Sunday, July 21, 2013

Downton Dinner, Part Deux

In March, I got ambitious in the kitchen and decided to make a Downton Abbey-inspired dinner. It was great fun! Last month, by request, I gathered some of my girlfriends together for another night of haute cuisine. Or, as haute as you're going to get with an amateur cook in the suburbs.

As before, I visited the wonderful Downton Abbey Cooks blog for inspiration. For a summer menu, I wanted cool, complimentary flavors that were light, seasonal, and filling.

Le Menu

Chilled Strawberry Soup
Paired with a German Moselle Valley Riesling (Carson would sack me for not remembering which one!)

Asparagus Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
Paired with 2011 Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Chardonnay

Also served with chardonnay, or a lovely wine from South Africa that one of the guests brought!

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
Paired with 2011 Carmel Road Pinot Noir

Lemon Tart with Seasonal Berries
Paired with 2010 Enotria Moscato 

All went swimmingly! The guests arrived, I got to use my fancy wedding china for the place settings, and we moved through the first three courses with alacrity.

Then disaster struck. With a loud click, my oven suddenly shut off. The chicken and vegetables were only halfway cooked. I checked the fuse box. I called my husband. We tried all methods we could think of to resurrect the stove. Nothing. Meanwhile, my hungry guests polished off the rest of the salmon. We all had another glass of wine. (Remember the Downton Abbey Season 3 opening episode when the oven goes?)

I had no reserve supplies in the larder, or an army of servants to put together an impromptu picnic. But I did have a grill. And charcoal.

I lit the coals, pulled the still-warm chicken from the oven, butterflied the meat, popped the root vegetables into a separate pan, and began to grill, baby, grill.

It was unconventional, but it worked. Dinner was saved. True, it was a trifle later than I would have liked, but it was far better than ordering Chinese take-out.  I was grateful that the ladies went along with my plan! I'm not sure if I would have had the courage to try this with anything other than old friends.

Tonight, I'm feeling just crazy enough to make homemade ice cream and a chile-honey glazed salmon.  Because once you've grilled a chicken in a cocktail dress, you're ready for just about any kitchen challenge.

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