It was hard to be anywhere in the western world and not be aware that the last week was the centennial of the ill-fated Titanic voyage. In the restaurant sphere, re-creations of the last “first class” dinner abounded, interpreted by one or another chef, and offered up with prices ranging from around $100 per person on up to a whopping $12k at one west coast U.S. spot. I saw a few blog posts about serving up the second or third class menus, but it seemed few restaurants wanted to be associated with such a declasse move – despite the face that the fare served in both was actually still pretty good by travel standards, and quite likely an upgrade to “the food back home”. Here, being the egalitarian sorts that we strive for, I decided to mix it up a bit and pull some ideas from all three menus (or here) – going for inspiration rather than re-creation.
Various vegetables and salads accompanied all three classes of menus, so I kind of picked between them, and what’s in season now, and then basically said, let’s just have a warm vegetable salad…. Grilled leeks, sauteed green beans, salt-roasted beets, and diced, pressed cucumber were accompanied by my own “deviled egg sauce”, a drizzle of the juices and oil from roasting the beets, and some sprouts for garnish.
Most of the soups on offer between the three classes just didn’t sound all that appetizing by today’s standards, though I’m sure something could have been done with them – I don’t know, a “tapioca soup” doesn’t even sound like it provides much wiggle room…. But, lunchtime, or “supper”, in third class had a vegetable soup, so I went with that – a mix of roasted vegetables – carrots, celery, onions, garlic, potatoes, red bell pepper, and walnuts, and then made those into the soup base along with some lemon peel, bay leaf, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, and hot paprika. Pureed the soup, added separately cooked chickpeas to each bowl, and at least minute whisked in a mixture of yogurt, egg yolks, and chopped mixed herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro, oregano and thyme).
In second class, the fish option of the evening was a “baked haddock with sharp sauce”. Now, sharp sauce is an interesting, though not much used anymore mixture of onions or shallots, mayonnaise, mustard and worcestershire, with various other seasonings added, depending on what sort of main ingredient it’s being served with. I went a bit deconstructed – underneath the fish is a caramelized “jam” of white and red onions and fennel, cooked down in fish stock, olive oil, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. The haddock is lightly coated on the top with a mix of a hot smoked mustard, mayo and worcestershire, just enough to get the topping to stick – a mix of panko crumbs, parmesan, and parsley. Baked in the oven. A drizzle of smoked paprika oil around the plate.
First class had a variety of main course options, the poultry one being a “Saute of Chicken Lyonnaisse with Marrow Farci” – the most classic of chicken sautes from Lyons being the fricassee, I went that direction, the chicken breast pounded flat, dusted in flour, salt and pepper, lightly cooked to just barely seal it and give it a faint golden color, and then finished in a mix of rice vinegar, white wine, cream and tomato, and at the last minute reducing it and adding fresh basil leaves, salt and white pepper. While true marrows don’t exist here, there are a variety of small squash options, and the local zapallitos seemed a good move – hollowed out and refilled with a lightly stir-fried mixture of the squash innards with garlic, onion, mushrooms, chilies, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, topped with goats milk feta and baked in the oven until bubbly and lightly browned. Some quinua polenta topped with oven-toasted quinua grains, which not only am I sure was not being served on the Titanic, but likely hadn’t even been heard of by anyone cooking in Europe or North America at the time, was the side starch, taking the place of the options of boiled rice or potatoes.
The first class menu also offered up a “Waldorf Pudding” as one of the dessert options. As to what that pudding was is pure speculation. There are apparently no recipes for it in the White Star Lines files, and the folk at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel don’t know of any such dish either. Given the fame of the “Waldorf Salad”, most of the speculation runs towards something that includes apples and walnuts, and was perhaps just an inspired idea of the onboard chef, but we’ll likely never know. I went with my favorite caramelized walnut tart, added some diced apples on top as the tart was baking so that they just lightly browned, and served it up with a brandy hard sauce.
No icebergs struck, the dinners pulled off with what seems to have been success, and all diners sent out into the night safely in taxis rather than lifeboats.