Recipes inspired by musicals: White Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2011

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

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.


Gloria Baker said...

What nice Beth:) I whish you a happy and nice Christmas:)

Joanne said...

My family loves that movie, and watch it every year too. We have much of the dialogue memorized, and it often pops up in our conversations :)

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas!

Valerie Gamine said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I've never watched White Christmas (I've seen bits and pieces, but never the entire movie.) I'll definitely try and remedy that this year! :D

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Carol said...

Haven't seen that movie in ages. Of course now I'll be dreaming of that chicken salad sandwich, it looks so good :)
Merry Christmas to you and your family, Beth!

A Canadian Foodie said...

What a great thoughtful and reflective post, Beth! Merry Christmas! There is definitely magic in the air! Best wishes for a prosperous and dream filled 2012!

Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed to say that for as much as I love musicals, I've never seen White Christmas. I must change that fact. Many Christmas Blessings to you and your family, Beth!


Justine L said...

Merry Christmas to you, too! Wishing you a new year full of love, laughter, good food, and wonderful adventures. :)

Kayte said...

Oh, I just love this movie! Still giggling over the sandwich find the most interesting things to connect with your food! Merry Christmas! Hope you and all of yours have a wonderful day celebrating and enjoying one another.

Anonymous said...

Love Ina recipes! This looks great!

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

I LOVE that movie! We try to watch it every December, too. It's magical. And you can never go wrong with a recipe from Ina...your chicken salad looks perfect.

Kristen said...

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas, Beth. May you have a safe, healthy and successful 2012, too.

Katerina said...

I think I have seen this movie a long time ago! Your sandwich is simple and delish. I hope New Year will give you more love and prosperity than the previous one!

Anonymous said...

1. In high school, a girlfriend and I may or may not have re-written Sisters for a sketch and performed it with some excellent choreography. What a classic.

2. I am forever indebted to Ina for teaching us about the Glories of tarragon and chicken. Such joy, really.

3. I hope that you had a blessed Christmas with your beautiful family!

Jeanne said...

I haven't seen "White Christmas"! Maybe I should make it a new December tradition. But I can definitely relate to dreamy food. Looks like a great sandwich!

Lorraine said...

I love this movie. I actually saw the play in Boston. I liked it but not as much as the movie. I guess you can't get any better than the original characters. So many great songs....great sandwich too. I have never used fresh taragon. I bet it adds wonderful flavor.

Rita said...

What a nice post full of memories; hope you are having a great week.

Angie's Recipes said...

It was on TV here two days's great!
I hope that your Christmas was a blessed and joyous one.
Happy New Year!

Miriam said...

Happy Holidays :), Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Golden Eagle said...

This sounds like a great recipe!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I haven't seen this movie. :( I've had a hard time finding Christmas classics on this year. I hope you had a lovely Christmas, Beth.

Have a wonderful 2012!

Unknown said...

I have to see this movie right away! I'm also thinking about chicken salad sandwiches and how they might just be the perfect food. I love fresh tarragon and I'll bet it just makes this recipe. I would say you've inspired me here with a few things to look forward to... Thanks and Happy New Year to you;-)

Anonymous said...

Now I have Sisters and Counting My Blessings in my head! I didn't see that movie this year, but have seen it many times. My all-time favorite, though, is Holiday Inn. Lots of singing and dancing in that one too!

Hope you had a great Christmas, and have a happy new year!

shaz said...

Ooh, I do love a good chicken salad sandwich. Hoping you have had/ are having a lovely white christmas all your own.

Joanne said...

I love how you connected chicken salad to the movie! IT really is a great one. :)

Claudia said...

Beautiful posting - and yes - we watched it this season. And yes - I like my chicken salad with celery, mayonnaise and not very adorned and will happily share that sandwich. Wishing you all the best in 2012! May it bring joy.

julie said...

Would you think differently of me if I told you that I had never seen this movie? Not because I don't want to mind you, I just never got around to it. Of course you now have me curious. I may just have to check it out for New Years and concoct a few of these chicken sandwiches to accompany the moment. :) Have a wonderful new years Beth!

Kitchen Riffs said...

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.

Rim shot! Really nice post - I thoroughly enjoy your writing. Oh, and I like the idea of tarragon in the chicken salad - great flavor. Thanks.

Sue said...

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Beth! Happy New Year~see you in 2012! :)

grace said...

i'm sorry to say that i'm not familiar with this classic, but i know chicken salad very well. your recipe is straightforward and delicious!

Neesie said...

I'm a little late catching up with all the posts Beth...but you've given me a great idea for today.
I've got masses of ironing lined up but that'll be okay because I'll be watching White Christmas! The family will love it and maybe they'll be a chicken salad sandwich to keep my strength up?
Thanks for sharing and making this cure now a pleasure! ;D

Simply Life said...

what a perfect looking sandwich!

Marina said...

Now I'm really ashamed because I didn't watch that movie - ever!

nancy at good food matters said...

Beth, I hope your holidays have been joyful. I enjoyed this post--clever and sweet. and I love a little tarragon in my chicken salad, too.

Elaine said...

Hi, Beth. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Haddock said...

Bing Crosby did a wonderful role in The Towering Inferno....... and no dancing there :-)

Ruth said...

This is one of my favourite movies ever. My DVD player was broken over the holidays and I didn't get to see it! It doesn't seem right to watch it in January, but you never know... And ps you've captured pretty much all my favourite parts too, although you left out the scene on the train where they sing "Snow". :)

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