dinner in camelot

~ This is the fourth in a series of posts about Presidential Food.

John F. Kennedy was a small eater, and often had to be coaxed with a bowl of his favorite clam or fish chowder. He once requested it three days in a row. Unlike his brother, Bobby, who liked “chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, served with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce,” JFK was an angel’s food cake man all the way. With fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries, of course.

He and Jackie were true patrons of the creative arts, often inviting authors, poets, musicians, and artists to White House gatherings. Jackie hired French chef Rene Verdon, who received the Chevalier de la Legion D’Honneur for his contribution to French cuisine. His recipe for Strawberries Romanoff and JFK’s Favorite Clam Chowder can be found here.

An especially memorable State Dinner was prepared for Ayub Kahn, President of Pakistan. The magical evening began with a cruise down the Potomac aboard the presidential yacht (followed by PT boats to honor JFK’s service in WWII) to Mount Vernon. Upon their arrival, guests were treated to mint juleps (George Washington’s recipe). A candlelight house tour, parade of the Fife and Drum Corps (in Colonial costumes), and music by the National Symphony Orchestra delighted everyone.

Little did they realize the panic taking place behind the scenes, including vicious mosquitoes, a last-minute acoustical shell constructed so the orchestra could be heard, and the logistics of transporting all the food 12 miles from the White House kitchens.

Le Menu

July 11, 1961

Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa
Haut-Brion Blanc 1958
Poulet Chasseur
Couronne de Riz Clamart
Moet et Chandon Imperial Brut 1955
Framboises a la Creme Chantilly
Petits Fours Sec
Demitasse and Liqueurs

Speaking of Poulet Chasseur, I made some last weekend. Easy, healthful and scrumptious, not requiring any exotic ingredients. I found the recipe in my Hammersmith Farm Cookbook, which I purchased when I visited the Newport, Rhode Island, “Summer White House” years ago. The Hammersmith Farm estate was owned by Jackie’s stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss, Jr. — a fascinating place if you haven’t been, as are all the other gorgeous summer residences in Newport. (JFK and Jackie were married at Hammersmith in 1953.)

Enjoy this dish soon, whether or not your yacht is nearby.

A White House Recipe

Serves 4

Salt and pepper to taste
1 3-lb fryer, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 lb butter
2 T olive oil
1/2 lb raw mushrooms, sliced
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup chicken consomme
1 cup dry white wine
2 T brandy
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp chopped tarragon

Salt and pepper the pieces of fowl and saute in butter and olive oil until golden brown. Take meat out of fat and saute mushrooms and shallots in same hot oil. When they begin to turn a golden color, pour in consomme, white wine and brandy. Let simmer, uncovered, to reduce liquid to about one third. Add tomato paste and tarragon and return chicken to the pan. Simmer, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve the fowl with its own sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.

If you have an inkling for dessert, try Jackie’s famous Creme Brulee.

~ from President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961:

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike; that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Full text of address can be found here.

*Photos courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library

12 thoughts on “dinner in camelot

  1. You can afford to eat all the angel food cake you want,since you’ll be running all those calories off while training for the marathon. BTW, are you following a special diet for it?


  2. Further proof I would have made a good Kennedy! I too love clam chowder, and angel food cake with strawberries!


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