PBS show inspires cookbook

When a book with the word “unofficial” in its title hits my desk, it goes into the not-to-be-reviewed file. Making use of the popularity that someone else’s creation has achieved seems to me to be a form of plagiarism.

However, I’ve made an exception for Emily Ansara Baines’ book, “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapés to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding — More Than 150 Recipes From Upstairs and Downstairs.” That’s because I, like Baines, am a fan of the PBS television program, and Baines seems to have done a fair amount of research on the dining habits of Edwardian England.

Baines, a teacher who has worked as a baker and caterer, makes it clear her book isn’t authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by those involved in the making of “Downton Abbey,” which recently began its third season on PBS.

She notes that the average meal of the upper crust in the early 1900s was served in the French version of Service à la Russe, which required bringing out each course one at a time. The courses ranged from eight to 13. The book is divided into two parts — recipes for dining with the Crawleys of Downton Abbey and recipes for the staff’s food. Each part is divided by course, and the first part includes a chapter on tea.

“The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” doesn’t include any photographs, and Baines assumes everyone reading her book is familiar with the television program’s characters.

For fans of the program this book provides a good collection of recipes for re-creating a meal that those upstairs or downstairs at real English estates might have had.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Advocate-tested recipe

The Crawley Sisters’ Stuffed Mushrooms

Makes 12. Recipe is from “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines. While this is an Italian-based dish, its fun feel and mouthwatering texture makes it a classic hors d’oeuvre that everyone — whether upstairs or downstairs — can get behind.

12 whole fresh mushrooms

1 tbl. extra-virgin oil

1 tbl. unsalted butter

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

11/2 tbls. garlic, minced

1 dash Worcestershire sauce

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a medium or large baking sheet.

2. Carefully clean mushrooms, removing stems. Chop stems extremely fine.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt olive oil and butter. Add chopped mushroom stems, chopped green onions and minced garlic, followed by 1 dash Worcestershire sauce. Cook garlic and mushrooms until all moisture has evaporated, being careful to not burn the garlic. Set aside and let cool.

4. When garlic, onion and mushroom-stem mixture is no longer hot to the touch, stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture will be thick and difficult to stir.

5. Fill mushroom caps with a good amount of stuffing. Sprinkle top of each mushroom cap’s stuffing with Italian bread crumbs. Arrange mushroom caps on prepared baking sheet.

6. Bake mushrooms in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until mushrooms are extremely hot and liquid starts to form. Cool slightly and serve.

Testing note: The recipe doesn’t say what size mushrooms to use, but I suggest at least large whites or medium- or large-size criminis. Also, the amount of garlic is apparently correct. I used less, about 1 tablespoon, and was pleased with the result.