Friday, December 16, 2011

Dinner and Movies: Cary Grant Double Feature

Images from Doctor Macro

Who doesn't love watching movies starring Cary Grant? I've picked two in which his characters are charming wastrels. In Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion, Johnnie marries wealthy and quiet Lina (Joan Fontaine) and promptly starts burning through all her money. Then, Johnnie's friend ends up dead and Lina worries that she might be the next victim.

If that's all a bit serious, The Philadelphia Story will lighten things up considerably. It's Cary Grant's fourth (and final) pairing with Katharine Hepburn and it's one of the best movies ever. If you haven't seen it, you need to run out and get it right away. In The Philadelphia Story, C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) sells a tabloid editor access to his ex-wife's wedding (the ex-wife is Tracy Lord, played by Hepburn). "Dext" might be a worthless drunk, but he's a heck of a lot more charming than Tracy's straight-laced fiancé. James Stewart and Ruth Hussey are the down-on-their-luck writer and photographer assigned to cover Tracy's marriage. Roland Young and Virginia Weidler add to the fun.

The Philadelphia Story will be on TCM Saturday night at 9:00 and Suspicion will be on Monday at 5:00 p.m. Both films are available on DVD.
Images from Doctor Macro

Since The Philadelphia Story came out in 1940 and Suspicion came out in 1941, I thought I would make a dish from my 1940s Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. Mrs. E.W. Brockman, Jr., of Chapel Hill, North Carolina contributed her recipe for Spanish Chicken. We'll assume Mr. E.W. Brockman, Jr., didn't worry too much about indigestion. Or maybe he did, poor man! Alas, I'll never know. Yes, I did attempt an internet stalking, but didn't have much luck.

So--1940s Spanish Chicken is an American housewife's approximation of paella. It's got rice. It's got onion, garlic and green bell pepper. The original recipe also calls for jarred pimiento, since red bell peppers weren't as readily available in American supermarkets as they are today (my dad said so). You could use a fresh red bell pepper, a jar of pimientos, or even roasted red bell pepper. I've used saffron and paprika along with the originally-called-for chili powder. The source recipe calls for turmeric, which is often used as a saffron replacement. I actually had a jar of Spanish saffron in the cabinet, so that's what I've used. You can't tell from the photograph in Better Homes and Gardens (below, left), but since this is baked without a lid, the top of the rice gets crunchy like upside-down paella. My resident Spaniard says the crunchy bits are the best part, but if you don't fancy crunchy rice, I believe you could solve that problem by putting a lid on the pan while it bakes.

I thought Spanish Chicken was pretty tasty. The leftovers are easy to heat up, too. I just wrapped everything in a tin-foil packet and heated at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

Spanish Chicken

1 1/2 cups chicken stock, lightly salted if using homemade
saffron, a few strands
2 tablespoons lard*
1 chicken, jointed*
All-purpose flour, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, ribs removed and diced
1 red bell pepper, ribs removed and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup rice, uncooked
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 dash chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the chicken stock in a small saucepan and add the saffron. Bring up to a boil then turn heat down to low and put on the lid to keep stock warm.

Melt lard in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge chicken joints in seasoned flour and fry in lard until browned. You don't need to cook them all the way through. Remove to a plate. Sauté the onion and bell peppers in lard until softened. Turn down the heat, if necessary, to keep vegetables from burning. Add minced garlic and sauté one minute.

Lower heat, stir in rice and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Pour in warm stock and add paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Place chicken pieces on top and move to oven. Bake between 75 and 90 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the rice has absorbed all the liquid and browned on top.

Serves 4

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*The original recipe called for a 2 to 2 1/2 lb chicken. Four pounds is standard today, so you have two options a) make this with half a chicken, b) cook all the chicken and reserve half for recipes calling for cooked chicken. (I went with "b.")

I use lard that hasn't been hydrogenated. If you can't find it locally, Chef Shop ships. I couldn't even get lard from pig farmers, so I had to order it. The way meat processing is set up can be really stupid.


  1. Great suggestions! My favorite Grant and Hepburn pairing, though, is Holiday.

  2. A great double-header! Good food and Cary Grant...can't think of anything better. :)

  3. I love Spanish Chicken. My mum would make this all the time when I was growing up. She'd sometimes add shrimp and frozen peas to make it more akin to a paella. I'm a fan of that recipe.
    And Cary Grant--drool.

  4. @yinzerella
    I was surprised by how tasty it was! Adding shrimp and peas sounds great--I'll have to try that next time.

  5. I love the photos at the beginning! So beautiful!
    xo Kinsey

  6. Love seeing all those photos from the two Cary Grant films. I need to watch them both! And I remember Spanish Chicken. Thanks for this wonderfully nostalgic post!

  7. Adore Mr Grant the spanish chicken looks yum x

  8. Gotta love Cary Grant! Your recipe looks great, too!

  9. Your blog is very cute :) I'll be trying out your recipes xx

  10. Gary Grant = Dreamy. Spanish Chicken recipe = deeelish!

  11. Oh! Philadelphia Story is one of my absolute favorites! Definitely "yar." I'm still scared to try lard...

  12. @Rebecca
    Definitely yar! :-) I'm going to get you on the lard bandwagon. It's so deeeee-licious!


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