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Dining Aboard the SS United States

"The ocean's breeze is a sauce you cannot duplicate ashore," reads The Captain's Table — the recipe book published by United States Lines and distributed to passengers of the SS United States and SS America.

Indeed, there was something undeniably special about the food served on these two iconic vessels. Travelers from all corners of the globe marveled at the delicious cuisine prepared aboard the Big U and her “older sister,” the America.

Valerie Kleber enjoys a stateroom breakfast aboard the SS United States.

Photograph courtesy of Louis Kleber.

Former passenger Michael Pittner shared this story of traveling aboard the SS United States in June 1955:

My family had at that time very little knowledge of the English language and, when confronted with a menu in the dining room in English, we had no clue what was being offered. A waiter from Hamburg, Germany, was kind enough to translate the menu. We were not accustomed to fancy meals, since during the early postwar years in Germany, it was hard to get food. The waiter suggested some entrees, maybe a salad, and then some dessert. For us a “salad” was a little side-dish, and so we ordered a salad with our meal. When the food came, we were astonished that the salad was so huge, it was, in itself, a complete meal. And the steak! We hadn’t had meat like that in years! We felt very ashamed to have ordered so much food, remembering the food hardship we had endured at home.

Of course, the Pittner family was not alone in their amazement. Passengers of all stripes fondly recalled the meals they'd enjoyed on the United States long after they arrived at their destinations.

Inspired by the rising popularity of the fine cuisine offered on board their vessels, United States Lines created the cookbook, The Captain’s Table, in 1966. The book included some of the most famous recipes ever served on the SS United States and the SS America.

The Captain's Table was offered to United States Lines passengers, so they could try their hand at replicating their favorite dishes from their travels at home.

Though the book is long out of print, today, we’re delighted to be able to share one of its most popular recipes with you: Lobster à L’United States.

Ingredients (serves 4):

Two 1-1/2 pound live lobsters, steamed

1 Carrot, finely chopped

1 whole leak, well-washed and finely chopped

1 Celery stalk, finely chopped

2 Shallots, finely chopped

2 Tbsp clarified butter

Lemon zest


Cayenne pepper


Brandy, warmed

3 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp tomato paste

4 Cups chicken stock

1/2 Cup heavy cream, warmed

*Truffles – substitute with 1/2 tbsp truffle oil

1/4 Cup sherry

Preparation: Pre-heat your oven to 450° F. Crack the claws and cut the tails of the lobsters into thick slices. Reserve the rest of the lobsters for later. In a flame-proof casserole dish, sauté the carrot, leek, celery, and shallots in the clarified butter for 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the lobster pieces and add lemon zest, paprika, cayenne and salt to taste.

Cover the casserole and bake the mixture for 8-10 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and put it over high heat to reduce the remaining liquid. Pour the warm brandy over the lobster and ignite the spirit. When the flames die, dust the lobster with flour and stir in the tomato paste. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook the mixture, covered, over very low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in heated heavy cream. Remove the casserole from the heat and sprinkle with truffle oil and herbs. Stir in sherry and serve (suggested pairing: saffron rissoto (rice) or croutons).


Do you remember any meals you enjoyed aboard the SS United States? Share them, along with any other memories of your time aboard America’s Flagship, by sending an email to

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