The Hungover Gourmet


Happy Birthday Jack, Have Some Chicken Salad!

Today – April 22 – is the birthday of one Jack Nicholson. You might know him. Starred ina few movies you might've heard of.

Like a lot of people, I think Jack's been coasting of late. We don't get a performance anymore as much as we get "Jack," which has become like "Cher" or "Liberace." When was the last time you watched Nicholson in a movie and thought, "Wow, he's a great actor." Hell, I can't even remember the last great Nicholson performance.

One of my favorite Nicholson roles, though, is in a film that also happens to contain a great Reel Food scene. In Bob Raefelson's FIVE EASY PIECES, Nicholson stars as an oil rigger who returns home to visit his dying father. We learn along the way that he'd once been a promising concert pianist.

During the flick, Bobby (Nicholson) and others go to a diner where he attempts to order an omelette with plain toast. The waitress informs him that she can't give him the plain toast which leads to this classic exchange:

Bobby: I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.
Waitress: A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

It's a classic early Nicholson moment, one that would help define his anti-establishment leading man persona. Of course, now Jack's as close to the establishment as you can get but so what, right?

In tribute to Jack I thought I'd offer up a little chicken salad recipe today, but not just from any cookbook. It's from 'A Treasury of Great Recipes' by Mary and Vincent Price. Though both Price and Nicholson worked for Roger Corman's AIP in the 1960s I don't believe they ever worked together.

I recently picked up this beautiful, signed copy of Price's famous recipe collection at an area auction. While I was walking around before bidding got started I overheard that the book – and a few other items – were left over from the estate of somebody named Hans Kramm who had been a chef for higher ups in the Nazi party before he moved to America and opened a restuarant in the Maryland area. Crazy.

Here's the recipe for Curried Chicken Salad courtesy of Vincent Price...

Cooked chicken
White Raisins
Curry Powder
Canned Chicken Consomme

Half a poached 5-pound chicken is sufficient for this quantity of salad.

1. In mixing bowl combine: 2 cups diced cooked chicken (use the dark meat for this, reserving the breast for slicing), 1 apple, peeled and diced, 1 cup diced fresh pineapple, 1/4 cup white raisins, 1/3 cup cut dates, 2 tablespoons chopped chutney (including the syrup), and 1/2 cup shredded fresh coconut.

2. Sprinkle with: 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Simmer: 1 tablespoon good curry powder in 2 tablespoons chicken consomme for 2 minutes, stirring to a smooth paste.

4. Add curry paste to: 1 cup good mayonnaise* and stir into the salad mixture.

Pile the salad onto a chilled serving plate on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves and garnish with thinly sliced breast of chicken and some chopped ginger from jar of chutney. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded fresh coconut.

Individual servings of this salad are attractive served in half a coconut shell.

*Vincent's recipe calls for "1 cup good homemade mayonnaise" but that's taking things too far.



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