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10 Recipes from the Kitchens of Classic Hollywood Stars

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Virtually every summer, devoted fans of Gene Kelly will come across “Gene Kelly’s Flavor Tips for the Barbecue," a 1955 Durkee Foods ad featuring the Hollywood song-and-dance man grilling what appears to be an entire cow. Also included are recipes for corn on the cob, deviled eggs, and potato salad supreme.

Pairing Gene Kelly—or Hollywood stars in general—with food or recipes is nothing new. For Dinah Shore’s celebrity cookbook, Kelly offered up his recipe for coq au vin. Rosemary Bradley features Kelly’s “‘I’ll Be Right Back’ Shrimp” in her Treasury of Favorite Recipes. Finally, here is Kelly tap-dancing a recipe for linguini (yes, you read that right) on The Danny Kaye Show (1963-67).

To accompany Gene Kelly’s coq au vin, here are 10 more recipes from stars of Hollywood’s classic era, as found in Frank DeCaro’s book The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes from More Than 145 Stars of Stage and Screen.

1. Claudette Colbert’s Cheese and Olive Puffs

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 (10-ounce) jars of pimento-stuffed green olives, drained and blotted dry

Add cheese and butter to bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add flour, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce to form dough. Wrap each olive in a small amount of dough, completely covering the olive and forming a ball. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and freeze. Transfer to a plastic bag and store in freezer until ready to use. To cook, place on a baking sheet and bake at 400˚ F for 12 minutes, or until crust is golden. Serve hot.

2. Gloria Swanson’s Potassium Broth

1 cup string beans, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1  cup Swiss chard, chopped
8 cups of spring water

Before chopping, wash all vegetables thoroughly. Pour spring water into a soup pot and add the rest of ingredients. Cover and simmer until celery is tender. Allow the broth to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in glass jars. Serve hot or cold.

3. Bette Davis’ Red Flannel Hash

2 cups cooked corned beef
3 cups cold boiled potatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked beets.
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup or more of cream
1/2 stick butter

Chop all ingredients and combine in a large bowl. Season to taste and moisten mixture with cream. Place in a hot buttered skillet. Stir and spread evenly in pan. Brown slowly over medium heat. Serve with poached eggs on top.

4. John Wayne’s Favorite Casserole

2 (4 oz.) cans green chilies, drained
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
4 egg whites
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Combine chilies with cheese in a large bowl and turn into a well-buttered shallow 2-quart casserole dish. Beat the egg whites until peaks form. Mix egg yolks, milk, flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Pour over the cheese and chili mixture. Comb through with a knife and fork gently until combined. Bake for 30 minutes. Arrange tomatoes on top, and bake another 30 minutes. Garnish with extra chilies, if desired. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

5. Elizabeth Taylor’s Chicken with Avocado and Mushrooms

1 avocado, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 (2 1/2 pound) chickens, cut into serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
3 finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons cognac
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken stock
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Sprinkle avocado with lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet, over low heat, heat 3 to 4 tablespoons butter and sauté chicken until juices run yellow when it is pricked with a fork, about 35 to 40 minutes. Use two skillets if necessary, adding more butter as needed. Transfer cooked chicken to a serving dish. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Keep warm in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes, while preparing sauce.

To make the sauce, add shallots to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping sides and bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Add cognac and wine and bring to a boil. Boil until mixture has almost evaporated. Add cream and boil 5 minutes longer. Add chicken stock to cream mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. While sauce cooks, sauté mushrooms over high heat in butter. Add the mushrooms, remaining cognac, and avocado cubes. Stir until well blended. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

6. Joan Crawford’s Poached Salmon

1 3-pound piece of fresh salmon
3 lemons
6 cups water
10 pearl onions, peeled
1/2 stalk celery with leaves
2 sprigs parsley
3 small bay leaves
12 peppercorns, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups mayonnaise
4 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Rinse and dry fish. Cut lemons in thin slices. Place slices on both sides of the fish. Wrap fish in a double thickness of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen string. Put water, onions, celery, parsley, bay leaves, crushed peppercorns and salt in a fish poacher or on a rack in a deep saucepan. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Place fish on rack in the kettle so that it is halfway submerged in the water. Cover and slowly simmer 40 minutes, or until fish is barely done. Place fish on a heated platter. Remove cloth and lemon slices carefully. Combine mayonnaise, prepared mustard and lemon juice; mix well and serve with fish. (Fish and dressing may also be served cold on a bed of lettuce.)

7. Dean Martin’s Burgers and Bourbon

1 pound ground beef
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 ounces bourbon chilled

Preheat a heavy frying pan and sprinkle bottom lightly with table salt. Mix meat, handling lightly, just enough to form into four patties. Grill over medium-high heat about 4 minutes on each side. Pour chilled bourbon in chilled shot glass and serve meat and bourbon on a TV tray.

8. Humphrey Bogart’s Coconut Spanish Cream

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cup scalded milk
1 cup shredded coconut, plus additional for garnish
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Orange segments for garnish

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup milk. Stir beaten yolks, salt, and sugar in the top of double boiler over hot water. Add gelatin. Add scalded milk gradually, stirring until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Cool. When completely cool, stir in coconut. Fold beaten egg whites and extract into custard. Pour into mold and refrigerate until firm. Unmold and serve garnished with coconut and orange sections.

9. Rock Hudson’s Cannoli

3 pounds ricotta
1-3⁄4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped citron
1⁄4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
3⁄4 cup Italian red wine

Using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta in a large bowl for 1 minute. Add confectioner’s sugar and beat until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add cinnamon, chopped citron, and chocolate chips and mix until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make cannoli shells, sift flour, sugar, and cinnamon together into a large bowl. Make a well and pour wine into it and mix until incorporated. On a floured cutting board, knead dough until smooth and stiff, about 15 minutes. If dough is too moist or sticky, add some flour. If it’s too dry, add more wine. Cover dough and let it rest two hours in a cool place.

Then roll paper-thin on a lightly floured board. Cut into 5-inch circles. Wrap each circle around a cannoli tube loosely, overlapping 1⁄4 inch of dough. Seal dough by brushing with slightly beaten egg yolk. With the tube in place, deep fry 2 cannoli at a time in hot oil for 1 minute until light brown. Lift gently with slotted spoon or tongs, drain on paper towel and cool. Remove tubes gently and fill.

10. Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened baker’s chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well. Pour into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 325˚ F for 40 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

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For other celebrity recipes or recipes inspired by celebrities, check out the following books and/or People’s Cooking with the Stars” section, where you can find Lady Gaga’s favorite fried chicken and Gwyneth Paltrow’s meatballs and garlic bread.

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Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
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science
Head Case: What the Only Soft Tissue Dodo Head in Existence Is Teaching Scientists About These Extinct Birds
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock

Of all the recently extinct animals, none seems to excite the imagination quite like the dodo—a fact Mark Carnall has experienced firsthand. As one of two Life Collections Managers at the UK's Oxford University Museum of Natural History, he’s responsible for nearly 150,000 specimens, “basically all the dead animals excluding insects and fossils,” he tells Mental Floss via email. And that includes the only known soft tissue dodo head in existence.

“In the two and a bit years that I’ve been here, there’s been a steady flow of queries about the dodo from researchers, artists, the public, and the media,” he says. “This is the third interview about the dodo this week! It’s definitely one of the most popular specimens I look after.”

The dodo, or Raphus cucullatus, lived only on the island of Mauritius (and surrounding islets) in the Indian Ocean. First described by Vice Admiral Wybrand van Warwijck in 1598, it was extinct less than 100 years later (sailors' tales of the bird, coupled with its rapid extinction, made many doubt that the dodo was a real creature). Historians still debate the extent that humans ate them, but the flightless birds were easy prey for the predators, including rats and pigs, that sailors introduced to the isolated island of Mauritius. Because the dodo went extinct in the 1600s (the actual date is still widely debated), museum specimens are very, very rare. In fact, with the exception of subfossils—the dark skeletons on display at many museums—there are only three other known specimens, according to Carnall, “and one of those is missing.” (The fully feathered dodos you might have seen in museums? They're models, not actual zoological specimens.)

A man standing with a Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird
A subfossil (bone that has not been fully fossilized) Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird in a museum in Wales circa 1938.
Becker, Fox Photos/Getty Images

Since its extinction was confirmed in the 1800s, Raphus cucullatus has been an object of fascination: It’s been painted and drawn, written about and scientifically studied, and unfairly become synonymous with stupidity. Even now, more than 300 years since the last dodo walked the Earth, there’s still so much we don’t know about the bird—and Oxford’s specimen might be our greatest opportunity to unlock the mysteries surrounding how it behaved, how it lived, how it evolved, and how it died.

 
 

To put into context how old the dodo head is, consider this: From the rule of Oliver Cromwell to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it has been around—and it’s likely even older than that. Initially an entire bird (how exactly it was preserved is unclear), the specimen belonged to Elias Ashmole, who used his collections to found Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum in 1677. Before that, it belonged to John Tradescant the Elder and his son; a description of the collection from 1656 notes the specimen as “Dodar, from the Island Mauritius; it is not able to flie being so big.”

And that’s where the dodo’s provenance ends—beyond that, no one knows where or when the specimen came from. “Where the Tradescants got the dodo from has been the subject of some speculation,” Carnall says. “A number of live animals were brought back from Mauritius, but it’s not clear if this is one of [those animals].”

Initially, the specimen was just another one of many in the museum’s collections, and in 1755, most of the body was disposed of because of rot. But in the 19th century, when the extinction of the dodo was confirmed, there was suddenly renewed interest in what remained. Carnall writes on the museum’s blog that John Duncan, then the Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, had a number of casts of the head made, which were sent to scientists and institutions like the British Museum and Royal College of Surgeons. Today, those casts—and casts of those casts—can be found around the world. (Carnall is actively trying to track them all down.)

The Oxford University Dodo head with scoleric bone and the skin on one side removed.
The Oxford University Dodo head with skin and sclerotic ring.
© Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History // Used with permission

In the 1840s, Sir Henry Acland, a doctor and teacher, dissected one side of the head to expose its skeleton, leaving the skin attached on the other side, for a book about the bird by Alexander Gordon Melville and H.E. Strickland called The dodo and its kindred; or, The history, affinities, and osteology of the dodo, solitaire, and other extinct birds of the islands Mauritius, Rodriguez and Bourbon. Published in 1848, “[It] brought together all the known accounts and depictions of the dodo,” Carnall says. The Dodo and its kindred further raised the dodo’s profile, and may have been what spurred schoolteacher George Clark to take a team to Mauritius, where they found the subfossil dodo remains that can be seen in many museums today.

Melville and Strickland described Oxford’s specimen—which they believed to be female—as being “in tolerable preservation ... The eyes still remain dried within the sockets, but the corneous extremity of the beak has perished, so that it scarcely exhibits that strongly hooked termination so conspicuous in all the original portraits. The deep transverse grooves are also visible, though less developed than in the paintings.”

Today, the specimen includes the head as well as the sclerotic ring (a bony feature found in the eyes of birds and lizards), a feather (which is mounted on a microscope slide), tissue samples, the foot skeleton, and scales from the foot. “Considering it’s been on display in collections and museums, pest eaten, dissected, sampled and handled by scientists for over 350 years,” Carnall says, “it’s in surprisingly good condition.”

 
 

There’s still much we don’t know about the dodo, and therefore a lot to learn. As the only soft tissue of a dodo known to exist, the head has been studied for centuries, and not always in ways that we would approve of today. “There was quite some consideration about dissecting the skin off of the head by Sir Henry Acland,” Carnall says. “Sadly there have also been some questionable permissions given, such as when [Melville] soaked the head in water to manipulate the skin and feel the bony structure. Excessive handling over the years has no doubt added to the wear of the specimen.”

Today, scientists who want to examine the head have to follow a standard protocol. “The first step is to get in touch with the museum with details about access requirements ... We deal with enquiries about our collections every single day,” Carnall says. “Depending on the study required, we try to mitigate damage and risk to specimens. For destructive sampling—where a tissue sample or bone sample is needed to be removed from the specimen and then destroyed for analysis—we weigh up the potential importance of the research and how it will be shared with the wider community.”

In other words: Do the potential scientific gains outweigh the risk to the specimen? “This,” Carnall says, “can be a tough decision to make.”

The head, which has been examined by evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro and extinction expert Samuel Turvey as well as dodo experts Julian Hume and Jolyon Parish, has been key in many recent discoveries about the bird. “[It] has been used to understand what the dodo would have looked like, what it may have eaten, where it fits in with the bird evolutionary tree, island biogeography and of course, extinction,” Carnall says. In 2011, scientists took measurements from dodo remains—including the Oxford specimen—and revised the size of the bird from the iconic 50 pounder seen in paintings to an animal “similar to that of a large wild turkey.” DNA taken from specimen’s leg bone has shed light on how the dodo came to Mauritius and how it was related to other dodo-like birds on neighboring islands [PDF]. That DNA also revealed that the dodo’s closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon [PDF].

A nicobar pigeon perched on a bowl of food.
A nicobar pigeon.
iStock

Even with those questions answered, there are a million more that scientists would like to answer about the dodo. “Were there other species—plants, parasites—that depended on the dodo?” Carnall asks. “What was the soft tissue like? ... How and when did the dodo and the related and also extinct Rodrigues solitaire colonize the Mascarene Islands? What were their brains like?”

 
 

Though it’s a rare specimen, and priceless by scientific standards, the dodo head is, in many ways, just like all the rest of the specimens in the museum’s collections. It’s stored in a standard archival quality box with acid-free tissue paper that’s changed regularly. (The box is getting upgraded to something that Carnall says is “slightly schmancier” because “it gets quite a bit of use, more so than the rest of the collection.”) “As for the specific storage, we store it in vault 249 and obviously turn the lasers off during the day,” Carnall jokes. “The passcode for the vault safe is 1234ABCD …”

According to Carnall, even though there are many scientific and cultural reasons why the dodo head is considered important, to him, it isn’t necessarily more important than any of the other 149,999 specimens he’s responsible for.

“Full disclosure: All museum specimens are equally important to collections managers,” he says. “It is a huge honor and a privilege to be responsible for this one particular specimen, but each and every specimen in the collection also has the power to contribute towards our knowledge of the natural world ... This week I was teaching about a species of Greek woodlouse and the molluscs of Oxfordshire. We know next to nothing about these animals—where they live, what they eat, the threats to them, and the predators that rely on them. The same is true of most living species, sadly. But on the upside, there’s so much work to be done!”

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