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Book Review: One Big Table by Molly O’Neill

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One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking (release date: November 16) is certainly one big book! Written/compiled by Molly O’Neill, it contains 600 recipes from America’s “best home cooks, farmers, fisherman, pit-masters, and chefs.” Filled with such delights as “A Social History of American Stoves,” this foodies dream-come-true combines informative articles, new and archival photographs, and a tour of American “Hometown Appetites,” with recipes from all over the country, many of which come from far-off ports of call.

Persian Noodle Soup, Cantonese-style Marinated Grilled Chicken, Greek salads, lasagne, Armenian Rice with Vermicelli, and Kasha Varnishkes are only a few of the recipes that prove that American tables groan under the weight of delicious ethnic dishes. American regional specialties such as Red Beans and Rice from Abend, Louisiana, Root Vegetable Salad (Portland, Maine), and Mason County Transparent Pie (Maysville, Kentucky) prove that no one state holds the title, “Best Food in America” (although many claim it as their own).

One Big Table is more than a cookbook—it offers a history of cooks and cooking, discusses products Americans depend upon, and even the companies that feed us (like Pepperidge Farm). It’s a beautiful, impressive gift for cooks and non-cooking foodies alike. There are recipes for every taste, every meal, every course, and snacks galore. Histories of such wonders as Rice Krispies Treats and Doughnuts offer, forgive me, food for thought and are entertaining reading when one is not cooking. Make no mistake, though, even the recipes are entertaining to read; below is a sure hit.

Becky Herman of Machipongo, Virginia, “found a recipe for potato chip pecan cookies in Fine Cooking Magazine and was fascinated by it.” Becky goes on to say, “The chips give the cookies a crispness and lightness I’ve never gotten any other way.” She has experimented with the recipe, using hazelnuts, more vanilla, and even black pepper potato chips. Becky asks, “Have you ever tasted a better cookie?”

Becky Herman’s Potato Chip Cookies
½ pound unsalted butter, softened; more for shaping cookies

½ cup sugar; more for shaping cookies.
1¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 7/8 cups flour; more if necessary
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
½ cup black pepper potato chips, crushed.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease cookie sheets. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat ½ pound of soft butter with ½ cup sugar for about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour, hazelnuts, and potato chips and stir just to combine. Do not overbeat.
2. Take a heaping teaspoon of the dough, shape into a ball, and place on the cookie sheet. Put a few spoonfuls of sugar in a shallow dish. Lightly butter the bottom of a small juice glass or measuring cup and place it in the sugar. Use the glass to flatten each ball to a 1/4–inch thickness. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, remove to a rack, and cool completely.
Makes 30 cookies. (Copyright ©2010 by Molly O’Neill)

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • Love Molly. Of course, there is a tinge of envy as well, what with her “low-achieving” family and everything: the New York Times columnist sits down to eat with her brother, the New York Yankee. Geez. Leave a little something on the table for the rest of us.