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Cooking from Molly O'Neill's "One Big Table"

The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 04:12 AM

There were several nominations for OBT in the February COTM nominations thread, but a couple of posters also expressed that they found O'Neill's previous "New York Cookbook" uninspiring. I imagine this book will come up in future nominations threads, so thought it might be a good idea to get some reports out there so we can see whether this book is worthy of a future COTM.


~O'Neill's website: http://onebigtable.com/
Table of contents and a few recipes appear in The Book/A Look Inside.

~Thread with initial impressions about the book: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7497...

~WaPo review http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

~Recipes Indexed on EYB http://www.eatyourbooks.com/library/8...

~O'Neill interview PBS newshour http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entert...


dkennedy's reports on

~Hal and Mal's vegetable soup recipe on p. 113 " ok [...] but it was nothing I would earmark to make again."

~Rod Okuno' green chili on p. 463 "shows more promise but it is not spectacular as written"


~Ellen Sullivan's Lavender Tenderloin

~Virginia’s French Almond Cookies (Columbus, Ohio).
~LaVerne’s Black Raspberry Bars (Arlington, Virginia

~Homa Movafaghi's Persian Noodle Soup
~Judge George Chew's Justifiably Famous Ribs
~Peter's Saigon-Biloxi Shrimp

I tried a recipe last night, which I will post about shortly.


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  1. Breadcrumbs RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 04:53 AM

    This is a terrific idea DQ and thanks so much for so thoughtfully pulling together all this disparate information on the book.

    I was captivated by this book when I saw it in the bookstore. Lovely photos, magazine-like paper quality, interesting back stories accompanying every recipe. I started to read it as soon as I brought it home and loved the stories. What I haven't done since is pick up the book again to see what recipes I'd like to make. Somehow when I first perused the book it was the pictures and stories that caught my interest and I didn't flag any recipes. It made me wonder if this was a book I'd love to keep on my coffee table rather than cook from.

    I do plan to re-visit it and I'm so happy we now have this thread to share our experiences. Thanks again DQ!

    9 Replies
    1. re: Breadcrumbs
      buttertart RE: Breadcrumbs Jan 21, 2011 06:35 AM

      Breadcrumbs: Someone (maybe you?) should come up with the same thing for Canada! How about "One Big Table/Une Grande Table"??? (Titles aren't copyrightable after all.) I'd absolutely love to see that book.

      1. re: buttertart
        The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 06:51 AM

        One Big Maple Leaf Shaped Table. :) I'd buy that book.

        It really is a pretty cool collection of "real" people's recipes, which could be somewhat problematic. Even if O'Neall thinks a recipe could use a little of this or that or it needs just slight tweaking, since she's passing these recipes off as having been contributed by others, she just has to publish them slightly flawed, or keep searching for a better version. Maybe it's a nonproblem, but that's what I was thinking when I read dkennedy's report on Rod Okuno's green chili where she says "shows more promise but it is not spectacular as written" or when I was reading the steps in the green chile chicken stew I tried (which I reported on downthread below). It would be hard for her to gather a collection of "perfect" recipes..


        1. re: The Dairy Queen
          buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 06:57 AM

          Have you read Jean Anderson's Grass Roots Cooking? Along the same lines but less glossy (also 30+ years old, so midcentury American real people cooking). Great to read.

          1. re: buttertart
            The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 07:11 AM

            That book came up in the nominations thread (perhaps it was even you who mentioned it) and I was immediately intrigued. I should see if my library has it.


          2. re: The Dairy Queen
            Katie Nell RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 07:24 AM

            As someone that is somewhat obsessed with Canada, I'd buy that too! :-) The British Columbia Seasonal Cookbook is a little like that, but maybe a little more chefy... it has a mix of recipes from chefs and farmers. I've only tried two recipes, but both produced my go-to methods for caramelizing onions and sauteeing mushrooms. https://edible-britishcolumbia.3dcart...

            1. re: The Dairy Queen
              nomadchowwoman RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 08:05 AM

              Well, this is often the "problem" with cookbooks that are an accumulation of recipes from a lot of different cooks. In some cases, I imagine, people who ordinarily cook from recipes in their heads will write down the recipes for the purpose of a project and so they may be guessing at/estimating amounts and times, etc., and things will get lost in the translation.
              But I still find this a pretty amazing book--as I did the New York Cookbook (and a similar effort done in New Orleans a couple of years ago, "You Are Where You Eat")--valuable perhaps more for the back stories, for the reminders of our rich diversity, for the history of our varied food cultures in the U.S., for the anthropology than for the recipes. And yet, in a book this large there are bound to be a number of fabulous recipes, too, and I look forward to discovering them along with other Hounds and hearing reports on this thread.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman
                The Dairy Queen RE: nomadchowwoman Jan 21, 2011 08:21 AM


                I am certain there are probably better, more-focused regional cookbooks, but this book is wonderful in its comprehensiveness. Her goal was to prove that cooking is still alive in America, so she wanted real recipes from real homecooks.


              2. re: The Dairy Queen
                dkennedy RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 22, 2011 09:46 AM

                BTW, Okuno's green chili stew ended up making a great taco filling, but it had to be drained. I have two large containers in my freezer which I will use for future babysitting nights (AKA taco nights) cuz it is something the babysitter can throw together with little effort and the kids still get a wholesome meal.

                Thanks TDQ for starting this thread. I am going to find it very useful!

              3. re: buttertart
                Breadcrumbs RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 07:03 AM

                I'd love that book too buttertart . . . . another project to add to my ever-growing "when I retire" list!!! Alas, I fear someone will have it covered by then!!

            2. monavano RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 05:36 AM

              Does anyone have a copy and if so, is there a recipe for braised chicken with morel mushrooms?

              19 Replies
              1. re: monavano
                The Dairy Queen RE: monavano Jan 21, 2011 05:41 AM

                My copy is at home, but you know, this book is indexed on EYB and you don't have to be a member to search indexed books on EYB. I searched EYB's library for recipes as follows: "O'neill morel mushrooms" and got this recipe (among others). http://www.eatyourbooks.com/library/r... Does it sound like it could be it? And, I must know, why do you ask? I can't help but notice your first name in your chowhound profile... :).


                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  monavano RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 05:46 AM

                  Thank you! That's it!!!
                  I'm so excited...I was contacted by one of Molly's staff members (because of my blog) and interviewed over the phone for 30 minutes or so. I never was told if my recipe made the cut.

                  1. re: monavano
                    The Dairy Queen RE: monavano Jan 21, 2011 05:50 AM

                    Congrats. I can only see the ingredients on EYB, but the title makes it sound heavenly. I can't wait to try it and to read the headnotes about your recipe. Ramps and morels are a big deal in spring here in MN (the morel is our state fungus, (yes indeedy, we have a state fungus.) Your recipe goes right to the top of my "must try" list.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 08:42 AM

                      The morel is the state fungus of MN? No wonder my husband tells people he's from St Paul even though he only spent 6 weeks there as a newborn. Something to be proud of.

                      1. re: buttertart
                        The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 08:53 AM

                        We also have a state grain (wild rice), state muffin (blueberry), state fruit (honeycrisp apple), state beverage (milk, which apparently upset the beer people). It's a delicious place to live. ;-).


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 09:58 AM

                          He goes for the wild rice too.
                          Honeycrisp? Kind of new wave to be a state fruit, no? Are they an MN specialty?

                          1. re: buttertart
                            The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 10:06 AM

                            The local lake-grown, hand-harvested, hand-parched wild rice is amazing. http://nativeharvest.com/catalog

                            The UofM developed the honeycrisp (and zestar) specifically because they wanted an apple that would thrive in this climate, so yeah, it's an MN specialty. The patent's about to expire, so they have the SweeTango out now...


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 10:16 AM

                              I'll have to get the good wild rice next time.
                              Hey, I didn't know that about the Honeycrisp! I thought it was an Asian apple cross thing, like the Fuji. Must tell him.

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen
                        monavano RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 08:48 AM

                        Thanks! I'm in the DC area and we get many of our ramps and morels from the hills and mountains of WV.

                        1. re: monavano
                          buttertart RE: monavano Jan 21, 2011 09:58 AM

                          Morels have to be one of the top 10 most delicious things on earth.

                          1. re: buttertart
                            The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 10:06 AM

                            Agree 100%. When it's morel season here, there are a few restaurants locally who have little "morelfests." Morel in everything! Yum!


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 10:18 AM

                              And that would be May? Must...go...to...MSP...in...morel...season.
                              My dad and his friend once came home with 2 paper shopping bags full!! of morels they foraged from a site there had been a forest fire in the year before, and I was too young to appreciate them. Have kicked myself ever since.

                              1. re: buttertart
                                The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 10:22 AM

                                Yes, usually in May. There's a place in Lanesboro MN that does their morelfest in March with dried morels.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                  nomadchowwoman RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 11:35 AM

                                  My husband and I often find ourselves in northern Michigan, and twice we've planned morel hunting expeditions in the area around Mesick (which bills itself, as I'm sure others do, as the "Morel Capital") in May--and both times struck out, once too early, once too late. But the restaurants have often had them when we've been there, and they are divine. One place makes a morel pizza: just cheese, some slivered red onion, and morels. My husband dreams about it the rest of the year.
                                  His uncle, a biologist, conservationist, and avid outdoorsman who was quite skilled at spotting morels often took my husband morel hunting when he was a boy, and it is, to this day, the only food-related "sport" he has any use for.

                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                    buttertart RE: nomadchowwoman Jan 21, 2011 11:39 AM

                                    The noblest. Man that pizza sounds scrummy. My mouth is actually watering!

                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                      The Dairy Queen RE: nomadchowwoman Jan 21, 2011 12:05 PM

                                      There is a real art to morel hunting. First, you have to go at exactly the right time, which is weather-dependent of course. The window is pretty narrow. Second: you have to have a secret spot. Third, you have to beat everyone else to the spot, within the window.

                                      And, sadly, spots come and go. So, if your spot dries up, you might have to find a new one.

                                      The first spring I lived in my house, I found ONE morel in my garden. I picked it, then shook it all over the area hoping I was releasing the spores for the next spring. Sadly, that was the one and only morel my garden has ever produced. Now my "spot" is my local co-op. I pay a fortune for them, but they are so delicious!

                                      What kind of cheese is on that pizza? That sounds delicious, too!


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                        nomadchowwoman RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 12:23 PM

                                        Funny you should ask. I spent a small fortune for morels last year at Whole Foods and tried to replicate the pizza. It was very good, but it wasn't the same, and part of it was that the cheese wasn't right.
                                        I'll pay closer attention next time, but I have a feeling it was an inexpensive cheese. It's not mozzarella. It might be fontina, but not Italian fontina, maybe Danish fontina. It was pretty mild. The morels were definitely the star of this show--so much that the cheese goes almost unnoticed.

                        2. re: monavano
                          flourgirl RE: monavano Jan 21, 2011 08:06 AM

                          That is so cool! Congratulations! :)

                      3. re: monavano
                        Breadcrumbs RE: monavano Jan 21, 2011 05:45 AM

                        I just looked it up in EYB monavano. This recipe is in the book:

                        Ramona Padovano's chicken thighs with creamy morel and ramp sauce

                        from One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking: 600 Recipes from the Nation's Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters, and Chefs by Molly O'Neill

                      4. The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 06:35 AM

                        Mika Garnett's Southwest Chicken and Green Chile Stew, page 328

                        Long ago, back when I only liked to eat but not cook, a friend passed me a recipe for Green Chile Turkey Stew, which I appear to have misplaced. :( So, when I saw this recipe for green chile chicken stew, I was pretty excited, even though I know it isn't the same as my friend's recipe (it had tomatoes and potatoes, and, of course, turkey).

                        As usual, I adapted this recipe to what I had handy. The recipe calls for an optional sliced jalapeno chile, which I omitted. I thought I had a few in my freezer, but either I don't or they are hopelessly buried. Too bad, because the stew definitely could have used a kick.

                        Second, the recipes calls for either hand-roasted green chiles or "high quality" canned. To be honest, I actually have hand-roastetd green chiles in my freezer (and I know where they are!) but I wasn't ready to sacrifice them to this recipe until I vetted it. They are that precious. The book doesn't give any guidance for distinguishing high-quality canned chiles from the lousy canned chiles, but it doesn't matter, there's pretty much only one option at my grocery store anyway. Maybe if you live in the Southwest you have an array of options?

                        The recipe has you sautee some chopped onions, red bell peppers, carrots and (if you have it) jalapeno peppers in about a tbsp of vegetable oil (I used canola) over medium heat until soft. Stir in chiles and spices and some flour.

                        And here's where I made my most serious departure. She then has you stir in some homemade chicken broth (check) and diced raw chicken. Yuck. If I'm going to use raw chicken in a soup, I think I'd rather start with sauteeing the raw chicken, then do the vegetables, even if it means I have to pull the chicken out and reserve it for a later step. I actually had some roasted chicken that I set aside in my freezer (putting my new foodsaver to use!) and I put that in instead. Shredded instead of diced.

                        Eventually you add in some corn. Finally, you finish with a couple TBSP of lime juice and fresh cilantro. Whoops? No fresh cilantro at Casa TDQ today.

                        We liked this pretty well, even with modifications, but it definitely wanted the jalapeno and fresh cilantro. And if you start with roasted chicken as I did, it's a super quick, easy weeknight dish. I will definitely try this one again.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 11:11 AM

                          Follow up to this report. I just had a bowl of this soup for lunch and, wow, it's definitely one of those "better the next day" recipes. Now I wish I had more.


                        2. buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 06:35 AM

                          TDQ: this is fabulous, you are so wonderfully organized!

                          1. blue room RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 07:38 AM

                            Will this be separate from the COTM thread, like the "Around my French Table" thread?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: blue room
                              The Dairy Queen RE: blue room Jan 21, 2011 07:45 AM

                              Definitely. This is completely an unsanctioned and rogue cooking effort.

                              P.S. buttertart, I just picked up a cheap copy of Jean Anderson's Grass Roots Cookbook. Can I send the invoice to you? ;-). My library didn't have a copy, alas.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 07:51 AM

                                I should become a cookbook promotion specialist, shouldn't I??? ;-)

                                1. re: buttertart
                                  The Dairy Queen RE: buttertart Jan 21, 2011 08:18 AM

                                  Something like that. ;-) When they stop you at the airport and look in your bags do you have to explain those cookbooks are for your personal use only?

                                  Anyway, my copy of the Grass Roots Cookbook will be arriving in a few days, so if you have any recipes you particularly recommend from that back, please do chime in. Otherwise, I shall consider it nightstand material for the short-term. It's not indexed on EYB, either, which means I've violated my own rule about new cookbook acquisitions.


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    buttertart RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 21, 2011 08:22 AM

                                    Just about. We had to buy a new suitcase in China the first time we went (set of books from their provincial cooking schools).
                                    It's definitely nightstand material, I baked a bit from it a long time ago.

                            2. apple342 RE: The Dairy Queen Jan 22, 2011 03:00 PM

                              TDQ, this is a great thread. Thanks for all the links/info you provided for everyone. Like her "NY Cookbook", this (to me) is more of a "documentary" read on American cooking rather than a "go to" cookbook that I will use regularly. What I find interesting about it are the stories, not so much the recipes. The breadth of her research is most impressive. That said, I did make Mama Folse's Pecan Pralines (p.772) for a series I did on New Orleans desserts for my blog. They were really excellent.

                              I purchased this book at the same time I got the ENYT cookbook and have used the latter much more.

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