“I tried to learn how to cook when I first married Johnny”, said Joanne Carson, referring to her marriage to Johnny Carson. Johnny always said, “I didn’t marry Betty Crocker!”

“A Betty Crocker, I’m not. I would copy a recipe from the book, look at the picture of the dish and make my own version. There was no way those two even looked like they were the same animal! Finally, I got so discouraged I just gave up!”

Joanne makes up for her cooking failures by her enthusiasm. She said her present cooking repertoire is still limited to meat loaf and steaks. “I’ve always been very safe with that. I even managed to do very good Swiss steak at one time, but finally Johnny said… Enough of the Swiss steak… He said he didn’t need the flour in his coffee either. He used to walk out in the morning, turn on the fan and the flour would blow all over the kitchen.”

“After I dropped the Swiss steak from the menu, I was down to two dishes, plus barbecued chicken I used to get at the delicatessen downstairs when we lived in New York. I could cheat with that. And I was great with frozen food. I only had to turn on the oven. Johnny would come home at night and ask… What did you defrost tonight for dinner?”

“I still get very nervous in the kitchen because once I was burned trying to make fried chicken.  We were in the boat and I had on my bikini and was frying chicken. The chicken dropped and spattered me, and I got third-degree burns. Cooking in the buff is very dangerous. Even now, anything that makes noise gets me very nervous. If it’s salad, I’m fine!”

shelly winters

One of Joanne’s favorite guests, Academy Award Winner Shelley Winters, provided her with a prize recipe for Caesar Salad.

  • 2 TBS. red Wine vinegar
  • 6 TBS. fine grade olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 can anchovies, mashed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parm cheese croutons
  • romaine lettuce

Combine vinegar, olive oil, mustard,  Worcestershire, anchovies,  and garlic in a jar with a lid that you can shake to mix the ingredients.

Drain and cut the lettuce. Put in salad bowl. Add the parm cheese and croutons. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve immediately or your croutons will get mushy and the lettuce will die!

(P.S.: I usually double or triple this recipe just to make sure I have enough because I like a little extra dressing on my salads. Anything to make even a salad a little more fattening!)

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