The Last Meal on the Titanic

Wed, Apr 9 • 25

It was on April 14th, 1912 — almost 100 years ago — when the last meal was served in the first-class dining room on the RMS Titanic.

As we all know, later that night, the ship collided with an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. Here’s a detailed look at what was on the menu for the first-class passengers.

First Course
Hors D’Oeuvres
Oysters

Second Course
Consommé Olga
Cream of Barley

Consummé Olga is made with a quart of warmed consummé (clear broth, usually beef) and a pint of good port wine. Then julienne a stalk of celery, the white of a leek, the outside only of a small carrot, and soften in butter over low heat. Add a little more consummé and reduce to a glaze, and then finish cooking the vegetables in it. In a tureen, put the glazed vegetables along with julienned gherkins, and the consummé and wine mixture. (Escoffier, 593)

Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

Mousseline Sauce is a hollandaise sauce that’s fortified with whipped cream. (Escoffier, 92)

Fourth Course
Filet Mignons Lili
Sauté of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci

Tournedos Lili are seasoned steak fillets fried in butter, then arranged to form a crown, each on a crust of Potatoes Anna (basically, layered potato slices, generously buttered and baked in a hot oven for 30 minutes; Escoffier 2203), and then topped with an artichoke bottom, garnished with a slice of foie gras, and then topped with a slice of truffle, and served with a Périgueux sauce (Madiera wine, reduced veal stock, and chopped truffle; Escoffier, 47). In other words, this dish is gilding a lilly. (Escoffier, 1101)

Sauce Lyonnaise is a relatively simple sauce in comparison, flavored with sauteed diced onion, and equal parts white wine and vinegar, reduced to a glaze, and added to reduced veal stock (demi-glace). (Escoffier, 43)

Vegetable Marrow Farci is apparently stuffed squash. “Marrow squash, also known as vegetable marrow, is a very large, green summer squash. They are related to zucchini, and can grow to the size of a watermelon. They have a bland flavor, and are frequently stuffed with a meat stuffing.” The “farci” indicates that squash was stuffed. (source)

Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Peas
Creamed Carrots
Boiled Rice
Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

Chateau Potatoes are potatoes cut to the shape of olives, then cooked gently in clarified butter until golden and very soft, and sprinkled with parsley just before serving. (Escoffier, 2208)

Parmentier Potatoes is a pureed potato soup garnished with crouton and chervil, but it can also be served more like runny mashed potatoes. (Escoffier, 658)

Sixth Course
Punch Romaine

Punch à la Romaine is a mixture of dry white wine or champagne and a simple sugar syrup, plus the juices of two oranges and two lemons, with a bit of their zest, steeped for one hour. Strained and frozen, then mixed with a sweet meringue and then fortified with rum. It’s served like a sherbet, and acts as a palette cleanser. (Escoffier, 2932)

Seventh Course
Roast Squab & Cress

Squab is actually pigeon. Escoffier says, “Young pigeons are not very highly esteemed by gourmets, and this is more particularly to be regretted, since when the birds are of excellent quality, they are worthy of the best tables.”

Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course
Pate de Foie Gras
Celery

Tenth Course
Waldorf Pudding
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream

Escoffier has nothing to say about Waldorf Pudding, but research on the net turns up several improvised recipes (1, 2, 3), none of which are authentic. They involve essential ingredients based on the famous Waldorf Salad, which has apples, walnuts and raisins, but I can’t help but suspect that these guesses may be off course. While it’s true that the one of the more common recipes that the Waldorf Astoria is known for is the salad, there’s no reason to conclude that these are the only ingredients that could possibly be in a dessert named after it. Update, 4/28/08 : I found some old cookbooks online that list recipes for Waldorf Pudding. One has apples, the other one doesn’t. Read all about it.

Each of the 10 courses was served with a special accompanying wine. Following the tenth course, fresh fruits and cheeses were available followed by coffee and cigars accompanied by port and, if desired, distilled spirits.

You may also be interested in reading about what some of the other passengers on the Titanic were eating that night. Also, more information on the elusive recipe for Waldorf Pudding.

(A note about the Escoffier notation : The description of recipes listed here are taken from The Escoffier Cookbook : A Guide to the Fine Art of French Cuisine, by Auguste Escoffier. It is the defacto standard for french haute cuisine, and lists the 2,984 recipes contained in its pages numerically, and that is the number I give after each recipe.)


The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine

Mon, Dec 24 • 0

book cover : scavenger’s guide to haute cuisineI found this to be a surprisingly readable book. The author, Steven Rinella, is a writer for sports magazines, and he and his friends spend much of their free time hunting and fishing. When he got a copy of The Escoffier Cookbook, it started him on a year-long quest to create a fabulous feast for his friends using wild game and products he scrounges up over the course of a year. With detailed information about his successes and failures (including the dreaded food poisoning), as well as the prosaic and interesting adventures he has to get the goods for his feast, I had a hard time putting the book down. He goes above and beyond what most of us would ever imagine doing for a holiday feast. While the author does relish in his intimate knowledge of exactly where his food comes from, this book is definitely not for the squeamish. And, make no mistake, there’s not a single recipe in this book. An excerpt from the book’s second chapter can be read on Culinate.com.

The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, by Steve Rinella.


White and Brown Stock

Mon, Dec 24 • 0

When making chicken stock, using raw chicken will give you “white” chicken stock, while using a roasted bird will give you “brown” chicken stock.

According to Escoffier, white stock is used for the base of white sauces. Brown stock should be the color of “fine burnt amber” and used for the base of soups and thickened gravies, and for meat glazes after it’s been reduced. He also suggests using it to moisten meat for braising.

In both cases, he suggests breaking the bones, and that if you want the stock to be gelatinous, you need to simmer the stock for at least 8 hours.

His recipes (below the break) aren’t limited to just chicken meat, either, and they’re naturally more involved than almost any other recipe for chicken stock that I’ve ever come across.


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