Following on from the Beginners and Intermediate Titanic Dinners, it’s time to tackle Stress Free Titanic Dinner Party First Class (Advanced). As you can imagine, first class was fabulously posh and incredibly expensive, but you would have been with upper-crust notables like Colonel John Jacob Astor and the unsinkable Molly Brown.
Bearing in mind that we’re making this dinner at home for friends, I’m thinking of you and keeping it simple.
According to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum’s TiITANICa Exhibition, the menu choices included “oysters, salmon, roast duckling, sirloin of beef, pate de foie gras, peaches in Chartreuse jelly and chocolate and vanilla éclairs”. I have to note here that some of the exotic foods offered that night (like ice-cream!) are more commonplace today and may not seem very exciting even if they are authentic. For this reason, I think it is important to focus on the richness of flavour using the freshest possible produce and full cream dairy to capture the excellence of the meal.
The menus I have been able to locate haven’t given any detail about the accompanying beverages, but there’s a very good chance First Class passengers would have been offered a choice from a selection to match each course.
According to TITANICa, first class diners had the smoothest ride on the ship and enjoyed patterned linoleum tiles representing a Persian carpet. They sat at small conversational tables in comfortable arm chairs. You can see they had white linens, and presumably crystal glasses and silver cutlery.
For women, simple empire line dresses with heavy ornamentation such as beading and embroidery with ornate jewellery.
For men, very formal Edwardian style! The upper class would have dressed white tie for dinner as a matter of course, so I can’t imagine that they could have let the standards slip on board given that these “niceties” are what marked them apart.
As always, six guests invited to arrive 6.30 for 7.00pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Punch Romaine and Shrimp Butter on Toast
The sixth course on the Titanic menu, Punch Romaine, was in fact, a palate cleansing ice mainly composed of wine, rum and champagne… For our purposes, it will make a nice cocktail apéritif. To make one, add 1 egg white, 1 oz (30ml) white rum, 1 oz (30ml) white wine, 1 oz (30ml) fresh orange juice, 1/2 oz (15ml) sugar syrup, 1/2 oz (15ml) lemon juice to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a coupe glass (the dish-shaped one) and top with 2 oz (60 ml) champagne. Or multiply by 6 and pop in the blender. It comes out with a drinkable soft frozen meringue sort of texture. Or you could skip the egg white and just do an alcoholic slushy! To make the sugar syrup just heat 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves and boil for one minute before removing from the heat and allowing to cool.
During the course of my research, a lot of people have recreated a dish called Canapés à l’Amiral, from Last Dinner On the Titanic (affiliate link) which looks to be the perfect creamy contrast to our acidic cocktail. Basically, you make a shrimp (or prawn) paste, smear it on toast and top with some cooked shrimp. To make the paste, heat some oil and sauté a minced shallot and a garlic clove over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until softened, then increase the heat and add 8 oz (225g) unshelled shrimp for 5 minutes until the shells go pink and the meat opaque. Take the pan off the heat and remove the shrimp. Transfer the shallot mixture and shrimp meat into a blender. Return the pan to the heat and deglaze with and deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of brandy for about 30 minutes, pour into the blender and pulse to a coarse chop. Add 4 oz (113g) cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, salt, pepper and a dash of vanilla and process until almost smooth. Set aside to develop the flavour, overnight would give the best result.
7.00 Appetiser: Cream of Barley Soup with red wine
There are a number of substantial cream barley recipes available on the net, but I can’t help feeling that with so many courses to come, and the other soup on offer being a consommé, that the barley soup would have been quite light. I turn once again to Mrs Beeton (affiliate link) and her barley soup. Pop 2 lbs (1 kg) of shin of beef, 1/4 lb (115g) of pearl barley, a large bunch of parsley, 4 onions, 6 potatoes, salt and pepper in 4 quarts (3.75 l) of water and simmer gently for three hours. A lot of cream soups are also blended soups, so when the three hours are up, remove the bone and blend the soup until it is very smooth. Strain it into a clean pan and because it’s first class and you want some richness of flavour add a dry red wine like Shiraz, Merlot or Malbec, say a cup (to your taste), and serve the rest with the soup. Gently reheat. You could add a dollop of cream or sour cream to the soup once it’s in the bowl. And if you want to make it more substantial, pick the beef off the bone and out it back in with the soup. And as a relatively bland soup, you would be best to make it the day before and allow some time for the flavour to intensify.
8.00 Main: Crown Roast Lamb with potatoes, peas and carrots
The fifth course included lamb with mint sauce, potatoes, peas and carrots. The Edwardians preferred meat to vegetables, and when they had vegetables preferred them really well done; probably best to prepare them according to modern tastes.
Lamb: allow 3 chops per person (two racks of nine, or three of six). Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Roughly chop some rosemary, mint and garlic, and put in a blender with some salt, pepper and olive oil, blend to form a paste. Cut a little way into the rack between each rib so that you can bend the racks to form a circle, then cut a crisscross pattern into the meat and smear the herb paste into the cuts. Sew the last chop of each joint together, and then around the crown (here’s how – the video will auto start). Cook according to taste (rare: 18 minutes per 1 lb (450g), 24 minutes for medium and 30 for well-done).
Potatoes and carrots: peel 1-2 potatoes and 1 – 2 carrots per person, and chop into chunks. Boil for 5 – 10 minutes then drain. Drizzle with the herb past and shake the pan to coat the vegetables, then pour into the roasting tray and cook with the meat.
Peas: fresh peas would be best, but you could use frozen. Boil for 2 – 3 minutes with a sprig of mint in the minimum amount of water. You could puree this in the blender and pipe it in pretty shapes onto the plate.
Mint Sauce: you could use prepared, but fresh is much tastier. Chop the leaves from a bunch of mint and pop in a jug with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar then stir in 4 tablespoons of boiling water and leave to cool. Top up with 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
Gravy: really good gravy starts with the pan juices (yes fat) – 1 tablespoon per cup of gravy. I recommend allowing half a cup per person. Take the meat and vegetables out of the pan and put it on the stove. Whisk 1 tablespoon of flour for each tablespoon of pan juices to form a thick paste, then gradually add the required liquid in. You could also substitute the first cup of water with a cup of red wine or some brandy.
9.00 Dessert: Waldorf Pudding
This meal has been quite light on for vegetables (in my opinion), so fruit for pudding will go some way to make up the difference. I have to say that I was really torn by the choice between Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly and Waldorf Pudding, but just now custard appeals more than jelly (new and exciting though it was at the time). This one also comes from Last Dinner On the Titanic.
Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) and grease 6 x 1 cup ramekins.
Peel and finely chop 2 large tart apples, and stir together with 1/2 cup of raisins, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon chopped crystallised ginger. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a pan and cook the apple mix for a few minutes then stir in 2 tablespoons sugar and cook until the apples caramelise. Divide amongst the ramekins.
Beat 4 egg yolks. Pour 2 cups of milk into a medium saucepan and warm over a medium heat until it starts to bubble. Mix a little hot milk into the eggs and pour them into the saucepan. Whisk constantly until blended then add 1/3 cup of sugar, still whisking until it thickens. Grate in some nutmeg and mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour over the apples.
Pop the ramekins in a large roasting tray and pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the ramekins. Put in the oven and cook 45 – 50 minutes until the custard is set but still a little on the jelly jiggly side. Put the ramekins on a rack to cool, depending on your timeframe you can make these the day before and leave them in the fridge to set.
To serve, slide a knife around the edge, put a plate on the top and quickly turn it over so the pudding slips out. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts.
10.00 Coffee, fruit and cheese
Titanic’s cheese board may have been immense, but a basic cheese platter will have a young, an old and a blue cheese as well as some fruit such as an apple, some fruit paste, nuts and crackers. Your coffee and your standard after dinner alcoholic beverage of fortified wine e.g. port, or a distillation such as ouzo, liqueur like Grand Marnier or a brandy.
Again assuming the cleaning, table laying, etc. is complete, we’ll pick up at the cooking (and as usual I recommend a practice run, and an acceptance of schedule slippage).
And if as suggested above, you have prepared the shrimp paste, soup and dessert ahead of time your preparation will be relatively simple.
4.00 make the mint sauce
5.45 parboil your vegetables and prepare your crown roast
6.15 get the meat in the oven
6.20 put your apéritif together and get your drinks laid out ready to go
6.30 guests start arriving
6.45 reheat soup
7.00 serve entree
7.45 take the food out of the oven, make the gravy and cook the peas
8.00 serve main
8.45 “plate up” dessert
9.00 serve dessert
9.45 put the cheese plate together and make the coffee
10.00 serve coffee
And that’s one possible Advanced Titanic Dinner Party. Do you think that’s cheating? Should it be hard work?