All the Presidents’ Tables: Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Lunch Menu 1981


Reagan’s first inauguration boasted the honor of being the first inauguration celebrated on the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Held in Statuary Hall, Ronald Reagan’s 1981 luncheon featured a “California Cuisine” menu. The U.S. Air Force String Quartet and  U.S. Army Strings performed for the 200 guests. Each guest received a series of frameable prints of past inaugurations …

January 20, 1981

California Garden Salad
Sautéed Chicken Breast Covered with White Wine Sauce and Capers*
Rice Pilaf
Hot Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette
Strawberries with Raspberry Sauce

Served with California wines

A Shot of Chicken Piccata, or, Almost the Same Recipe
A Shot of Chicken Piccata, or, Almost the Same Recipe

Serves 4

The Reagan inaugural recipe appears to be a dressed-up version of “Chicken Piccata.” This version probably comes close to that served to the new president.

4 chicken breast halves, boneless, skinless, pounded to ¼-inch thickness
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 T. flour
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
½ small yellow onion, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
3 fresh sage leaves, finely minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. capers, rinsed
2 T. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge lightly with the flour. Heat the oil until almost smoking over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken in the oil for about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan. Keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion to the oil in the pan and briefly cook until slightly translucent. Add the wine and sage. Reduce by almost half. Stir in the lemon juice and capers. Add the chicken breasts to the sauce and heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Do not overcook or the chicken will be tough.

Serve sprinkled liberally with the parsley.

© 2008 C. Bertelsen

Don Reid
Photo credit: Don Reid

2 thoughts on “All the Presidents’ Tables: Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Lunch Menu 1981

  1. Thanks so much for your wonderful site.

    I have a request for a recipe:
    As I recall, one of Nancy Regan’s friends was an accomplished chef who wrote a cookbook. In that cookbook, there was a recipe for a kind of “cheese twist.” I think that’s what they were called. Anyway, those “cheese twists” were supposedly served with chicken at President Regan’s first or second inaugural luncheon.

    Parade magazine published the recipe for those “cheese twists.” I tried the recipe and found the “cheese twists” to be delicious. Sadly, I’ve lost that recipe. Do you happen to have that recipe in your files? If you do, I would be very pleased if you cost post it.

    Thanks very much!


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