Interest in the Titanic sails on as the 100th anniversary of its April 15, 1912, sinking draws near. Museums, theaters and hotels are preparing special menus to mark the centennial.
The Henry Ford Museum had a sold-out dinner for 400 at its opening of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, which began a long run in Dearborn, Mich. In nearby Royal Oak, a Titanic dinner will kick off the Stagecrafters' production of Titanic: The Musical.
The Kirby House, a bed-and- breakfast in Saugatuck, Mich., will put on its annual Titanic dinner, and in Alma, Mich., the public library will be turned into a ship's dining hall for a buffet-style affair for 125.
Titanic enthusiast David McMacken, 71, of neighboring St. Louis suggested the Alma library event. Because of the centennial, "it's literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said McMacken, a retired high school teacher who has donated more than 100 books on the Titanic to the Alma Library.
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Some event organizers took menu cues from Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes From the Great Liner by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley (Madison Press, $25.95).
Then, like chef-owner Greg Reyner of Café Muse in Royal Oak, they looked for ways to modernize and economize.
"One of the menus had marrow," said Reyner, who is preparing the sold-out strolling buffet for 250 on Thursday at Royal Oak's Baldwin Theatre. "We had to find things that were comparable."
For example, Reyner will serve caviar-topped deviled eggs instead of oysters. Beef consommé topped with scallops will become a tomato-based consommé served in cucumber cups.
One of Reyner's entrees will be chicken with braised leeks, spinach and apples, a takeoff on the Titanic's roast squab with watercress.
"And we are contrasting the opulent first class with the steerage-esque, so to speak, third class," Reyner said. So a boiled dinner also is on the menu.
This is the 14th year for the Titanic dinner at the Kirby House in Saugatuck. Owner Jim Gowran began the events in 1998, the year James Cameron's film won the Academy Award.
"We rotate the main entree each year," Gowran said.
This year, it's filet mignon Lili with creamed carrots and chateau potatoes.
Gowran's event Saturday will feature guests dressed in period costume or black tie. Each is given the name of a passenger and information about the passenger.
"At the end of the dinner, they find out if they survived," Gowran said.
Canapés a l'Amiral
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallot, peeled, ends removed, minced
1 clove garlic, peeled, ends removed, minced
8 ounces shrimp in shell, rinsed
¼ cup brandy
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (regular or reduced fat)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Dash of vanilla
20 slices (about ½ -inch thick) baguette
1 teaspoon lime juice
10 small cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
20 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons caviar (see note)
To prepare shrimp butter: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until softened.
Increase heat to high and add shrimp. Sauté shrimp until shells are pink and flesh is opaque. Remove shrimp and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel shrimp and discard shells. Transfer shrimp and skillet contents to a blender or a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Then return the skillet to the heat and pour in brandy. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds or until brandy is reduced to a glaze. Scrape the glaze into the shrimp mixture.
Pulse the shrimp mixture until it is coarsely chopped. Add cream cheese, butter, tomato paste, salt, pepper and vanilla. Process until almost smooth. Set aside.
To prepare canapés: Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler for 1 minute a side or until lightly golden. Remove from broiler and set aside. Drizzle lime juice over cooked shrimp halves; stir and reserve.
To assemble canapes: Place shrimp butter in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tube. Pipe shrimp butter onto the toasted baguette slices, or spread mixture on slices using a table knife. Top each with a cooked shrimp half, a parsley leaf and a small amount of caviar.
Note: Sautéing the shrimp in their shells enhances their flavor, but you can peel and devein the raw shrimp first. If desired, substitute lumpfish caviar for caviar.
Makes 20 canapes.
From Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner
Greg Reyner, chef-owner of Café Muse in Royal Oak, Mich., developed this recipe based on one of the courses of the last first-class dinner on the Titanic — originally roast squab with watercress. Reyner substituted chicken thighs and spinach.
Braised chicken with leeks, spinach and apples
Flour for dredging (about ¾ cup)
Olive oil for frying (about ¼ cup)
8 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 leeks (white parts only), sliced, rinsed well, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, diced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
1 large apple (such as Granny Smith), peeled and diced
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and torn
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place flour in shallow dish or pie plate. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels, dredge with flour and shake off excess. Working in batches, carefully add thighs to skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Once you have nice color on the thighs, turn and brown the second side. Once the chicken is browned, transfer to a baking dish. Add leeks and garlic to the skillet, and sauté for a minute, until softened. Deglaze with wine and add diced apple. Pour everything over thighs. Cover tightly with foil and bake until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Chicken should be tender but not falling apart. At this point, stir in spinach and cook 10 minutes more, uncovered. Test for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
Makes 8 servings.
From Cafe Muse, Royal Oak.
Asparagus salad with champagne-saffron vinaigrette
1½ pounds asparagus, rinsed
Boiling salted water
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon boiling water
1½ tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
½ to 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
½ sweet red or yellow pepper, diced
6 leaf or butter lettuce leaves
Holding asparagus halfway up the stalk, snap off woody ends at a natural breaking point and discard.
In a wide, deep skillet or large pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus spears 3 minutes, or until they are tender but not limp. Drain cooking water and run spears under cold water until they are completely cooled; drain well. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir saffron into teaspoon boiling water. Let stand for 2 minutes or until saffron is softened. Stir in vinegar, mustard and sugar. Whisk in olive oil. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. If you want the vinaigrette thicker, add more Dijon. Add asparagus and diced pepper; toss gently to coat with vinaigrette. Line a platter with lettuce leaves and arrange asparagus mixture on top.
Makes 6 servings.
From Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner.