Passengers on the Titanic were ready for dinner, not for the tragic end of the new luxury liner on April 15, 1912. Of course, not everyone sat down to the same meal — nor the eventual outcome.
Gary Holzem, director of dining services at Laclede Groves retirement community, researched meals served from the single kitchen before the ship sank that night so he could translate them into a dinner finale for Titanic Week at the Lutheran Senior Services' facility in Webster Groves.
"It depended on what class you were. The first-class passengers had a 12-course dinner, while everyday passengers in third class were served Irish stew as their final dinner," he said. "Ragout of beef, potatoes and pickles" would have been the stew's proper name.
The special dinner at Laclede Groves was moved from the anniversary date to Friday, the 13th, to accommodate the 371 residents in independent housing. Holzem expects the dining room, with a wooded view, to look splendid — as will residents dressed for a first-class event, rather than third-class steerage.
In its regular role, a standing committee of residents helped select the menu.
"We let them decide. We gave them the whole menu. Most of the dishes are variations of things we are accustomed to for a big event. When you think of a big meal, you include a carving of roast beef, for example," he said.
Holzem trimmed the first-class menu from 12 courses to "just" nine.
He detailed the sumptuous menu, set to play out with violin music in the background. After shrimp cocktail comes cream of barley soup, then poached salmon. Roast sirloin of beef is served with chateau potatoes — fried before oven-baking — and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and creamed carrots alongside. Raspberry sorbet soothes the palate after the heavy plate.
"The residents chose pate with poached celery, which surprised me," he said. Macedoine de fruits, a fruit cup, is next. For the sweet dessert, waiters wearing vest and tie over their usual white shirts — to go "first class all the way" — will deliver an eclair with vanilla ice cream. The meal closes with cheese and fruit.
"I can hardly wait to see how they dress up for dinner that evening. They all love to get in the spirit," Holzem added. "We want the whole community to participate in the Titanic event, so residents in skilled nursing areas will enjoy similar items at their tables that night, too."
Earlier in the week, Laclede Groves residents will eat Irish stew, the meal of third-class passengers, before they watch the "A Night to Remember," a 1958 docudrama recreating the last night of the ship's voyage.
ROAST SIRLOIN OF BEEF
1 (5 to 6 lb.) sirloin of beef on the bone
1/2 onion, peeled
1 level tbsp. dry mustard
1 level tbsp. flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place beef upright in large roasting pan, tucking in onion alongside meat.
Combine dry mustard and flour. Dust over surface of meat. Season with a few twists of pepper. This creates a crisp edge, while onion caramelizes for rich color and flavor for gravy.
Roast in preheated oven 20 minutes. Lower heat to 375 degrees. Cook additional 15 minutes per pound for rare, adding 15 minutes for medium-rare or 30 minutes for well done. As meat cooks, baste with juices at least three times. To check, insert thin skewer into meat and press out some juice; red, pink or clear indicates doneness (using meat thermometer, remove meat at 145 degrees for medium-rare, 160 degrees for medium).
Remove beef to carving board. Let rest while keeping warm at least 30 minutes (oven time for chateau potatoes) so juices seep back into meat; save any that escape for gravy.
Bone-in roast yields about 2-1/2 three-ounce servings of cooked, trimmed beef per pound.
In large oven-safe skillet, melt 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter over medium-high heat. Saute 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (traditionally ovals), 5 minutes. Place skillet in preheated 400-degree oven. Roast, stirring often, 20 minutes.
Remove from oven. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional), 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.