Episode One: The Good Son, with Beer Bread and Dominique Crenn’s Cultured Butter
A pilot episode is a strange and crucial thing! So much exposition and world-building is needed, so much instant connection from the viewer is hoped for, so much is subject to change and evolution. The Good Son is a gentle little episode - in fact much of Frasier is very gentle - but by the time the famous credits roll, we’ve established everything we need for the series to progress. His emotionally distant father Martin was shot in the hip and can’t live alone, so with great reluctance on both sides, he’s moved in to Frasier’s fantastically fancy apartment. A charmingly daft home carer from Manchester, Daphne, has also moved in, and as some kind of final blow to Frasier’s semblance of control over everything, Martin’s small dog Eddie is part of the deal too. On the fringes are Niles, Frasier’s fussy younger brother who evades the responsibility of taking on Martin on account of his even fussier wife Maris; and Roz, Frasier’s snarky producer. Aside from a brief interaction with a waitress at Cafe Nervosa, soon to become Frasier and Niles’ home away from home, it’s really only these core characters who occupy the screen, and they’re all just so wonderfully, comfortably themselves that even though there’s so much that’s yet to unfold - the slow softening of Martin, Niles’ inordinate fondness for Daphne, Roz’s sexual proclivities - it’s still a very satisfying episode.
TFW you have to be the good son.
I decided to lean towards the symbolic for the recipe to go with this episode. First, there’s beer bread - a quickly made loaf that gets its heft from the yeast in the aforementioned beer. Frasier and Martin have this long-established uncomfortable relationship and by the end of the episode there’s just enough softening and compromise from both men to allow them to, well, break bread together. The beer I used was Double Brown, a New Zealand beer of extreme unpretentiousness that I felt was similar enough in spirit to Martin’s beloved cans of Ballantine (read this review of Double Brown if you want to know more about it) and to go with I thought it would be funny to make the fanciest butter I could come up with to represent Frasier: cultured butter from chef Dominique Crenn’s exquisite (and largely insurmountable for the home cook) cookbook Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste. Silly though it sounds I was kind of inspired by a joke I, myself, made on twitter (why does Frasier eat yoghurt? Because it’s full of culture) but also felt like Atelier Crenn is precisely the kind of place that both Frasier and Niles would be in deep, performative reverence towards. Like, can’t you just imagine David Hyde Pierce at Peak Niles, carefully pronoucing the word Atelier in as French a manner as he can muster, and the deliciously enunciated, rolled-R way he’d say “Crenn?”
So here you have the simplest pairing - bread and butter - made in a fashion that seems set up to contradict each other. And yet: warm from the oven, the beer bread is tender and a little sweet with a crisp crust and a thick, fluffy crumb that merrily soaks up the light, salty butter as it melts. Not such a strange pair after all.
- one 330ml can of beer (as I said, I used Double Brown)
- three cups of plain flour
- three teaspoons baking powder
- one large pinch of sea salt
- one tablespoon sugar
- three tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
Set your oven to 190C/375F and butter a loaf tin. And then all you have to do is mix together the ingredients, transfer it into the tin, and bake for 50 minutes. My only advice would be to sift together all the dry ingredients and slowly stir in the liquid, rather than putting the dry ingredients into the wet, but do what feels right. Consume as quickly as possible (not a hardship.)
Adapted from a recipe in Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste by Dominique Crenn.
- 500ml cream (this is roughly two measuring cups)
- three tablespoons creme fraiche
- sea salt, to taste
Pour the cream into a large bowl and mix in the creme fraiche. Cover with cling film and sit it overnight (or for roughly six or so hours) in a warmish place to allow the cultures to develop. It’s summer at the moment so I just left it in my rainforest of a bedroom. Once this time is up, refrigerate it, and once cold, whisk thoroughly and continue to whisk till it gets thicker and thicker. This will take honestly forever so I understand completely if you use an electric beater. You’ll notice it start to get a little grainy in texture if you taste it; you just want to keep on whisking until suddenly it turns into clumps, releasing a thin liquid which is a total bonus - delicious buttermilk. Drain this off as much as possible, squeezing the butter to help it release as much liquid as possible. At this point, beat in sea salt to taste, then spatula the butter into a container and refrigerate till you’re ready to use it.
Even though making your own butter seems like needless effort this stuff really is wonderful, with a slight tang from the creme fraiche, a beautiful, clean creaminess and a gloriously golden colour. And what is this episode about, if not the effort we have to go to sometimes to make something work?
Favoured quote: “Remember what Mom always said: A handshake is as good as a hug.” - Niles, giving a hilarious insight into their current chilly relationship with their father.
Em-Maris-ment of Riches: One of my favourite running gags is the way Maris is described, and, as the show continues, her increasingly ludicrous excuses for not being present. We start off relatively mild but still funny, with Frasier saying he likes her from a distance. “Maris is like the sun. Without the warmth.”
My usual, please: Another small source of amusement to me is the various different coffees Niles and Frasier order, all the while insisting that they have a usual. In this episode we are introduced to Niles over two Caffe Latte Supremos (whatever that is), and then later in the episode Frasier orders a double espresso after claiming he is immensely stressed by his father’s presence and needs to calm down, naturally, this is a laugh line.
TFW you have to be the good son.