Across the Table from Jane Leeves

Long loved as the clumsy yet cute Daphne on Frasier, this British actress is creating a new image with her role in Hot in Cleveland, even though at home she'll always be best known as Mom.

1. What’s the trickiest part about juggling family, work and dinnertime?
My daughter is vegetarian and my son loves anything with meat. She will eat fish, so I cook that frequently. If I do lentil soup, I’ll set aside her portion and add sausage to the rest. Or I’ll make something like grilled chicken and vegetables and she’ll eat the vegetables. I’ve also learned to make certain things that she likes, such as quinoa salad.

2. Where does your husband fit into this dynamic? Does he help?
Heavens, yes! We share the responsibilities. He has a few go-to dishes that he can whip up. We make our kids help, too.

3. In Hot in Cleveland, you rarely throw dinner parties. Do you and your family entertain often?
We do, actually. There’s always someone here for dinner on the weekends. We find when people come over, we tend to grill. It’s just the easiest thing. We usually run to the seafood store and get some fish, then make some salad, vegetables, and pasta or rice.

4. What’s your most memorable food moment from Frasier?
Daphne was supposed to be the clichéd dreadful English cook. But the guys liked my cooking. I’d often make them a shepherd’s or cottage pie—they’d actually request it. Smother the top with mashed potatoes and, if you feel flush, shredded cheese (that’s what I did the first time I made it for my husband). Stick it in the oven until it bubbles and browns and gets crisp at the edge. Easy and hearty.

5. What do you miss most about Britain?
Jellied eels. Sounds a little strange, I know. It’s a very East End London thing. They’re freshwater eels cooked in their own juices, and they’re full of gelatin and goodness.

6. Do you have an it’s-been-a-crazy-day solution to the dinner dilemma?
Basic roast chicken. Nothing’s better. I take a 3-pound bird, squeeze a whole lemon over it, shove the rest of the lemon inside it, rub olive oil on the outside, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper—and tarragon. Cook it at 375 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes. It’s done!

Actress Jane Leeves grabbed America’s heart as Daphne on Frasier, which won 37 Emmy Awards. Her latest sitcom, Hot in Cleveland, was crowned Favorite Cable TV Comedy at the People’s Choice Awards. 

Cottage Pie

I get a pound of ground turkey, the light kind, and a pound of dark kind for this recipe, but you could use beef or lamb. A little Worcestershire sauce gives it that easy English taste.

Prep: 30 min.
Bake: 20 min.
Makes: 6 servings

2 lbs. ground turkey
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. minced fresh sage
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
2-1/2 cups mashed potatoes (with added milk and butter), warmed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional

  1. In a Dutch oven, cook the first five ingredients over medium heat until turkey is no longer pink and vegetables are tender; drain.
  2. Stir in flour, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper until blended. Add broth; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Stir in peas; heat through.
  3. Transfer to a greased 9-in. deep-dish pie plate. Top with mashed potatoes; if desired, sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400° or 20-25 minutes or until filling is bubbly.

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