Poached Salmon with Shallot, Tarragon, Dill Sauce


Poached Salmon with Shallot, Tarragon, Dill Sauce

Poached salmon is lovely and light for lunch or dinner.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I was inspired to make salmon with a dill sauce in tribute to the Sochi Olympics 2014 kicking off on Friday.  As I researched online about traditional Russian foods and in a book I own called A Year of Russian Feasts by Catherine Cheremeteff Jones, I realized I know very little about Russian cuisine.

Not one salmon recipe in “A Year of Russian Feasts.”   No salmon in this well-researched article from the Vancouver Sun, “Russian Food, Beyond Pierogies and Cabbage Rolls.”

"Meat, Fowl and Brussels Sprouts Against the Window" by Pyotr Konchalovsky (1937)

“Meat, Fowl and Brussels Sprouts Against the Window” by Pyotr Konchalovsky (1937)

What I discovered were lots of recipes with walnuts (chicken with walnuts, salads with walnuts, walnut sauces, walnut cakes), dumplings, cheese blini, kasha, beets, cabbage, and a popular potato salad called Olivier which incorporates peas, carrots, and salted cucumbers with mayonnaise dressing.

There is much to explore and the cuisine is as vast and varied as the country itself. Mia Stainsby enlightens us in her article “Russian Food, Beyond Pierogies and Cabbage Rolls”:

“Russian food is closely connected to the food of neighbouring countries like Ukraine, the Baltic Republics, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan; they were formerly part of the former Soviet Union.”

While the skiers, snowboarders, and figure skaters in Sochi will be tucking into shish kebab with lamb and vegetables, smoked fish and pickled vegetables, you can make this poached salmon with an easy side of pirozhki from the refrigerator case.

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Poached Salmon with Shallot, Tarragon, & Dill Sauce


  • 4 salmon filets (about 6 oz each, 1-inch thick) (I leave the skin on to protect it from drying out while simmering)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (I used homemade but you could also use a white wine and water/stock combination)
  • 1 T. chopped shallot
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 T. poaching liquid from the salmon
  • 1 T. chopped shallot
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • pinch of kosher salt


  • In a deep 10-inch skillet with straight sides, bring stock to a simmer.
  • Add the chopped shallot and simmer 2 minutes.
  • Season salmon filets on both sides with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Submerge 4 salmon filets, skin sides down, in one layer in the simmering liquid. Cover and poach at a bare simmer, about 8 minutes, or until just cooked through and light pink.
  • Transfer cooked salmon with a slotted spatula to a platter.
  • When salmon is cool enough to handle, peel off skin if desired.  Salmon may be cooked 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

To make the sauce:

  • Gently heat the sour cream in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over very low heat. (You don’t want it to curdle.)
  • Add 1 T. of the poaching liquid and the chopped shallots
  • Warm the sour cream (don’t simmer it) and stir with wooden spoon for 3 minutes to let shallots release their juice.
  • Take off the heat and add tarragon, dill, and pinch of salt.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. (If you like more dill, add it.  I like lots of tarragon flavor.)

Go team USA!

U.S. skier Joss Christensen gets in a practice run for Ski Slopestyle ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain. (Lars Baron / Getty Images / February 4, 2014)

U.S. skier Joss Christensen gets in a practice run for Ski Slopestyle ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain. (Lars Baron / Getty Images / February 4, 2014)

Happy Birthday, Lord Grantham: Downton Abbey Parties Down



Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

It’s Sunday, February 2, 2014 and tonight the Crawley family throws a surprise birthday party for Lord Grantham at Downton Abbey.

What you say?!  There’s ANOTHER big event going on tonight, Sunday, February 2, 2014 that involves a national obsession, a large crowd, major entertainment, a multitude of food, and a lot of  money?!

Hells bells, it must be Super Bowl XLVIII! Well, we all know that Lord Grantham is a cricket fan.

Crikey!  We love cricket!

Crikey! We love cricket!  Photo credit: ITV

Undoubtedly, Lord Grantham and his fellow aristocratic sports enthusiasts would tuck into some insanely good plebian comfort food after the game with their team mates.  How democratic!  All in the name of sportsmanship, old boy!

There might be:

  • Steak and ale pie:  served at the village pub or made by Mrs. Patmore and served under a tent on the estate grounds
  • Sausage rolls: the English version of pigs in blankets, made with fresh ground sausage and spices, wrapped in pastry, sometimes with apricot preserve and mustard smeared on the inside of the pastry
  • Fish and chips:  with the chips wrapped in a newspaper cone, hot and salty, and eaten with one’s fingers, oh my!
  • Scotch eggs:  soft-boiled eggs wrapped in minced meat or sausage, bread crumbs and deep-fried, served with spicy English mustard
  • Plenty of ale and stout, and since cricket is a summer sport, Pimm’s Cups by the gallons

Steak and Ale Pie

Steak and Ale pie--without pastry

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Aye, that's the way! Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Aye, that’s the way!
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Enjoy the game!

P.S.  Here’s a fun link to “Downton Abbey Super Proper Bowl” – a mashup of Downton vs. the Super Bowl:

A Night in Virginia Hunt Country -The historic Ashby Inn & Restaurant


The old School House at The Ashby Inn & Restaurant
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

For my birthday, my lovely husband took me for a winter sojourn in nearby Virginia hunt country – one of my favorite things to do.

We had heard many good things about the historic Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia and booked a night in one of its School House suites and dinner in the restaurant.

Paris, Virginia is a tiny village (population 70) located an hour outside of Washington, DC with a view of Ashby Gap and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The village (really just one street) is charming with several old residences and a charming old church.

The Inn was built in 1829 by Manley Pierce as a private residence. The original house had four rooms with additions over the years.

Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Stonewall Jackson rested on the house porch on their way to the First Battle of Manassas the night of June 17, 1861. The house also served as a Methodist parsonage for many years.

A view of the Inn and the church from the air.

A view of the Inn and the church from the air.  Photo credit:  The Ashby Inn & Restaurant


Trinity United Methodist Church on Federal Street in Paris, Virginia, built in 1892.
Photo credit: John Penovich



The old church is now closed due to a dwindling congregation. Might there be a renovation or second life as an event venue in its future?
Photo credit: John Penovich

We stayed in the Lafayette Room in the School House which was lovely and large.

Photo credit: The Ashby Inn & Restaurant

Photo credit: The Ashby Inn & Restaurant


Photo credit:  The Ashby Inn & Restaurant

Photo credit: The Ashby Inn & Restaurant

There are four private rooms in the School House and each has a king bed, wood-burning fireplace, mini-fridge, large bathroom en suite, and a private balcony with Adirondack chairs to enjoy the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Beautiful sunrise over the little village.  Photo credit: John Penovich

The polar vortex (read, wind chill and snow) prevented us from sitting out on the balcony but we had a lovely view at sunrise out of our bedroom window.

Staring into a wood-burning fire is mesmerizing, no?

Staring into a wood-burning fire is mesmerizing, no?

Upon arrival, John immediately built a fire.  The innkeepers had laid the first fire for us so it was ready to go and there was plenty of firewood, starters, and matches.

They also provided a sample of Virginia port in a lovely decanter on the dresser. We loved all of the antique furniture and we remarked that we had some similar inherited pieces at home (the cherry wood dresser, the one-drawer turned leg bedside table.)

The evening was going swimmingly!

We had a couple of hours before our restaurant reservation and were feeling quite peckish so we asked for a little nibble to be sent to our room. Chef David Dunlap sent an abundant charcuterie and cheese plate, including some of the house-made rabbit rillettes he was serving as a first course that night.

Incredible food from Chef---left to right, cheese & charcuterie plate, ribeye, lamb loin

Incredible food from Chef Dunlap—left,  cheese & charcuterie plate; top right, ribeye; lower right, lamb loin
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Dinner was wonderful:  John had the grilled ribeye, parmesan espuma, herb pesto, and roasted marble potatoes; I enjoyed the loin of lamb with mustard, boudin noir, peas, carrots and potatoes.

For starters we had the house-made snacks:  chicharrónes (freshly fried pork rinds) and comté gougères with some craft cocktails (John:  Hendricks gin martini, dirty, with 3 olives; Rebecca: Copper Fox Distillery gin (made in Purcellville, Virginia) with Fever Tree tonic and ginger simple syrup.)

We shared dessert: fuji apple-almond cake, honeycrisp sorbet, apple brandy foam.

I love me some foam!

Do book a special occasion or simple getaway at The Ashby Inn & Restaurant if you have the opportunity.  Winter or summer, it is delightful (especially if you like old places, antiques, gracious service, fabulous wine, wonderful food and who doesn’t!)

NOTE: to ‘type A’ types:  don’t expect your cell phone devices to work all the time and don’t expect room service or ice at 10 pm or any of that.  Just relax and be mesmerized by the fire and the quiet and your partner’s good company.  Beds are comfy, too!

On the way back home, we enjoyed touring the countryside and looking at some old churches.

Old churches from the 19th century?

Top left, Trinity United Methodist Church in Paris, VA.  Top right, Guilfield Baptist Church, Millwood, VA.  Middle right, Boyce Town Hall, Boyce, VA.  Bottom, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Delaplane, VA.
Photo credits: John and Rebecca Penovich

We enjoyed our brief winter exploration into Virginia hunt country (as we have many times before).  More to come about what we saw and ate in a future post!



The Ashby Inn & Restaurant

692 Federal Street

Paris, Virginia  20130



Top Chef on Downton Abbey

Cold potato soup?! That's what we ate on the farm when we ran out of wood for the fire.  Now it's vichyisoisse. Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE.

“Cold potato soup?! That’s what we ate on the farm when we ran out of wood for the fire. Now it’s vichyssoise.”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE.

Downton Abbey’s episode 4 (airing January 26, 2014) kept the plot moving along and although I can’t say I thought it was a strong episode, it had its moments.

For one, is Bates a sociopath?  Anna and Mrs. Hughes are convinced he will go out and murder someone (again!).  If he would so easily do that, WHY are you married to him?

He menaces sweet Mrs. Hughes to get her to swear on her dear mother’s grave and tell the secret that she promised Anna she’d keep.  Bates, get a a grip on yourself!

The Alfred “I dream a dream of being top chef” plot line continues and he travels to the Ritz Hotel London to test for a position in the hotel kitchen.

I am French and so a better cook than you! Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

I am French and a better cook than you!
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

The culinary test sequence was short but we know they were to make 4 dishes, one of them vichyssoise (cold potato and leek soup.)  In a subsequent scene, we see the French chef tasting what looks to be a poached pear with chocolate sauce and two other preparations smothered in white sauce (one which looks like a chicken leg quarter and one which looks like a hamburger patty, blech!)

We may never know what he was tested on because Alfred placed #5 and there are only 4 positions to be filled.

"Oh, Alfred.  You are so cute when you are studying Larousse Gastronomique."  (Note to reader:  that French gastronomy tome won't actually be published until 1938.) Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

“Oh, Alfred. You are so cute when you are studying Larousse Gastronomique.” (Note to reader: that French gastronomy tome won’t actually be published until 1938.)
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

Mr. Carson said it best when he said:  “To fail at the first attempt does not mean you won’t succeed later.”

Did you know that Julia Child failed her first try at the Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris?  (She was set up by the wicked school administrator who didn’t like her very much, or Americans for that matter.)  For more on that story, read this New York Times article by Julia and her nephew, Alex Prud’homme “Eat, Memory:  Sacré Cordon Bleu!”

Photo courtesy:  Harvard University, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women

Photo courtesy: Harvard University, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

So try, try, try again!

If you think you can’t make a soufflé, try this one from Food & Wine called “Fallen Cheese Souffle.”  See, even if you fail, it’s supposed to be that way!  And it’s delicious.




And everyone should have a favorite homemade vinaigrette in their repertoire.  Here’s mine:

Dijon vinaigrette is a useful staple!  Toss it with green beans, boiled potatoes, braised leeks. Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Dijon vinaigrette is a useful staple! Toss it with green beans, boiled potatoes, braised leeks.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Squeeze of 1/4 quarter fresh lemon
  • Optional: fresh herbs, chopped shallots, salt and pepper to taste


In a small, shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, optional salt and pepper with a small whisk or fork until the mixture is emulsified. Add the olive oil and canola oil in slow stream and whisk again until emulsified.  (NOTE:  I like to turn the bowl with my fingers (1/4 turns) while whisking with the other hand.)

Tune in to your local PBS station on February 2, 2014, 9 pm ET for more Downton Abbey.  

Lord Grantham is going to have a surprise birthday party.  I wonder what his favorite food is?  (I’m guessing leg of lamb!)

Downton Abbey Cocktail Party Menu

"I'm going to be Top Chef in 1925." Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television

“I’m going to be Top Chef in 1925.”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

So Alfred the footman aspires to be a chef and move up a little in the world.

Mrs. Patmore will teach him what she knows (which is a prodigious amount about fine cuisine and jinxed affairs of the heart).  Since she’s a woman she could not be a professional chef in the 1920s, but I’m sure she could teach the Ritz Hotel Cooking School instructors a thing or two.

"I know a thing or two, laddie." Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television

“I know a thing or two, laddie.”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Here is an actual English holiday cocktail party menu from Christmas 2013, served at an aristocratic estate (to remain un-named) that could easily be one served at Downton back in the day.

"I'm here for the party.  Where can I park my steed?" Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television

“I’m here for the party. Where can I park my steed?”
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Champagne cocktail with homemade sloe gin
Hendricks Gin Martinis
Sparkling Water
(or the butler could bring you an alternative soft drink if you asked politely)
Smoked salmon and cream cheese on crackers
Caviar and cream cheese on crackers
Finger sandwiches (see Mrs. Patmore’s ‘fiddley bits’)
Spinach and herb pastry puffs
Spiral salmon rolls
Cheese straws
Tiny smoked sausages

 Shortbread and Cookies (call them ‘biscuits’)

Teeny mince pies

Fruit and Cheese

Vintage port, brandy, and madeira offered

(if you stayed later than the other guests)

The Abbey hosts a house party

“Indeed, indeed.”
(That’s what you say when you don’t know what to say in mixed company.) Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Are you planning a Downton Abbey finale party yet?

Tune in January 26, 2014 to your local PBS station for Episode 4, Season 4.

Japanese Dumpling Soup


This is a delicious and easy soup to make.  It is also so light and nutritious that you will feel virtuous eating it.

The key is using a very good chicken broth.  I made my own, using the carcass of a roasted chicken we had the night before but I also like Swanson’s Chicken Broth (a brand I use all the time in my cooking.)

Since the soup was so simple (frozen gyoza dumplings from Trader Joe’s, chopped vegetables, aromatics) I took the extra time to reduce and strain my broth twice to remove impurities and boost the flavor.

I even took the time to make a ‘raft’ of egg whites to clarify the broth further.  Have you heard of this French technique?

Lightly whip 3-4 egg whites (depending on how much broth you have) and bring the broth just to a boil, pour the egg whites on top of the broth and turn the broth down to a simmer.  The egg whites coagulate on top, forming a ‘raft’ and the proteins, foam, and other ‘floaties’ gravitate to the raft and stick there, clarifying your broth.

After several minutes, you ladle out the egg white raft and throw it away and you have a very clear, clean soup.

My mother made beef consommé from scratch for my brother’s high school French class and I remember her using this technique to the letter (probably from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.) I also remember her saying that the classic consommé was a lot of work and what you end up with is beef stock!

Photo credit: WGBH

Photo credit: WGBH

So fiddle with your stock or not, but do make this soup and feel good whilst slurping it.


  • 6 cups clear chicken broth (homemade if you can bother)
  • 1 slice fresh ginger root, peeled (a coin about 1/4 in. thick will do)
  • 1 cup diced peeled carrots (about 2 medium)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 package frozen chicken, pork or shrimp gyoza from Trader Joe’s (I used pork but the shrimp gyoza are also very good
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 thinly sliced green onions, with green tops for garnish


  • Heat the broth to simmer and add the carrots, celery, and ginger.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes and then remove the ginger root (the broth should be lightly infused with ginger.)
  • Bring soup up to just a boil and add the gyoza dumplings, immediately turn the heat back down so dumplings are at a simmer.
  • Add the soy sauce and the green onions.
  • Simmer dumplings for about 8 minutes until tender.
  • Ladle soup and dumplings into bowls and garnish with the parsley.



Downton Abbey Goes Clubbing: Jazz & Cocktails

Lady Rose-Downton-Abbey-jazz-band-leader-dance

Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

It’s the Roaring Twenties and Lady Rose is determined to break away from aristocratic stuffiness and go dancing to the latest music and tipple some hip 1920s cocktails. (Teenagers!)

Prohibition in America inspired bartenders (were they called mixologists back then?) to come up with some interesting creations to mask the taste of hastily made, illegal hooch (or so the story goes.) 

All the rage in American clubs and speakeasies, the cocktail culture infused the social lives of Brits across the pond and Europeans on the continent.


Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Lord Grantham:  “Can I tempt you to one of these new cocktails?”

Dowager Countess:  “I don’t think so. They look too exciting for so early in the evening.”

According to Jared Brown, in his article “The Surprising History of the Cocktail,” American Bar nights were popular and hotels and restaurants in London caught on to the trend.  None were as influential as the one at The Savoy where a female bartender (yay 1920s feminism!) developed this cocktail: 

Hanky Panky

This classic cocktail recipe is credited to Ada Coleman, head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925.

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange twist

Stir ingredients well in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled glass. Twist a small swath of orange peel over the surface of the drink.

Adapted from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

Fernet Branca (which I had never heard of until researching vintage cocktails) is described as a bitter, astringent spirit from Italy – not one I’m keen on trying.

So in the spirit of Lady Rose, Lady Edith, Lady Mary, jazz, dancing, and breaking free of social norms, “Sex in the City-style,” I mixed up a very modern:

Blood Orange Cosmo

Cocktails 1920s

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich



  • 6 parts vodka
  • 6 parts cranberry juice
  • 2 parts Triple Sec
  • 1 part blood orange juice
  • 1 part lime juice, fresh-squeezed

Fill a shaker with ice cubes.  Add all ingredients.  Shake and strain into cocktail glasses.

A very good libation to precede some ‘hanky panky’ even if the cocktail is not named that.

(Credit for cocktail recipe: Absolut Vodka).

Photo credit:

Shall we have Hanky Panky cocktails or champagne?
Photo credit: Nick Briggs for MASTERPIECE


For an excellent resource on vintage cocktails I recommend:

“The 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book



Tune in January 19, 2014 to your local PBS station for Episode 3, Season 4.







“There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” — Vincent Van Gogh


Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


A wise friend once remarked, “You are never sorry when you eat an orange.”

And that is so true.  Oranges pick you up and make you feel brighter, cleaner, sunnier. I’m in need of a pick-me-up this morning as we’ve received news of a favorite elderly relative who has died.  I’m too sad to reminisce now but I will share thoughts in a later post.

Instead I will share some of my favorite things, inspired by orange.  Then maybe I’ll feel better and fortified for the upcoming travel to say goodbye to someone I loved.


Chinese saucer

This saucer looks great in our light grey bathroom. It looks antique to me but it’s not. $1 at the thrift store.
Now THAT makes me happy.
Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich


My friend, Josie, works at a local farm stand and once gifted me with a huge box of vegetables at the end of their selling day.  I was challenged to find recipes for cooking them all.  (Note to self:  need to cook and eat more vegetables so it won’t seem so daunting.)


Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Here are a some of the recipes I made:

My favorite roasted carrot recipe:


Simple Roasted Carrots


  • 6 large carrots, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, liberal amounts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I’ll also use chopped fresh mint or thyme if I have them on hand)


  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Toss the carrots with the olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Place in casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.  (NOTE: You don’t need to fuss with parchment paper; I just laid the cooked carrots on parchment for the photo.)
  • Toss with the fresh herbs.
  • Feel good about yourself because you ate your carrots!

I think the key to this recipe is roasting the carrots covered instead of exposed in the oven like other roasts.  It gives them the tender texture like the carrots you braise with a pot roast but they are not mushy.  Try it sometime!

And in closing, some bright flowers I arranged earlier this year.

I buy flowers for myself all the time (from the grocery store.)  Go ahead and disassemble the supermarket arrangement and break up the bouquet into 2-3 different vases.  Grab something green from your yard (a sprig from a bush, a small branch with some leaves on it) and go for it.  It will make you smile when you look at it.

Orange flowers

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

“Be calm. God awaits you at the door.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera

English Country House Party at Downton Abbey–Part 2

lady mary on horseback

Lady Mary is back in the saddle, in more ways than one.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Those who watched Downton Abbey’s episode 2 on Sunday know that writer Sir Julian Fellowes certainly knows how to ruin a good house party.

I won’t spoil it here for you in case you haven’t watched yet.  In addition to the shocker, there were moments of comedy and drama upstairs and downstairs, including Mrs. Patmore working herself into a tither over the syllabub, the béchamel, and the lemon dill sauce for the salmon.

She wouldn’t if she had a recipe for blender hollandaise.  And an actual blender of course.

The splattered and battered cookbook I learned to cook from (with my mom by my side.)

The splattered and battered cookbook from which I learned to cook the classic sauces
(with my mom by my side.)
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


The sauces Mrs. Patmore frets about are known as the Mother Sauces of French cuisine:

  • Béchamel – classic milk-based white sauce
  • Velouté – white sauce similar to béchamel, using chicken stock instead of milk
  • Espagnole –  brown meat stock-based sauce
  • Hollandaise – an emulsified sauce using egg yolks and butter
  • Tomato – tomato-based sauce

Mrs. Patmore’s lemon dill sauce for salmon could have been either a velouté or a hollandaise, with extra lemon and dill added.  Once you’ve mastered the Mother sauces you can create almost any other sauce by adding different flavor profiles with aromatics, stocks, vinegars, vegetables and fats.

I learned to make hollandaise from my mother’s old copy of Verna Meyer’s Menu Cookbook: Dining at Home in Style, Dillon Press, Inc., Minneapolis, MN 1980.

Verna  Meyer's Menu CookbookWe started with vinaigrette (which arguably could be considered a Mother or Master sauce, along with mayonnaise.)  From there I conquered Caesar Salad Dressing and then moved on to hollandaise (my favorite.)

On a teenaged dinner date I had discovered Veal Oscar (veal cutlets topped with crabmeat, asparagus, and hollandaise) and I was immediately in love.  With the dish if not with the boy.

Verna Meyer’s book is so splattered and battered in the Dressings and Sauces chapter that they literally stick together and I have to pry them apart when I want to refresh my memory for her Blender Hollandaise.


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 T. lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (more to taste)
  • Dash of kosher salt


  • In a blender, place egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and salt and pulse once or twice to blend.
  • Melt the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan until it is hot and bubbling.
  • Turn the blender on high (make sure the cap is on!) and add the hot butter slowly in a very thin stream until the mixture thickens and all the butter has been incorporated (leaving the white solids behind).

French chef Eric Ripert (whose recipes I love) has published his recipe for blender hollandaise and it can be found all over the internet with instructional videos and such.  I encourage you to check it out to see the method.  His recipe calls for 2 1/2 sticks of butter and that is a lot of sauce.

Verna’s recipe will give you 1 cup–plenty of hollandaise to serve 6 eggs benedict with extra sauce for dipping.  I sometimes add more lemon juice to Verna’s when I want it citrusy and have used fresh squeezed orange juice in place of the lemon.

Undoubtedly at the Abbey, Mrs. Patmore would also have served the classic Asparagus Hollandaise.


Asparagus Hollandaise

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and Ivy would have been taxed to the hilt cooking breakfast, luncheon, canapés, multi-coursed dinners, and tea (with scones, sandwiches, jams and cake) for 16 house guests throughout a weekend.

“She will bust a gut if she keeps that up.” Ivy says.

Highclere Castle-StateDiningRoom

The actual dining room at Highclere Castle
(ancestral home of the Earl of Carnavon) and setting for Downton Abbey.
Photo credit: Highclere Castle


From what I could tell from rewinding through the episode (yes, I’m that obsessed), Mrs. Patmore’s menu for the first night’s formal dinner might have been:

First course

Chilled soup, possibly vichyssoise or cold asparagus soup

Second Course

Crabmeat in pastry shells with béchamel sauce

Third Course

Poached salmon with lemon dill hollandaise

Main Course

Squab au vin with roasted mushrooms and vegetables


Syllabub with orange peel and brandy

Presented in French, on menu cards, with the accompanying wines, which we know from Earl Grantham’s instructions to Carson included a Château Haut-Brion and a Château Margaux.  (He cavalierly let Carson choose the white wines for the fish courses.)

Interestingly in the episode, Alfred finishes the sauces and saves the dinner while Mrs. Patmore is having her anxiety attack and turns out that he wants to be a chef!

alfred the footman serving food

Alfred, now that you have mastered the classic mother sauces of French cuisine, you are on your way to being a chef.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE


Good on ya, Mrs. Patmore.  We are glad you didn't keel over. Photo credit?

Good on ya, Mrs. Patmore. We are glad you didn’t keel over.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE


So there we have it, a very eventful Country House Party at Downton Abbey.

Tune in to your local PBS station on Sunday, January 19, 9 pm ET.  Looks like we are going clubbing in London with Lady Rose so we’ll be shaking up some cocktails 1922-style here at Corks & Cake.



Asparagus and Herbed Butter Canape: English Country House Party at Downton Abbey

Lord Gillingham

Hunky Lord Gillingham in the drawing room.
Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

You are invited to The Abbey for an English Country House Party

(well, vicariously through television anyway)

If you WERE actually invited you would be expected to arrive on time, and according to Emily Post’s Etiquette, Chapter XXV, “The Country House and Its Hospitality,” published in 1922:

“A week-end means from Friday afternoon or from Saturday lunch to Monday morning.

On whichever day the party begins, everyone arrives in the neighborhood of five o’clock, or a day later at lunch time. Many come in their own cars, the others are met at the station—sometimes by the host or a son, or, if it is to be a young party, by a daughter.

The hostess herself rarely, if ever, goes to the station, not because of indifference or discourtesy but because other guests coming by motor might find the house empty.”

English Roadster Dowton 2

Please someone, DO pick me up at the station in this.
Photo credit Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE


Before dinner (for which you will be dressed to the nines by your lady’s maid) you might be served canapé which is a type of hors d’oeuvres: a small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite.

Or what Mrs. Patmore has referred to as “fiddley bits” in a previous episode. (See Deviled Ham Tea Sandwiches.)

canapé consists of a base (e.g., bread or pancake), a spread, a main item, and a garnish. The spread is traditionally either a compound butter or a flavored cream cheese. Common garnishes include finely chopped vegetables, scallions, chives, herbs and caviar (Source: Wikipedia).

Asparagus and Herb Butter Canape

Asparagus and Herb Butter Canapé


  • 12 asparagus spears (thin spears, stalks trimmed of their woody bottom)
  • 12 slices thin white bread, crusts removed (I use Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened for the compound butter
  • 2 tsp. additional butter for sautéing the shallot
  •  4 T. additional butter for melting and brushing on the asparagus rolls
  • 2 T. chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, to taste
  • Snipped chives for garnish (optional)

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


  • In a large skillet, bring 1/2 in. of water to a boil. Add asparagus and boil for 3 minutes, until tender. (This will depend on how thick or thin your asparagus spears are.)
  • Drain and immediately plunge asparagus in ice water bath to retain their color. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.
  • Flatten bread with a rolling pin.
  • In a small skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of butter and sauté the shallot until softened, about 2 minutes.  Watch the heat as you do not want the shallot to burn.
  • Combine the softened butter (1 stick) with the cooked shallots, add the chopped parsley and dill, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice, and the salt to taste.
  • Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons herbed butter on each slice of bread. Top with an asparagus spear. Roll up tightly; place seam side down on a greased baking sheet.  Pinch slightly to seal the edge.
  • Melt the remaining 4 T. of butter and brush the asparagus rolls all over with butter.
  • Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut rolls in half to serve.  Sprinkle with snipped chives.

Makes 24 appetizers.

Asparagus rolls toasted

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

The Abbey hosts a house party

When the dinner gong rings, it is time to ‘go through’ to the dining room, where everyone will be seated according to their ‘precedence’ or rank. Countesses before duchesses, everyone. Or is it duchesses before countesses?  Oh dear!  At least we know there will be place cards.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Tune in tonight, January 12, 9 pm ET on your local PBS station.