I find The Bishop’s Wife to be one of the kindest and most heart-wrenching Christmas movies. David Niven plays an overworked Anglican bishop, eager to raise money for a new cathedral. In his obsession to make the church a reality, Niven largely ignored his beautiful wife (Loretta Young) and their adorable daughter. One particularly stressful evening, the bishop prays for guidance and God replies by sending an actual angel… in the form of Cary Grant. Grant calls himself Dudley and promises to help the bishop, though it becomes clear the two have different definitions of what that means.

In the meantime, joy is brought back to the household by Dudley’s easy manner and gentle antics. The more the family and congregation shows affection for the angel, the more frustrated the bishop becomes. The bishop and his wife will have to find a solution to once again have peace in their home.

The Bishop’s Wife was shot by the masterful Gregg Toland, who specialized in shot composition and deep focus photography. There are a number of supporting role performances that add heart: Gladys Cooper as an aging heiress, Elsa Lanchester as a dotty cook, Monty Woolley as a historian and friend, and James Gleason as Sylvester the taxi driver.

The film is on the surface lighthearted with gentle teasing, goofy capers, and an occasional divine trick. Cleverly, the viewer also begins to prefer spending time with Dudley. It’s Cary Grant as an angel—who wouldn’t? Indeed, Dudley must make the heartbreaking decision to leave the family he has come to care for, for the good of their future. It is, of course, the right outcome, but the feeling is just a little bittersweet. Dudley’s success in making others happy must always be immediately followed by his departure as his work is done. I suppose that is what makes him an angel.

Food is central to The Bishop’s Wife. Here is a three course meal inspired by their dishes.

Appetizer: Cream cheese celery sticks

As Dudley ingratiates himself into the bishop’s home, he joins the bishop and his wife for dinner. Having his routine thrown off, the bishop forgets he is carrying a stalk of celery in his breast pocket.

Wash a few stalks of celery and chop into about 3 lengths. Mix 1 block of cream cheese, 1 packet of Italian dressing mix, ½ cup of mayo, and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella together. Spread the mix into the trough of the celery sticks and enjoy.

Main: Guinea Hen and Caesar Salad

When Dudley takes the bishop’s wife to Michel’s, they order guinea hen, and a restaurant staffer is mixing up a huge bowl of fresh Caesar salad. While the nosy church ladies interrupt their lunch, I imagine Michel cooked something like this.

Make a brine from 10 cups of water, 10 garlic cloves, 5 rosemary sprigs (chopped), 3 thyme sprigs (chopped). Simmer the liquid for about 30 minutes. Take it off the stove then add 10 more cups of water, 2½ tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1 teaspoon white peppercorns. Let the mixture cool. Once cooled, submerge a 3 ½ – 4 pound guinea hen and place in the refrigerator. It should soak for at least a day and is safe to brine for 3 days.

When you’re ready to cook the bird, preheat the oven to 350℉. Place the hen on some sort of drip catching pan (a rack over a cookie sheet would work). Pat the bird dry of brine before putting it in the oven. The hen should have an internal temperature of 145℉ after about 40-45 minutes.

Dessert: Broiled grapefruit

I definitely did not know this was a thing, but the bishop and his wife enjoy some at the dinner table. It might be a refreshing dessert.

Turn on the broiler. Cut the grapefruits in half and loosen the sections from the rind. Place them cut-side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice with one tablespoon brown sugar, then drizzle with melted butter and a little honey. Sprinkle cinnamon over the tops if you like. Broil grapefruit until the sugar melts and caramelizes. It should take about 2 to 5 minutes, but watch them so they don’t burn. Sprinkle tops with flaky sea salt, and serve.

Originally written for DVD Netflix and Feeding America