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, bring orange juice to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then add butter, white sugar, brown sugar and orange zest. Cook until the sugar mixture has slightly reduced, 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat, and add Grand Marnier and orange quarters. Set aside.

One at a time, gently place crêpe in the skillet holding orange sauce. Leave crêpe resting on orange sauce for 1 minute so it can absorb some of the juices. Using a narrow wooden or rubber spatula, remove crêpe to a warm serving plate. Repeat with other crêpes, then roll each crêpe into a cylinder, and cover with orange sauce and orange sections. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

— Excerpted from "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Expanded Edition" by Emily Ansara Baines. Photography by James Stefiuk. Copyright 2012, 2014, 2019 by Simon & Schuster Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

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