I can't think of a better way to kick off Oscar month than with legendary costume designer Edith Head.
Edith Head began her career as a costume designer in the mid 1920s at Paramount Pictures where she worked for 44 years. After that, she spent 14 years at Universal. She designed memorable costumes for Mae West ("She Done Him Wrong"), Veronica Lake ("Sullivan's Travels"), Bette Davis ("All About Eve"), Gloria Swanson ("Sunset Blvd"), Barbara Stanwyck ("The Lady Eve"), Elizabeth Taylor ("A Place in the Sun"), Grace Kelly ("Rear Window") and Ginger Rogers ("Lady in the Dark"). Head became a household name and racked up 35 Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design and took home the statuette eight times. To this day she holds the record for being the most honored costume designer and woman in Academy history.
This recipe was featured "The Celebrity Cookbook", which was published in 1966 with a forward by Dinah Shore. Edith Head named this dish after her Beverly Hills home which means "house on the side of the hill". She was quoted as saying "I don't think I'm one of the greatest costume designers in the world, but I am one of the greatest cooks."
2 frying chickens
1/2 lb. mushrooms
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup pitted black olives
3 teaspoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons sherry
Cut the chickens in pieces and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Saute in butter until golden brown. Cover and cook until tender. When done remove chicken from pan and keep warm. In the pan saute 1/2 lb mushrooms. Add the flour, blend and add 2 cups soup stock, the black olives and the chives. Cook for 5 minutes. Flavor with 3 tablespoons of sherry and pour this sauce over the hot chicken.
Collage artwork by Cherie Savoie Tintary
SUSAN CLAASSEN has been named 2012 Best of Phoenix Actress and was nominated for the 2011 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress for her portrayal of Edith Head. Susan is beginning her 45th anniversary with the Invisible Theatre. As Managing Artistic Director, she has produce more than 390 productions and directed more than eighty. Susan has been a proud member of Actors' Equity Association (the professional actors' union) since 1969, a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, and Costume Society of America. Some of her most memorable roles have been Bella in LOST IN YONKERS, Alice B. Toklas in GERTRUDE STEIN AND A COMPANION, Hannah in CROSSING DELANCEY, Theda in IT HAD TO BE YOU, Trudy and all in THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, and recently Vi in LOOK MA WE'RE DANCING. In addition to her work with the Invisible Theatre, she has been a consultant and director for Waterfront Playhouse and Red Barn Theatre in Key West, Florida, and directed Steve Ross in I WON'T DANCE at New York's famed Rainbow and Stars Cabaret and St. Paul's prestigious Ordway Theatre. Susan was a City of Hope Spirit of Life honoree, received Tucson's Humanitarian Torch Award for her work on behalf of people living with AIDS and performs as a clown in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. She was selected as one of Tucson Lifestyle's 10 Most Admired Women, was honored by the Jewish Federation as one of Tucson's 13 Extraordinary Women, and is featured in Arizona's centennial legacy book, Arizona's 48 Most Intriguing Women. Susan dedicates her work to the memory of her beloved mother, Goldie. Find more about Susan Claassen's work on her official website.
The Final Result
I made this for one and scaled down the portions. I also used chicken breasts. This was easy to make and delicious! Edith suggests serving this over a bed or rice. I opted for green beans as a side dish, but it could be paired with just about anything. Edith Head certainly KNOWS food and her Chicken Casa Ladera will now be frequently served at my dinner table.
These are just some of the legendary films featuring Edith Head's costume designs.
If you want to read more about Edith Head's extraordinary career, then I recommend the book "Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer" by Jay Jorgensen. You can find this book at used bookstores, online and at your local library. As always, I suggest calling Larry Edmund's Bookstore in Hollywood.
Back in 2007 I modeled for an Edith Head fashion show at the historic Los Angeles Theatre. The Edith Head costumes in the show were owned by collector Greg Schreiner. I wore a satin pink dress trimmed in mink that Edith designed for Joanne Woodward in the 1963 film "A New Kind of Love". Just think...that gown was in Paris...in 1963....with Paul Newman. That must have been heaven on earth!
After the show I was tempted to run out the backdoor and steal the dress. In fairness, I was not the only model who wanted to do that. There were security guards backstage and we were allotted 30 minutes to luxuriate in the gowns before we took them off and handed them back. Getting to wear and model an Edith Head gown was an incredible experience that I'll always cherish.