Cooking for a Crowd

One of the great perspectives of Downton Abbey is the view into the world of the house staff. Even amongst the help, there is a distinct hierarchy, with it’s power-plays and drama. And despite being invisible at times, these workers are the specters who come to know every detail of the life within the great house….knowing what goes on both upstairs and downstairs and everything in between.

UnknownIf you’ve ever toured a great mansion from this era in time, you know that the kitchens (I will refrain from getting started on kitchens) are hives of activity. Not much has really changed in that respect, although they didn’t socialize in their kitchens the way we do now. The ovens and stoves are massive and the pantries are rooms unto themselves, storing beautiful china, silver pieces and fine linens. The old kitchens always intrigue me, as they were responsible for feeding so many elite groups. And to think of the feasts they turned out, with cooking utensils that we would now view as being archaic. Clever for the times, though.

Mrs. Patmore is the head cook at Downton Abbey and I just watched the episode in which she finally fesses up to her deteriorating eyesight. A roast chicken hit the floor, almost being dragged away by the kitchen cat and salt was sprinkled on the raspberry meringue instead of sugar causing an uproar in the kitchen-get the smelling salts! Mrs. Patmore has been sneakily covering her tracks by cooking only recipes she knows from heart, so as not to have to read a written recipe.

My guess is that this one would be in her repertoire, had springform pans been in existence. Whether or not she would have baked an Irish dessert is another story.

Enjoy this one….especially since it’s a no-bake (!) recipe for your St. Patrick’s Day feast this Sunday. Mrs. Patmore would be proud of you.

Irish Cream Cheesecake, courtesy of The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook (slightly amended by me)

For Crust:
oil for coating pan
4 Tb. unsalted butter
1.5 cups crushed chocolate wafers
8 oz. semisweet dark chocolate, broken into pieces
8 oz. milk chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream, lightly whipped
3 Tb. Irish Cream liqueur

Line bottom of an 8-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper and brush sides with oil. Put the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until melted. Stir in the crushed chocolate wafers. Press into bottom of springform pan and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

To make the filling: Put the dark and milk chocolates into a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water until melted. Let cool. Put the sugar and cream cheese in a bowl and beat together until smooth, then fold in the cream. Fold the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture, then stir in the liqueur.

Spoon into the cake pan and smooth the surface. Let chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or until firm. Serve with whipped cream and strawberries. Serves 8.

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