Politicians love to do lunch. So it's no surprise that after President Barack Obama gives his inaugural speech on the steps of the Capitol building Monday, he and some 200 guests, including his wife and daughters, will celebrate with a quick, but quietly elegant, midday meal.
One of the most coveted invitations of the 57th Inaugural Ceremonies, the power lunch in National Statuary Hall follows a long tradition of wining and dining the new administration and selected VIPs immediately following the president's swearing in: In 1897, Congress gave its first Inauguration Day luncheon for President William McKinley and several other dignitaries at the U.S. Capitol, setting the stage for Monday's event. Six months in the making, it's being hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Prepared under the watch of the White House's security team, the three-course meal was devised by executive chef Shannon Shaffer of Design Cuisine, the Arlington, Va., catering company that's prepared and served the past five inaugural lunches. There also will be toasts, gift presentations and speeches, though not very long ones, as everyone has to be finished eating in 60 minutes so the president can get to the 2 p.m. start of the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The inaugural luncheon hasn't always been such a fancy affair -- the buffet following Franklin D. Roosevelt's second inauguration included only coffee, sandwiches and cake. It wasn't until 1953 that it took on its current form, when President Dwight Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie, and 50 other guests dined on creamed chicken, baked sugar-cured ham, potato puffs and ice cream sundaes in the Old Senate Chamber.
In the past, the luncheon has featured dishes that commemorate presidents.
At Mr. Obama's first inaugural luncheon in 2009, which honored the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, guests noshed on some of Mr. Lincoln's favorite foods, including wild game (duck and pheasant) and winter vegetables (Brussels sprouts and wax beans). Monday, they'll break with that tradition by instead celebrating the theme of the inauguration, "Faith in America's Future," and paying homage to the farm-to-table movement.
Chef Shaffer's contemporary menu features hickory-smoked sliced bison tenderloin with a wild huckleberry reduction, and Maine lobster tail served on sauteed spinach with New England clam chowder sauce. Guests also will enjoy pureed butternut squash, sauteed red cabbage sweetened with strawberry preserves and -- chef Shaffer is really out on a limb here -- boiled baby golden beets. (It's been widely reported that the president and first lady are not fans of the root vegetable.)
And for dessert? There will be Mr. Obama's favorite, pie, made with apples grown in New York's Hudson Valley.
Individual Hudson Valley Apple Pies
Pie is President Barack Obama's favorite dessert, so it's only fitting it will be on the menu at Monday's 57th Inaugural Luncheon at National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, following his public swearing-in ceremony. Don't worry if you're not a baker -- this crust is so easy, even a novice can roll it beautifully. (If it tears, just patch it together.) Choose an apple that will hold up to baking, such as Granny Smith or Fuji, or you'll end up with applesauce inside the pastry. Serve any leftover caramel sauce over ice cream.
For pie dough:
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 ounces sugar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons water
For cinnamon crumble topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For apple filling:
1 pound apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin (I used Granny Smith)
3 ounces sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For maple caramel sauce
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup maple syrup (dark amber)
Ice cream, colby cheese, honey, for garnish, if desired
Prepare pie dough: In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until mixed well, and then mix in the egg. Combine the flour and salt and then stir into the butter mixture. Add the water 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough pulls together.
Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rest in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Can be made up to 2 days in advance.
Prepare cinnamon crumble topping: In a food processor, blend flour, sugar, brown sugar a pinch of salt and cinnamon. Add chilled butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.
Prepare apple filling by combining apples, sugar, cinnamon, corn starch and vanilla extract in a bowl. Set aside.
Assemble pies: Portion chilled dough into 4 equal parts and roll out to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Place in individual metal ring molds or 4-inch aluminum pie shells. Layer the apples tightly into pie dough in tins until full. They will be piled higher than the sides of the shell. The apples will cook down during baking.
Top each pie with cinnamon crumble and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on pie rack.
While pies are baking, make maple caramel sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sugar and pinch of salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved, then adjust heat to medium and boil for 2 minutes longer. Add maple syrup and boil, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick, smooth, and coats a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat and hold warm for serving.
To serve: Divide caramel sauce on 4 small plates. Place 1 pie on top of each. Garnish with small scoop of vanilla ice cream and wedges of Colby cheese drizzled with a bit of honey.
Makes 4 pies.
-- Executive chef Shannon Shaffer of Design Cuisine, courtesy of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (inaugural.senate.gov)
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.