Who knew? The final lunch menu served to first-class guests aboard the doomed Titanic included a dish called chicken a la Maryland. The historic document was recently auctioned in Britain for $122,000.
But when Langermann’s restaurant holds its Titanic dinner April 12-14 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, chicken a la Maryland won’t be on the menu.
“I wasn’t aware of it,” said David McGill, a Langermann’s partner with chef Neal Langermann. That’s because they are basing their meal on a menu found in the book, “Last Dinner on the Titanic” by Rick Archbold.
Langermann’s multi-course meal—paired down from the original 11-course menu that Titanic diners were served—includes several authentic dishes, including asparagus salad, poached salmon, roasted lamb, and Waldorf bread pudding.
The cost is $35 for the dinner; $55 with wine pairings.
“We did this on New Year’s to provide something different for New Year’s Eve,” McGill said. “It was a good success. We said, ‘Let’s do it for the anniversary.’”
If Langermann’s had been trying to duplicate the Titanic’s lunch menu they may have been stumped by that chicken a la Maryland dish. No one seems to be exactly sure what preparation was served that fateful day.
John Shields, chef/owner of Gertrude’s at the Baltimore Museum of Art, is certain it’s not deep-fried chicken. “I personally feel sure it’s chicken with cream gravy and corn fritters.”
Shields, who is also a cookbook author, cites books like “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Maryland” by Frederick Steiff and “Dining on the B&O” by Thomas Greco for his deduction. He also added that the chicken usually includes broiled bacon.
Others, like Spilled Milk Catering in D.C., have also given this Maryland chicken some thought. The caterers recently posted a blog on the subject:
“The Maryland version is not deep fried in oil or shortening, instead being shallow fried in a skillet until browned, and then covered over a reduced heat for up to 40 minutes to allow the chicken pieces to steam as well as fry. Cream or milk is then added to the pan juices to produce an accompanying cream gravy.”
They also noted that “in France, the great chef, Escoffier, published a ‘Chicken a la Maryland’ recipe whereby pan-fried chicken was served with a garnish of bananas.”
The plot thickens.
Nancy Siegel, a Towson University professor of art history who also specializes in culinary history, said, “‘Chicken a la’ was a popular device—I have a recipe for chicken a la President for example. … These recipes were more significant for their title/association than they were [for] a set recipe. … So, one person’s chicken a la Maryland may not have been the same as another cook’s.”
With that in mind, here’s a recipe for Maryland chicken from epicurious.com. Go ahead, add corn fritters, bacon, or bananas if you’d like!
Maryland Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
1/2 cup milk
2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or light cream
Put 1 cup flour with salt and pepper in a large (1-gallon) sealable plastic bag, then seal bag and shake to combine.
Turn chicken pieces in milk in a bowl, then add chicken to flour mixture and seal bag (discard milk). Shake to coat and let stand in bag while oil heats.
Heat oil in skillet over moderately high heat until it registers 360 degrees on thermometer. Add chicken, skin sides down, and cook, covered, until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken over with tongs and cook, covered, 5 minutes more.
Transfer chicken with tongs to a plate. Pour fat from skillet into a heatproof bowl (to cool before discarding) and add 1/2 cup water to skillet. Return chicken to skillet, skin sides up, and cook, covered, over moderate heat, turning over twice, until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet, then stir 1 tablespoon flour into remaining fat and cook over moderate heat, whisking, 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cook, scraping up brown bits, 2 minutes. Add half-and-half, whisking, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until sauce is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and spoon over chicken.
—From Gourmet, April 2004
Photo courtesy of epicurious.com