You probably know the story already: Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) is part of a two-man entertainment act with Phil Davis (Danny Kaye). Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) is part of an act with her sister, Judy (Vera-Ellen). They all end up at the same inn in Vermont; great music and romantic hijinks ensue.
What isn’t there to love about this movie? Here are my top five favourite things about White Christmas:
5. The dancing. Vera-Ellen was a former Rockette, and she lights up the screen every time she performs, from the perfectly titled “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing” to “Mandy”.
4. The scene where the General walks into the dining room on Christmas Eve and – well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. If you haven’t, watch it.
3. Mary Wickes as housekeeper Emma. Even if you think you don’t know her, you do. She made several appearances on I Love Lucy. She played Bette Davis’s nurse in Now Voyager. She played Aunt March in the 1994 version of Little Women. She even had an ongoing role in TVs The Father Dowling Mysteries. (Yes, I watched The Father Dowling Mysteries. If there’s any sentence I could type that would make me less cool, please don’t let me know.)
2. The musical number “Sisters”. It’s sweet when the Haynes sisters sing it and funny when Bing and Danny sing it. My sister Gwen and I still sing it sometimes, without the props.
1. I watch it every December. I make my family watch it with me, and there’s generally an assortment of complaints as we make our way downstairs to the family room. Then the movie starts and, for two hours, they are as enraptured as I am.
You’re wondering how this relates to food?
Betty and Bob meet in the inn one evening, both unable to sleep, and Bob offers to serve her a sandwich. She tells him that she doesn’t care what kind he makes:
Bob: Tell me what you want to dream about and I'll know what to give you.
Betty: What's that?
Bob: I got a whole big theory about it. Different kinds of food make for different kinds of dreams. If I have a ham and cheese on rye I dream about a tall cool blonde. Turkey, I'll dream about a brunette.
Betty: What about liverwurst?
Bob: Oh, I dream about liverwurst.
When I made these chicken salad sandwiches, I’m pretty sure I dreamed about chicken salad. Many of my favourite recipes come from The Barefoot Contessa and this recipe, simple as it is, is up there with the best.
Later in that scene, Bob went on to sing “Counting My Blessings Instead of Sheep”:
“When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep.
I fall asleep counting my blessings.”
To my family, friends, and faithful readers, I wish you a very happy holiday season, and a New Year full of blessings.
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
(from Barefoot Contessa at Home)
4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup good mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 cup small-diced celery (2 stalks)
8 to 10 slices seven-grain bread
1 package mesclun salad mix
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside to cool.
When the chicken is cool, remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken into 3/4 inch cubes. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the mayonnaise, tarragon, celery, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and toss well.
To assemble, spread a little butter on half the bread slices, top with the chicken salad and mesclun mix, and cover with the remaining slices of bread. Cut in half and serve.