Spending time with Miss Lombard sounded like the perfect way to start 2022.
Eighty years after her untimely death, Carole Lombard remains one of the most beloved stars of the 1930s. She starred in several memorable screwball comedies including "Twentieth Century", "My Man Godfrey" and "Nothing Sacred", which landed her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Her 1939 marriage to Clark Gable made headlines around the world and established them as Hollywood's reigning power couple.
I found several different recipes attributed to Carole Lombard in many different cookbooks. The options included lettuce soup, spinach soup, chicken mousse, barbecued spare ribs and "Angels on Horseback", which is basically deep fried oysters and bacon.
After carefully considering the matter for two seconds, I decided that the cherry tart recipe sound like the most fun.
This recipe is from the book "Famous Recipes by Famous People" from 1933. This book proved incredibly hard to find, but my friend Christina Rice located it at a library in Austin, Texas. My friend Anna Roland went to the library and sent me scans. It was a team effort!
2 cups cherries
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup scalded milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tbsp. fine dry bread crumbs
Line medium pie plate with pastry; brush bottom with melted butter, then sprinkle it with bread crumbs. Put in cherries; sprinkle them with cinnamon and half of the sugar. Mix remaining sugar with cornstarch and salt. Add lightly beaten egg and hot milk. Mix well. Pour over cherries and bake in hot oven (450 degrees) until edges begin to brown, then reduce to moderate heat (350 degrees). Bake about 30 minutes or until custard is firm.
To make pastry sift 1 1/2 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1/2 cup shortening with two knives until size of small peas. Add only enough ice-cold water to hold mixture together. Roll 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Line pie plate, folding over a narrow rim.
**THERE WERE PROBLEMS!** I made this recipe exactly as instructed and it was a big misfire.
In other words Carole Lombard has LED ME ASTRAY!!!!!!!!!
Frankly the visual of my "test bake" reminds me of the time I got super sunburned and simultaneously had a zit break out in high school. It looks awful. The taste is also WAY too sweet. I reached out to my Facebook page friends and got some serious tips on how to fix the recipe.
MAYBE THIS ISN'T CAROLE'S FAULT. I THINK I AM TO BLAME HERE!
Here's how this can be improved:
-Use FRESH fruit and not frozen.
-Cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup.
-Double the amount of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons.
-I'm going to mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt with some flour in a bowl, then add them to the pie pan on top of the bread crumbs. Crushed almonds can be used instead of bread crumbs.
-I need to make sure the temper the eggs, so the scrambling effect doesn't happen.
My TCM friend Michele Sebastian Price for suggesting that I make Cherry Clafoutis instead.
I don't think Carole would mind this change in plans.
Here's the Cherry Clafoutis recipe:
Softened butter, for pan 1 1/2 c. tart or sweet cherries, halved and pits removed 4 large eggs 1/2 c. granulated sugar 1 c. milk 1 tbsp. amaretto, or 1 tsp. almond extract 3/4 c. all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp. kosher salt Powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9" round baking dish with butter. Spread out cherries in an even layer in bottom of pan.
In a blender, add eggs and sugar and blend until frothy. Add milk, amaretto, flour and salt and blend until combined. Pour batter over cherries.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar.
Robert Matzen is the author of Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II , Warrior: Audrey Hepburn, Errol & Olivia: Ego & Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood and Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe. Visit his official website for a complete bio and more information on his work. Our friends at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood have several signed copies of his books.
The Final Result
The Cherry Clafoutis turned out so well. I'm amazed that I was able to find fresh cherries in January. It can be served warm or cold and would even make a great breakfast item too.
There are tons of Lombard films available on DVD, Streaming and Turner Classic Movies. Here are some of my favorites.
In February 1937 Motion Picture Magazine ran a story all about Carole's "utterly balmy" home life.
I found this quote in the second part of the article:
Thank you to collage artist Cherie Savoie Tintary for making this graphic.