Marisa Renwald: Titanic’s last meal, Chicken Lyonnaise simple but elegant
Marisa Renwald March 5, 2012 3:56PM
Updated: April 10, 2012 9:55AM
In just about one month, the world will be grieving the century mark of the Titanic’s catastrophic capsizal. But with this 100th commemoration also comes the oddly macabre, yet still poignant, celebration of all the early 20th century Edwardian glamour that went down with this behemoth. A romantic interlude to the tragedy that followed, the enchantment of high society with their perfectly-coifed hair, starched tuxedo tails and dainty hands clad in kid gloves brings us in to an entirely different world where chivalry and class went hand-in-hand.
The same thing could be said about the food on that mighty ship. Specialized menus gave a glimpse into the lives of the socialites in the first-class, and a 10-course meal served to the mediocrity of the third-class certainly wasn’t something to sneer at.
In Rich Archbold’s book “Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner” (published in 1997), the extraordinary meal that would be the last for many of the Titanic’s guests had the panache and artistry of a request from an aristocrat on death row.
“Reproducing the Titanic’s marvelous food is surely one of the best ways to experience a bygone age of luxury and leisure,” wrote Walter Lord, author of “A Night to Remember” and the foreward of this cookbook. “Through the most revealing of social customs, the preparation and consumption of food, ‘Last Dinner on the Titanic’ provides a wonderful window into the social life of an Edwardian age steaming unwittingly toward oblivion.”
First-class diners munched on roast duckling with applesauce, salmon with mousseline sauce, roast squab and cress, pate de foie gras, and Waldorf pudding while brandishing their jewels and monocles. The menu items were prepared with the most expensive and foreign ingredients, including this recipe for Chicken Lyonnaise, a rather simple yet elegant entree.
“This is one of the most delicious items on the first-class dinner menu,” writes Archbold. “The sauce is from Lyons, considered by many to be the gastronomic capital of France, and employs two foods for which the area is renowned — onions from the Rhone Valley and poultry from Bresse.”
An ideal recipe for replicating at home — perhaps for a Titanic dinner party — it is easy to whip together using only the ingredients in your own kitchen. And the taste will certainly take you back a century. Heavy on flavor, it isn’t at all overwhelmingly rich. It is something that, coincidentally enough, tastes like an entree that would be served at a high meal on a cruise ship.
A century later, the fascination hasn’t ended. Pining for a lost era, a story almost out of a fairy tale, your quest to relive the memory can once again be reincarnated with a first-class meal.
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
6 boneless chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons tomato paste
Pinch granulated sugar
In sturdy plastic bag, shake together flour, 1 tablespoon of the thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon if using dried), salt and pepper. One at a time, dip chicken breasts into egg, then shake in flour mixture.
In large deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Place chicken in pan, skin side down. Cook, turning once, for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from skillet and place in 225-degree oven.
Reduce heat to medium; add remaining oil to skillet. Stir in onions, garlic and remaining thyme; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook onions, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Add wine to pan; cook, stirring to scrape up any brown bits, for about 1 minute of until reduced by half. Stir in stock, tomato paste and sugar.
Boil for 2 minutes or until beginning to thicken. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat, and cook for 5 minutes or until juices from chicken run clear. Makes 6 servings.
“Last Dinner On the
Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner” by Rich Archbold and Dana McCauley, Hyperion, 1997