One Big Table by Molly O'Neill - Read Online
One Big Table
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Ten years ago, former New York Times food columnist Molly O’Neill embarked on a transcontinental road trip to investigate reports that Americans had stopped cooking at home. As she traveled highways, dirt roads, bayous, and coastlines gathering stories and recipes, it was immediately apparent that dire predictions about the end of American cuisine were vastly overstated. From Park Avenue to trailer parks, from tidy suburbs to isolated outposts, home cooks were channeling their family histories as well as their tastes and personal ambitions into delicious meals. One decade and over 300,000 miles later, One Big Table is a celebration of these cooks, a mouthwatering portrait of the nation at the table.

Meticulously selected from more than 20,000 contributions, the cookbook’s 600 recipes are a definitive portrait of what we eat and why. In this lavish volume—illustrated throughout with historic photographs, folk art, vintage advertisements, and family snapshots—O’Neill celebrates heirloom recipes like the Doughty family’s old-fashioned black duck and dumplings that originated on a long-vanished island off Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the Pueblo tamales that Norma Naranjo makes in her horno in New Mexico, as well as modern riffs such as a Boston teenager’s recipe for asparagus soup scented with nigella seeds and truffle oil. Many recipes offer a bridge between first-generation immigrants and their progeny—the bucatini with dandelion greens and spring garlic that an Italian immigrant and his grandson forage for in the Vermont woods—while others are contemporary variations that embody each generation’s restless obsession with distinguishing itself from its predecessors. O’Neill cooks with artists, writers, doctors, truck drivers, food bloggers, scallop divers, horse trainers, potluckers, and gourmet club members.

In a world where takeout is just a phone call away, One Big Table reminds us of the importance of remaining connected to the food we put on our tables. As this brilliantly edited collection shows on every page, the glories of a home-cooked meal prove how every generation has enriched and expanded our idea of American food. Every recipe in this book is a testament to the way our memories—historical, cultural, and personal—are bound up in our favorite and best family dishes.

As O’Neill writes, "Most Americans cook from the heart as well as from a distinctly American yearning, something I could feel but couldn’t describe until thousands of miles of highway helped me identify it in myself: hometown appetite. This book is a journey through hundreds of ‘hometowns’ that fuel the American appetite, recipe by recipe, bite by bite."
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Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food, and Baseball

New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four-Star Restaurants

Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2010 by Molly O’Neill

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Simon & Schuster Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition November 2010

SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Designed by Joel Avirom and Jason Snyder

Images edited by Rebecca Busselle

Permissions and acknowledgments appear on page 862.

Manufactured in the United States of America

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

O’Neill, Molly.

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.

p. cm.

1. Cooking—United States. I. Title.

TX907.2.O54 2010

641.50973—dc22     2010028841

ISBN 978-0-7432-3270-8

ISBN 987-1-4516-0977-6 (ebook)

For Rebecca Busselle, photographer, writer, cook, colleague, fellow traveler, and friend, with gratitude as large as the America we discovered, mile by mile, dish by dish, story by story.


—The New Kentucky Home Cook Book, 1884




Nibbles, Noshes, and Tasty Little Plates


Pickles, Salsas, and Other Condiments, Savory and Sweet


Steaming Bowls: Soups, Chowders, and Other Consolations



Conspicuous Consumption of Cellulose: Salads


From Sea to Shining Sea: Fish and Shellfish



Poultry in Every Pot, Oven, Broiler, and Grill



Everything but the Squeal: Beef, Buffalo, Game, Lamb, and Pork


Eat Your Vegetables


Amber Waves of Grain



The Sweet Life







For many years I lived in a Hell’s Kitchen loft, and from its windows I could see a patch of the Hudson River. I liked knowing that the water was there, keeping the place that I’d chosen to live, New York City, safely apart from Ohio, the place I’d left behind. But for about fifteen years, I forgot to look out the window. I was a restaurant critic and I was eating, drinking, inhaling the city, writing books and stories, living the life that I’d imagined when I was growing up in Columbus.

But in the mid-1990s, I began to stare at the river. Work was great, life was good, but there I was, staring at its far shore in the direction I’d come from. I did not imagine any connection between my reveries and my sudden mania for transforming my terrace into a small farm. To my mind, the container garden was an early expression of locavorism. After the garden, a dog moved in with the boyfriend. And as far as I was concerned, these creatures and cultivars accounted for my otherwise inexplicable enthusiasm to follow the river north to find a weekend house.

I had no trouble explaining to myself the difference between my city and country cooking. My Manhattan kitchen was not all that different from the restaurants where I’d worked: I imagined a dish, I ordered the ingredients—et voilà!: Centerfold Cuisine. But there was no such cornucopia ninety miles up the river from Manhattan. The availability, not imagination, determined dinner. The best produce that the local farms had to offer was sold in the city; what was left required long, slow, homey cooking to coax out its flavor.

Nevertheless, at Manhattan’s restaurants, at dinner parties and charity events, my colleagues and other members of the food cognoscenti began to talk about the end of American home cooking. The argument was that the more people spend on their kitchen range, the less likely they are to cook on the thing and that the fastest-growing department in grocery stores was the prepared foods. One survey found that an increasing number of Americans tuned in to the Food Network on their kitchen TVs so they’d have someone cooking. In New York City, dinner had long meant eating out, or getting take-out, which was no longer my experience. But I refused to believe that this philosophy had crossed the Hudson and infiltrated the mainland.

To reassure myself, I called each of my five brothers in Ohio. Our conversations were less than comforting.

How many times a week do you cook dinner at home? I asked.

How are you defining cooking? one answered warily.

I was soon reading reports that somewhere between supersizing and the current romance of farmers’ markets, Americans had stopped cooking. The possibility that the results might be true gave me a sense of urgency about finding true American cooking.

My weekends upstate began to stretch to four days. I cooked more, ate out less, spent days lurking on food sites chatting with people about what they cooked and why. A wall of my study was soon covered with historic maps of the United States: the Armour Company’s Food Source Map (The Greatness of the United States is founded on Agriculture), the hog-shaped Porcineograph, and Miguel Covarrubias’s Map of Good Eating were soon joined by contemporary examples like Gary Nabhan’s Regional Map of North America’s Place-Based Food Traditions, the National Golden Arches Locator, and Kentfield’s America Eats Organic Coast to Coast. I spent a year reading American food writing and constructing maps of my own—what was grown, what was eaten, when, why, and by whom.

I’ve never known a food-obsessed person who did not have someone in a cotton apron—a grandmother or mother, an uncle, a father, a neighbor, a teacher—standing behind them who could turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one and make the world seem larger, full of heart, and bursting with possibility. But these American cooks had been forgotten over the past several decades as cooking morphed into cuisine. I wanted to find them and cook with them and get a taste of their America. I had no idea that I’d also find a part of myself.

In 2001, I packed my maps and divided the country into roughly twenty-five geographic patches. I traveled to a particular spot for a few weeks or months, and then returned home to write and cook. I was aided and abetted in my search by motley crews of local food obsessives. Comprised of food cart owners and retired food editors, local dining clubs, slow food consortiums, gourmet societies and cooking contest winners, grocers, bloggers, farmers who grow the high quality ingredients that lure fine cooks and people who live to eat, these advance teams guided me into corners of the nation where cooking is still something that pulls people together.

Some communities come together around long-established feasts—Maine’s beanhole dinner and clambake; the St. Pius Barbecued Mutton day in Kentucky; New Mexico’s horno tamales; the fish boils of Door County, Wisconsin. Others converge for what the writer Jonathan Gold describes as Folkloric Food: fried chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries, clam chowder, boiled lobster, corn on the cob, and macaroni and cheese, which are as much about cultural identity as they are about dinner. Still others converge for occasions—family reunions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, coming-of-age ceremonies in New Mexico, the Blessing of the Fleet in Provincetown, Indian Diwali feasts, and Iranian No-Rooz. And then there are the smaller tables that bring families and friends together. I found melting-pot moments and incidents of unmeltable pots, but the nation I discovered was more like one big table.

Almost as soon as I decamped from one place at this table to another, I knew that the reports of the demise of home cooking were greatly overstated. I found a preponderance of grocery stores, markets, and farmstands with stocks of uncooked food—irrefutable evidence that most homes still contain working kitchens—and observed many people preparing dinner.

The more miles I logged, the clearer it became that Americans don’t cook is an updated version of an old slur. From the birth of the nation until quite recently, Europeans and those Americans who measure culture in relationship to European society claimed that Americans can’t cook. The assertion may have been reality-based in the nation’s early days—rare is the culture that mints a refined cuisine before it clears the wilderness and establishes communities—but in more than 300,000 miles, I found that my fellow citizens can and do cook. Some cook badly, some cook well, all cook to say who they are and where they come from.

Recipes are family stories, tales of particular places and personal histories. They bear witness to the land and waterways, to technology and invention, to immigration, migration, ambition, disappointment, triumph, and most of all, change.

After stalking the country’s best cooks by region, I spent several years in the home kitchens of recent immigrants. And then I had the good fortune to spend a year creating potluck dinners across the United States that raised money for 232 local food banks and brought me recipes and covered dishes to consider for this book. Hundreds of additional recipes arrived from magazines, newsletters, and Internet postings, from friends and friends of friends, from people I’d met, and people who’d heard about my quest. My tower of recipes began to resemble Pisa’s.

When cooks were conflicted about which of their recipes to offer to this project, I often said: Which recipe embodies your life and times and your own personal America? If you could leave one recipe to your family, which one would it be?

In the end, it was the endless highway that showed me the most about American cooking. Between the tasty tidbits and the occasional stomach-turner, I experienced the narcotic rumble of the road, the fear (and frequent reality) of getting lost, the fatigue and tedium. Then, turning a corner, I would meet someone in a kitchen, or digging a pit on a beach, or stoking the coals in an oil-drum smoker. American cooks are wacky, idiosyncratic, and heartfelt. They refuse to bow to time constraints, overwork, and media pressure, refuse to eat like everybody else, insist on making their dinner—and often their lives—with their own hands.

Americans don’t have to cook anymore. Those who choose to cook are throwbacks, the last living cowboys, Huck Finns, would-be Julias, embracing America’s unbridled individuality. Many are capable of creating deliciousness. Most cook from the heart as well as from a distinctly American yearning, something I could feel, but couldn’t describe until thousands of miles of highway helped me identify it in myself: hometown appetite.

We all have hometown appetites, wrote the cookbook author Clementine Paddleford in 1960, every other person is a bundle of longing for the simplicities of good taste once enjoyed on the farm or in the hometown [he or she] left behind. This book is a journey through hundreds of the hometowns that fuel the American appetite, recipe by recipe, bite by bite.

Over the past decade, I collected more than 10,000 recipes, tested about one-third of them, and narrowed the final collection down to around 600. In the winnowing process, there were many duplicates. Generally they were recipes that had first appeared in old cookbooks or cooking pamphlets issued by food manufacturers, became standards, and were then passed from one generation to the next. When their origins were lost, these dishes were ascribed to the person who passed the recipe along. The provenance was not meant to be misleading—for instance, a man who finally passes along his great-great-grandmother’s recipe for dumplings has no idea that the same formula appears in the original edition of The Settlement Cookbook. He has a desire to hold on to a piece of his family’s past, to connect an heirloom recipe to a person rather than the cookbook she must have used.

I endeavored to research the recipes included here, and when it seemed appropriate, to credit the original inspiration, but it is impossible to ensure the provenance of every recipe. If you should find a familiar recipe, I would love to hear your stories about it. Please send them to

Because grocery stores are stocking an increasing array of ingredients that were once difficult to obtain and because online and mail-order sources shift constantly, an up-to-date list of mail-order sources for specialty cookware and ingredients can be found at





To define the moment of a cuisine’s birth is an attempt to describe the spirit of a people, the ineffable appetite that is held in common, undiminished by time. Americans want a single point of origin, but history refuses to cooperate.

Scholars as well as school-children long considered New England the Eden of our national cuisine. The yearly recreation of Plimoth Plantation’s first harvest meal is an ode to this myth. Each traditional Thanksgiving dish became evidence that the American cuisine sprang from an exchange between New England’s corn-eating, chowder-making, bird-hunting Wampanoag Indians and the Puritan settlers who tried to civilize the same ingredients by cooking them British style.

This feather-and-shoe-buckle theory survived until the 1960s, when scholars began to question the Massachusetts colony’s claim. After all, more than a century before the Mayflower landed, Spanish explorers were cooking in St. Augustine, Florida. Their 1503 encampment was short-lived, and a French group landed nearby—and, some say, celebrated the first Thanksgiving—in June of 1564. Within a year, religious zealots from Spain sacked this settlement and, according to other historians, created the earliest Thanksgiving on September 8, 1565. Still other scholars claim that Jamestown was the birthplace of American cuisine.

Karl Koster is an amateur historian and historic reenactor who is obsessed with cooking historically correct American meals. He has little patience with the Big Bang theory of New World cuisine and says that there was no single First Feast.

Wherever water met land, people converged. They came from different places, they cooked for survival, they ate a lot of nasty things, and most of the time they only had two things in common: purpose and hope. They all believed that the best was yet to come. They approached everything they did as the beginning of a great new world. That’s America. I feel it every time I go back to 1607 for a weekend.

Since he was a teenager, Mr. Koster has spent most weekends making sense of the present by repeating (or reinventing) the past. He is a historic reenactor. His ability to absorb research and channel the spirit of other times is uncanny. In 1997, he became one of the rare reenactors given the chance to turn pro when he was offered a position as a park ranger at the Grand Portage National Monument on the north shore of Lake Superior. In the mid-eighteenth century, Grand Portage was the inland headquarters of the North West Company, and trappers for British-licensed, Scottish-owned fur companies, French Canadians, and the indigenous Anishinaabeg clan of the Ojibwe nation created a major gateway into the interior of North America. Wearing period clothing, Mr. Koster builds birch-bark canoes, skins beaver tails, and grills moose snout for visitors.

There are all levels of reenactors, he says modestly. You have the guys who want to dress up, play Civil War, and guzzle beer. Then you have the families that want to go back to a Colonial-era farm and learn history together. And then you have a few like me who spend their lives researching and creating museum-quality reenactments. I’ve always been more or less a nerd.

His single-mindedness has not always been easy. Once at a local 7-Eleven he slipped into an eighteenth-century cadence at the checkout counter. The cashier looked scared. A tollbooth attendant had a similar reaction when Koster had to drive to a pre-Colonial-era reenactment in his costume.

Mr. Koster doesn’t mind the stares. It’s gotta be jarring to see somebody dressed up in a billowy linen shirt, drop-front hemp britches, and a wide woven sash, with a big tuque on his head, driving an old, beat-up Buick Century, he said. But he is not without support. His wife, he says, understands the difficulty of moving from one historical reality to another. She’s never questioned my passion. Her parents made historically correct period garments and worked the reenactment circuit.

Mr. Koster spent several decades finding his personal spot in the nation’s past—I’m 1763 to 1821, the British period of the Great Lakes fur trade—and he has built hundreds of lean-tos, sod huts, and log cabins; worn animal skins, knickers, and trousers; acted out just about every pre–Civil War era of American history; and cooked his way back to the foundation of the nation’s cuisine: the ingredients that were on hand.

"When they talk about the origins of American cooking, everybody goes on about who was here and who came here. But when you start to cook, the first question is ‘What?’ not ‘Who?’

What was here? he asks. And then he answers: "Fish and game. And as soon as they cleared a patch of land, there was corn, beans, and squash. No matter where they came from or where they landed, the continental United States gave them corn, beans, and squash. Indigenous people called these ‘the three sisters.’ You might have caught fish, you might have hunted yourself some nice venison or wild boar, but the next thing in the pot was corn, beans, and squash.

Back when I started, we just took an old-looking pot, dumped some cans of Dinty Moore stew in it, and called it history. Then the research got better. Heck, I spent years experimenting with green wood grills, mud ovens, cooking on hot rocks near the fire, hanging food from wooden tripods over the fire, and working with three-legged pots, he says, adding, When you read a journal entry about eating bear meat dipped in boiling maple syrup, well, you just gotta have that and you gotta get it right, so you go back and you read as much as you can find.

Some find it difficult to understand what the shape and thickness of, say, a 250-year-old pot reveal about why we eat what we eat today, but as he adjusts the forked sticks of the rotisserie where he’s roasting a moose snout in the fire pit at Grand Portage, Mr. Koster is eager to explain. In my experience, the righter the pot, the righter the utensils, the righter the ingredients, the better your chances of connecting with what the pot or the rotisserie or the clay oven or the food meant to people. The closer you get to what they thought and felt and dreamed when they stirred or tended a cook fire, he says. When you connect at that level, you can feel their hunger, feel what it has in common with your own understanding that you are the continuation of a grand dream that often takes the form of a meal.

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving!

—Rosalind Russell as Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame



Maggi Smith Hall’s family has lived in St. Augustine for four generations and is happiest when working to preserve the city’s Old-World churches, stores, homes, and history. She relates tales of the Spanish explorers who landed here in the early 1500s, carrying the cattle that would become longhorns, and the missionaries who would attempt to create New Spain in the American Southwest. It was the Spanish, says Mrs. Hall, a former high school teacher, who created the vibrant Florida port, but it was the Minorcans—people brought from Greece, Italy, and the island of Minorca in 1768 and indentured to nearby indigo plantations—who turned St. Augustine into a pan-Mediterranean settlement. Their dishes were united by at least one ingredient: the tiny, hot datil peppers that are still grown in window boxes and kitchen gardens in St. Augustine today. Mrs. Hall was so captivated by the pepper that she created a community cookbook, researching and collecting recipes from the descendants of the original settlers. These Minorcan fromajardis (fried cheese tarts) were traditionally handed out to singers serenading the old neighborhoods on a spring night each year to celebrate the anniversary of the Minorcans’ arrival in Florida. The Fromajardis Serenade still continues in St. Augustine the week after Easter. Today, says Mrs. Hall, the zesty little tarts are given most often to those who agree to stop singing.


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup vegetable shortening

½ cup water


8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon kosher salt

⅛ teaspoon Datil Pepper Sauce (recipe follows)

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

1. Place the oven racks in the bottom and top positions and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Cut in the shortening with two knives or a dough blender. Add the water and stir until the dough comes together into a ball. Cover and set aside.

3. To make the filling: In a medium bowl, toss the cheese with the flour. Stir in the eggs, salt, hot sauce, and nutmeg.

4. To assemble the pastries: Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is ⅛-inch thick. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into 24 circles. Place a well-rounded teaspoon of the filling on one side of each circle, then fold the dough over the filling to make a half-moon shape. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal. Reroll leftover dough to make more pastries with any remaining filling.

5. Brush the pastries with melted butter. Cut two 1-inch slashes in the tops to make a cross. Place on the prepared baking sheets.

6. Bake one baking sheet at a time on the bottom rack about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. The cheese will puff up through the crosses. Transfer the baking sheet to the top rack and bake for 2 to 3 minutes more, until well browned and crisp. Repeat with the second baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Datil Pepper Sauce

It’s easy to double or triple this recipe and adjust the spiciness to individual tastes. The sauce also makes a wonderful companion to grilled fish, poultry, and meat.

½ cup olive oil

4 large tomatoes, cored and chopped

2 medium-size sweet onions such as Vidalia or Maui, finely chopped

2 whole datil chiles, stemmed

1 cup water

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, onions, and chiles and cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the water, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours, until thick. Store covered in the refrigerator.



AMERICANS HAVE ALWAYS EATEN ON THE RUN. AS EARLY as 1677, two French monks visiting New York described the habit: So intent are they on their business that they do not stop to dine like gentle folk elsewhere. From the multitudinous vendors of clams and corn, oysters and yams, they snatch up what they wish, much as they march. In Frances Trollope’s 1830 Domestic Manners of the Americans, she summarized the American dining style as Grab, gobble and go. Not much has changed. Today snack foods, soft drinks, and alcohol account for 30 percent of the calories consumed in this country, and handheld nibbles, like many of the recipes that follow, remain the top choice for social eating.



Highway 84 runs from Santa Fe to Colorado. About forty minutes north of Santa Fe, the highway cuts a paved path through Ohkay Owingeh, a Native American reservation, and the roadside becomes dense with fast-food outlets, outposts of national grocery chains, Walmart, and billboards for Ohkay Casino. Hutch and Norma Naranjo’s sprawling midcentury home is set about fifty yards back from the road, a shrine to the tug-of-war between new ways and traditional ones. In the backyard Mr. Naranjo built two hornos (beehive-shaped adobe ovens). Inside the house, a handmade wreath of dried chiles hangs on one wall and a string of made-for-tourists ceramic peppers on another. A naïve painting of St. Francis hangs not far from a cluster of the dream catchers that the couple and their two grown children fashion from string, feathers, and yarn, just as their Pueblo ancestors did.

We go to church one Sunday and dance the traditional dances the next, said Mrs. Naranjo. A retired social worker, she gives cooking classes and does a little catering. But she spends most of her mornings working the two-acre minifarm where she grows vegetables from seeds that have been passed from one Pueblo generation to another for at least a thousand years. The history of our people is in those seeds, she says. In the evenings, when her husband builds hornos on the terraces of hotels and McMansions, Mrs. Naranjo visits the elderly women in Ohkay Owingeh, who remember life and cooking when it was closer to the land, and collects their recipes and food stories. Our history lives in our hands as well, she says.

Mrs. Naranjo moves with the efficiency of a modern professional as she smooths cornmeal paste on damp cornhusks. Tiny white kernels from several ears of heirloom corn, and diced green chiles and squash, along with a thick, bloodred chile sauce and shredded fresh cheese, are lined up in small stainless-steel bowls at the head of her tamale assembly line. She notes that tamales were stuffed with rabbit, venison, pork—whatever people had. Vegetable tamales were a fine way to make use of the gardens’ overflowing crops.

She swathes the dough, sprinkles filling, folds, ties, and places the tamale bundles on a rack set over water in a big enameled pot. From time to time, she glances out the window to the backyard, where her husband is feeding small, dry sticks into his new four-by-four horno. Her smaller tamales are, she says, her only concession to modernity: People love the little ones as snacks, and Hutch and I love them in these green chile stews we make in the horno.


One 8-ounce package dried corn husks, approximately 48 individual husks

3 cups masa harina (preferably Maseca brand)

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened

¼ vegetable oil or fresh lard

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1½ teaspoons baking powder

About 1½ cups warm water


1 teaspoon vegetable oil

3 cups diced peeled calabaza, zucchini, or summer squash, in ½-inch pieces

1 cup Red Chile Sauce (recipe follows)

2 cups fresh chico corn kernels or other small, sweet corn kernels

4 to 6 roasted green chiles (canned or fresh), seeded and thinly sliced into 2-inch-long strips

2 cups shredded mozzarella or other fresh mild cheese

1. To prepare the husks: Separate the bundle into individual husks, place them in a pot of warm water over medium-low heat, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat, place a plate on top of the husks to keep them under water, and soak for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the dough by placing the masa harina in a large bowl. Knead in the butter. Add the vegetable oil. Add the salt and baking powder and knead to combine thoroughly. Add the water, ½ cup at a time, stirring or kneading after each addition, until the dough is slightly pliant and rather pasty. Cover and set aside.

3. To prepare the filling: Warm the vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and cook 1 to 2 minutes, shaking the pan so that each side of the squash toasts slightly. Transfer to a bowl.

4. To assemble the tamales: Pat the cornhusks dry and cut into 4-inch squares. Cut some of the husks into thin strips for tying the tamales (cut at least 40 strips). Spread 1 tablespoon of the dough in the center of a husk square to create a 2½-inch square. Brush a little chile sauce over the dough, sprinkle on a little squash, and then a little corn. Lay a piece of green chile on the middle of the filling and sprinkle with cheese.

5. As if covering a small package with wrapping paper, fold the sides of the husk toward the center, then the ends. Tie the bundle with a husk strip. When the tamales have been assembled, place upright on a steaming rack over boiling water. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Serve as an appetizer or with a green chile sauce.


Red Chile Sauce

Mrs. Naranjo says, A lot of these traditional dishes are being modernized. You see chefs putting spices and things in their red chile. My grandmother only used salt. I only use salt. This sauce can also be used to make red meat chile or chile filling for tamales, or to give thickness and smoky fire to other soups and stews.

15 large dried New Mexico red chiles

Boiling water

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, butter, or meat fat such as lard or suet

2 teaspoons masa harina, corn flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking sheet in the oven until hot. Put on rubber gloves and remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and use tongs to arrange the chiles on it in a single layer. Slide back in the oven and roast until the chiles are fragrant, about 5 minutes.

2. Remove from oven and use tongs to transfer the chiles to a heatproof bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover the chiles and allow to sit until cool, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the peppers and 3 cups of the soaking liquid to a food processor or blender. Reserve the remaining liquid. Blend or process the chiles until smooth.

3. Warm the oil over medium heat. Whisk in the masa harina. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the pureed chiles, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in salt to taste. Add additional water, if necessary, to get a thick but pourable consistency. This sauce will keep in a tightly covered glass jar up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen.




John Newman is 41 years old, and he began cooking from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts Cook Book when he was in grade school. His mother was less than enthusiastic about his constant presence in the kitchen: Gender roles are generally not bent much in Mormon households, he says. But in addition to mastering the art of Peanuts cooking, Mr. Newman absorbed some of the recipes that his family brought from Denmark in the mid-1800s when they followed the Mormon founder Brigham Young to Utah. His great-grandmother, Rebecca Hales, was a captain in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneer and was famous for her ableskivers. The small, round batter cakes are cooked in distinctive iron pans with cupcake-shaped depressions and are usually filled with fruit. His great-grandmother made her ableskivers with gooseberry jam, plain sugar, or a traditional apple filling. Mr. Newman has pushed the recipe into a more savory direction, adding sausage or blue cheese and serving the puffs as appetizers or brunch, with tart currant jam on the side.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 large eggs, separated

2 cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 pound firm blue cheese, cut into 48 small pieces

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth, then whisk in the buttermilk until well blended. In another large bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

2. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture just until blended. Do not overmix. Fold the egg whites into the batter until almost no white streaks remain.

3. Heat an ableskiver pan over medium heat. Lightly brush the inside of each well of the pan with the melted butter. Working in batches, spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of batter into each well, drop a piece of blue cheese in the batter, and top with a little more batter. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top of the batter becomes very bubbly. Flip the ableskivers using a metal skewer, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until browned.

4. Using the metal skewer, transfer the ableskivers to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with butter between each batch. Serve warm.


NOTE: Ableskiver pans are available in most cookware shops.



Born in Ireland and educated in British boarding schools, Charles Shackleton came from a family of adventurers. His forebears dared the harsh and uncharted Antarctic; Mr. Shackleton, along with his wife, Miranda Thomas, dared the uncharted territory of a handmade life. Situated in a sprawling former woolen mill, his furniture workshop and her pottery studio have become shrines for artists, craftspeople, gardeners, and passionate home cooks, and have helped revive a desolate New England mill town. We like to make things with our hands and to connect people with each other and to the land, says Mr. Shackleton. The couple are in their early fifties, have two grown children, two young Jack Russell terriers, twenty employees, and the reputation for giving some of the best parties in the Green Mountains. Their home, an 1814 stone and clapboard cottage perched on a hillside 1,000 feet above the Ottaquechee River, has no foundation, and despite the hay bales stuffed under the structure, fierce drafts blow up through the floorboards. From October until April, life, dinner, and parties revolve around the wood-fired oven that shares the massive chimney with the red brick fireplace.

I grew up next to the fireplace in a drafty old Irish country house, so this house feels like home, says Mr. Shackleton. "We’re about being present and living well, not nostalgia. But sometimes you just need a fix of the past. I can get a little obsessive. Once I spent months trying to make the perfect crumpet—traveling to a mill, trying to find the right flour, the right pan, the right technique. I even sponsored a contest just to see other people make them. Crumpets are a stovetop operation. I moved on to bread, and I figured out pretty quickly that the bread bakes best in the wood oven. Pizza followed naturally.

"Every week or so, I make the dough, the naked pizza, and we put out bowls of roasted peppers, tomato sauce, cheese, herbs, chicken, sausage, wafers of ham, black olives, sautéed vegetables. People, lots of people, show up and make their own pies. When we cook together and put the food on the pottery that Miranda makes and set it out on a table I’ve built, people understand why we do what we do and why we care about the things we care about. The next thing you know, they’ve pushed all the furniture out of the way and turned the house into a disco, out-of-town guests, our friends, the kids who apprentice with us, town elders, and members of the local homemakers’ club. Ordinary pizza might not have the same power.

I started with a recipe from Alice Waters and added some more brown grains. My father was a miller, you know, and there are a few wonderful artisanal grain growers and millers in Vermont. If I didn’t have a wood oven that I can fire up to 700 degrees in ten minutes, I probably wouldn’t make pizza. But I do know someone who gets a wonderful smoky, crisp crust by grilling his pizza. He pats out the dough, lays it on a hot grill without the toppings. He cooks it on one side, flips it, adds the toppings, covers the grill and cooks it until it is all lovely and bubbly.

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1½ cups lukewarm water

3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1½ cups stone-ground rye flour

¼ cups Irish wholemeal flour (or stone-ground whole-wheat flour)

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

2 cups water

¾ cup high quality olive oil

Miranda Thomas’s Modest Red Sauce (recipe follows)

Toppings (such as roasted peppers, sautéed vegetables, cooked Italian sausages and chicken, wafers of ham, black olives, cheese, and herbs)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a large bowl. Stir in 1½ cups of the unbleached flour, ¾ cup of the rye flour, and the wholemeal flour, and let sit in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

2. In another bowl, combine the remaining flours with the salt. Stir this mixture, 2 cups water, and the olive oil into the yeast mixture. Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough until it is satiny and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Place in a large, clean bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Two hours before serving, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Punch it down and divide the dough into six equal pieces. Pat each into a ball and let sit on a tray at room temperature, covered with a towel, for another hour. While the dough is rising, set the oven rack in the lowest position and preheat oven to its highest heat (450°–500°F).

4. Lightly flour the work surface and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a thin, 10-inch circle. Transfer to a baking sheet. Apply a thin layer of sauce or olive oil along with other desired toppings, and bake until the dough is golden and crisp and the toppings are cooked through, 5 to 15 minutes depending on the oven’s heat. Serve each pizza as soon as it is done.




Miranda Thomas says, When I was in art school back in England, there was a boy from France who made pots with me, and he taught me to make this sauce. He used fresh tomatoes, blanched them and skinned and seeded them, but that was only because we couldn’t get high quality canned crushed tomatoes. It is important to get the measurements right, especially the pepper, and to cook the sauce very slowly to get a mellow, slightly sweet taste. Charlie and I use this sauce on the pizzas we serve to big groups. We usually put the toppings out for people to choose and serve a big salad as well.

¼ cup high quality olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, minced

Kosher salt

2 garlic cloves, smashed

One 28-ounce can crushed plum tomatoes and juice

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

20 turns of black pepper from a grinder

1. Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes more.

2. Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, and black pepper. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick. Add salt to taste. The sauce will keep up to 1 week in a tightly-covered glass or plastic container in the refrigerator.


MAILE NGUYEN’S BANH XEO Vietnamese Shrimp Pancake


Maile Nguyen is 36 years old, the daughter of a shrimper, and the wife and sister of shrimpers. Her earliest memory is how her mother, a Vietnamese refugee and a widow, smelled when she returned home after working fourteen hours in a fish-processing house. After they moved to Biloxi as a result of bad weather and low harvests the family lived cheek by jowl in refugee housing. Before anyone in the family learned English, shopping for food was scary. In the grocery stores, basil and mint was sold dried, not in the bunches found year-round today; there was only one variety of rice; and finding fish sauce, the ketchup of Vietnamese cooking, was impossible. But even in bad years, there was shrimp enough to eke by. Today in Biloxi, there is a Buddhist temple, the major holidays are celebrated in a big way, some of the markets rival those of Saigon, and Mrs. Nguyen has the luxury of staying at home to raise her children and look after her mother. For the family’s two biggest holidays—Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year, and the Fourth of July—she makes this traditional Vietnamese pancake. Her husband calls them Vietnamese tacos, her mother calls them thank God somebody else is cooking them, and people in their neighborhood call them delicious.


¼ cup water

2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam), plus additional to taste

4½ teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon Vietnamese chili paste, or 1 small red chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced


2 cups fresh mint leaves

2 cups fresh Thai basil leaves, lightly packed

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, lightly packed

2 cups bean sprouts

2 cups rice flour

1 cup water

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more as needed

4 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)

½ pound ground pork

1 pound medium shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined

4 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced

1. To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together water, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chili paste, and garlic. Season with additional fish sauce to taste, and cover.

2. To make the pancakes: Arrange the mint, basil, cilantro, and bean sprouts on a serving platter and refrigerate. In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, water, coconut milk, turmeric, and salt.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add the mushrooms (if using) and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the pork and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, until any lumps are broken up and the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the shrimp and scallions and cook about 3 minutes, until the shrimp are pink. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

4. In an 8-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup of the batter and tilt the pan to coat the bottom and sides. Reduce the heat to medium and cook about 2 minutes, until the pancake begins to brown on the bottom and is crisp at the edges. (If needed, add 1 to 2 teaspoons more oil around the edges to keep the pancake crisp.)

5. Mound about ½ cup of the shrimp mixture on one half of the pancake, then fold the pancake over the filling to make a half-moon shape. Slide the pancake out of the pan. Repeat with the remaining oil, batter, and filling. Serve with the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and sauce.



WHEN WHITE SETTLERS ARRIVED ON the North American continent, no fish were more abundant than the sturgeon that lived in the lakes, streams, and rivers from New England to the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Pacific Northwest. By the nineteenth century, the United States produced 90 percent of the world’s caviar. Maine’s Kennebec River was second only to the Hudson River in sturgeon production, and no one, particularly no member of Downeast clans like the Brownes of Harpswell, Maine, who’d worked the local waters since before Maine was a state, could fawthum (as they say) that the giant sturgeon would ever disappear. But in 1949, Rod Browne (above) caught the last great sturgeon that anyone remembers, a 145-pound female, nine and a half feet long. Sturgeon fisheries in the Caspian Sea took over the caviar trade, but concern about that area eventually led to international limits on importation, and by the 1980s scientists were experimenting with alternative ways to grow domestic sturgeon and harvest their caviar. Today, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, California, Washington, and Alaska are producing caviar from different varieties of sturgeon, most of them farm-raised.



Rod Browne Mitchell, the nephew and namesake of the man who caught the last Kennebec River sturgeon, is still in the family business. His Browne Trading Company in Portland, Maine, is one of the nation’s premier caviar suppliers. He samples pounds of the world’s best each year. The flavor of the fish eggs always takes him back to early mornings at his grandfather’s fishing camp on Quahog Bay and the smell of his grandmother’s clam pancakes. Downeast families sold the finest fish, and ate what remained. That was the thrifty and proper thing to do. The sturgeon are gone, but there are still lots of clams. These pancakes are exclusive to the Browne family: The regular clam cake was not popular in our house; maybe that is why my grandmother tried pancake batter, he says. As children, they wanted a sweet batter and drowned the pancakes in maple syrup. This savory version makes a fine first course or finger food.

1 cup milk

¼ cup heavy cream

¼ cup water

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons sugar

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Vegetable oil, for the griddle

2 dozen littleneck clams, steamed, removed from the shell, and left whole

Nuns clamming on Long Island, 1957.

1. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, cream, water, and egg. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the milk mixture, and stir until combined.

2. Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat and lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, spoon 1-tablespoon portions of batter onto the griddle, spaced 1 inch apart, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until small holes appear. Place 1 clam on the top of each pancake, flip, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until lightly browned. Transfer the pancakes to a serving plate and repeat with the remaining batter and clams, brushing the griddle with oil between each batch. Serve.




The Eastern Shore of Virginia, which stretches from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, has been a prosperous fishing ground for oysters, crabs, and clams for centuries. There, clam fritters are ubiquitous, and the competition to make the finest flat, fluffy fritter has gone on for generations. Right now, nobody makes them better than Bobby Bridges, a 58-year-old waterman and house painter.

Mr. Bridges moved to the Eastern Shore after high school, married a local girl and never left. From the start, he made a greaseless clam fritter. He says that his recipe has been in his wife Debbie’s family since the nineteenth century.

It’s not that hard. You want to use real fresh chowder clams, grind them with a Universal food chopper, not a food processor, and get them real dry before you put them in the batter, and you want to make sure to make the fritters bigger than your hamburger bun. Nothing worse than a bigger roll and you have to lift up the top to see what’s in it. A clam fritter got to hang out of the roll. That’s the way I like it. I want to see it, not hide it.

1 pound freshly shucked chowder clams, with their juices

½ white onion, minced

Vegetable oil or lard, for frying

2 large eggs

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

¼ cup baking mix (preferably Bisquick)

4 hamburger buns, for serving (optional)

Mustard, mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s brand), and lettuce leaves, for serving (optional)

1. Pour clams and juice into a hand-cranked food grinder and coarsely grind into a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Lift and turn the clams gently, pressing down lightly with spatula so they’re as well drained as possible. The clam juice can be used for chowder or frozen up to six months.

2. Pass the onion through the food grinder into a fine-mesh strainer over another bowl. Discard the onion juice.

3. Line two baking sheets with paper towels. Working in batches, spoon the clams on to the first baking sheet. Blot as dry as possible.

4. Place a large, deep cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add enough vegetable oil to reach halfway up the sides.

5. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Season lightly with the salt, black pepper, and a few grains of cayenne, if desired. Stir in the baking mix, then the onions. Working quickly, fold in the clams.

6. When the oil is hot, drop 3 tablespoons of the batter for each fritter into the oil and gently flatten with a heatproof rubber spatula to a circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Fry for 7 minutes on each side.

7. When fritters are golden and cooked through, drain on paper towels and blot well. If desired, serve on soft white hamburger rolls, with mustard, mayonnaise, and lettuce.




Master plumber and amateur chef Mike DiMuccio is part of a cooking club comprised of fifteen of his food-obsessed friends who meet in his basement to bottle their own wine. As the club grew, its operations spread to the first floor of his commercial building, so he installed a professional kitchen, where the club members now compete with each other. His fried squid with hot pepper sauce is a product of his own Italian background, but also reflects some of the Portuguese influence of his hometown. He feels that the local Kenyon’s Grist Mill white or yellow cornmeal is best for breading, but whatever you choose, the single most important factor is to bread the squid very lightly so that the flavor comes through. It doesn’t hurt to grow your own peppers and pickle them, either.

4 cups whole milk

1 pound squid, cleaned, tentacles removed and reserved, bodies cut into ½-inch rings

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup drained sliced pickled peppers such as Italian Banana or Portuguese Hot

1 teaspoon onion powder

Vegetable oil, for frying

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl, combine the milk and squid, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

2. About 1 hour before frying, drain the squid and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet to dry.

3. While the squid dries, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds, until aromatic. Stir in the peppers and onion powder and cook until the peppers are tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Keep warm.

4. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 inches of oil until a deep-frying thermometer reads 365°F to 375°F, or a pinch of flour sizzles in the oil. Season the squid with salt and pepper and lightly coat with flour, shaking off the excess. Carefully add one-third of the squid to the hot oil and cook for 45 seconds to 1½ minutes, until light golden brown and tender. Transfer the squid to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Return the oil to 375°F and repeat with the remaining squid in two more batches.

5. Add the squid to the skillet, toss with the butter mixture, and serve.




Jody Williams, cofounder of the Internet campaign to ban land mines, and Nobel Peace laureate, has traveled the globe advocating for social justice. Forbes magazine named her one of its most powerful women in the world, but the few days a year that she is at home and cooking with her husband, Steve Goose, are her happiest. The couple loves to meld Asian ingredients—like the panko bread crumbs and lime juice in this crab cake recipe—with her family’s traditional Sicilian cooking. Cooking one’s way to peace is just as good as any other path. At the end of the day, people commune over food, she says. Cooking and eating brings people together and is the building block of community. (Her avocado sauce recipe makes a fine dip for chips, as well.)


1 avocado, halved, pitted, and flesh scooped out

¼ cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño chile

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage

¼ cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 garlic cloves, minced

1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 dashes hot sauce

½ cup panko bread crumbs, plus more for coating the cakes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. To make the sauce: In a blender or food processor, process the avocado, half-and-half, lime juice, and jalapeño about 30 seconds, until smooth. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

2. To make the crab cakes: In a medium bowl, mix together the crabmeat, half-and-half, onion, lime juice, egg, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, pepper, and hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. Stir the panko into the chilled crab mixture and shape into eight patties about 1 inch thick. Lightly coat the outside of the patties with panko.

4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the crab cakes and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, gently turning over once, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer the crab cakes to a serving platter or individual plates and serve with the sauce.




Gravlax, a Scandinavian dish, is cured with salt and sugar and lightly flavored with mustard powder and black pepper. But in the Pacific Northwest, where wild salmon are still plentiful, other herbs and wild greens that evoke the untamed flavor of the northern woods are used. In this recipe, pine needles add a citrus bite that cuts the rich, gamey flavor of the wild fish. (With the exception of yew, which can be toxic, most pine, spruce, fir, and juniper needles are edible in moderate quantities. Check a reliable field guide for any counter-indications.) Channing Ockley, a medical technologist whose forebears emigrated from Scotland to help build the salmon industry in the early nineteenth century, sometimes uses maple syrup in place of the sugar to pack the salmon. It adds a subtle smoky flavor to the cured fish.

½ cup sugar

6 tablespoons kosher salt

Two 1-pound center-cut salmon fillets

1½ cups pine needles, rinsed well and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons white peppercorns, crushed

1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and salt. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the mixture evenly over the flesh side of each fillet. Sprinkle the bottom of a glass baking dish with ¼ cup of the mixture.