I didn’t sleep well last night. It must have been something I ate, more like something I watched. It appears that Canada is the first to view Titanic, perhaps in recognition of our involvement of rescue and recovery efforts. The first course of the four part Titanic mini-series was served across Canada last night, and well, was lacking something. I was hoping that infusing the writing talents of head chef Julian Fellowes into this drama which would satisfy my appetite for Downton Abbey, currently out of season. Julian is a self-proclaimed Titanorak (Titanic junkie) which lends credibility to his involvement in the project.
The Titanic mini-series “meal” is divided into 4 courses, providing three different flavours, and a final dessert course to finish off the meal. My husband with a distinguishing palate for docu-dramas got bored very quickly. As a cook, I have been trying to put my finger on the missing ingredient or method.
Lord Manton is a good comparable to Downton Abbey’s Lord Grantham, and the sets are well appointed. Historically the portrayal is accurate enough so I shouldn’t have been put off in that regard. There certainly wasn’t too much garnish (sentimentality) which is my problem with James’ Cameron’s version. I do enjoy shows which humanize historical events, but thus far prefer CBC’s Waking the Titanic (click to view the video) to this mini-series.
Of the 80 reported characters in this drama only 6 are crew members. Sad since 40% on board were crew members. The mini-series playbook website will likely be hosted on your own network. I am disappointed that we likely won’t see much action below deck in the kitchens– Head Chef Charles Proctor barking orders to sous chefs and stewards. Part of the charm of Post Edwardian period dramas like Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs is watching how servants and employers co-existed in the same enclosed environment.
Perhaps the meal is just too ambitious: the final 1st class meal on Titanic had 10 courses, a great deal to consume, even with palate cleansers between courses. Too many characters and too little time for us to really care about who survives.
Perhaps Julian’s other projects have protected us from some of the harsher reality of Post Edwardian class ceilings. Downton Abbey has its share of nasty scheming characters, but not racist mean girls, like Lord Manton’s wife who openly berates everyone who crosses her path. I certainly appreciate Downton even more now.
I am reminded of my muffin disaster this week. I have a wonderful non-fat muffin recipe which I can make in my sleep; indeed some Saturday mornings I am barely awake. For some reason my binding agent of egg whites just didn’t do their job and the muffins, while still very moist, fell apart when I took them out of the tins. Perhaps the problem with this mini-series is the binding agent just wasn’t there to bring the ingredients together. Or perhaps we shouldn’t judge the meal by the appetizer, and should patiently wait until the other courses are served.
I rescued my muffins by crumbling them and baking at a low heat to make a chewy granola. So, I am a trooper, and will stick it out through the other two courses and dessert. My husband, on the other hand, will likely be dining at another restaurant.
UPDATE: now after seeing episodes 2 and 3, the meal does improve, particularly after the 3rd course which features romance and a killer on board, but I am still left with the impression that the sinking of Titanic was like leading lambs to the slaughter.
Lamb with Mint Sauce
Served as part of the fifth course in First class on the Titanic, this would be perfect to serve at your upcoming Easter Dinner.
1 leg of lamb (3 1/2 to 4 lbs)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp. salt
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or 1 tbsp. dried mint flakes
- Trim lamb of gristle and excess fat. Stir together garlic, 2 tbsp. of the oil, rosemary, mustard and pepper; rub over surface of the meat and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or for up to 48 hours in your refrigerator.
- Place leg in roasting pan.
- Pour wine and salt into a skillet and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up any brown bits; pour over meat.
Cook lamb in 450°F/230°C, Gas Mark 8 F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F.
Cook to your preferred taste, using a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the meatiest part of the leg without touching the bone.
- Rare: 125°F degrees, approximately 25 minutes
- Medium Rare: 140°F approximately 35 minutes
Remove roast from pan and let rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.
After the meat has been cooked and removed from the roasting pan, place the pan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in wine and bring to a boil and cook, stirring for 1 minute or until reduced to a glaze. Stir in stock, vinegar and sugar. Continue to boil rapidly for 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened; pour through fine-meshed sieve. Stir in mint.
Serve sauce alongside roast. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs or curled strips of lemon zest (the outer skin of a fresh lemon).