I received this bohemoth of a cook book as a birthday gift earlier this year, and I have been wanting to write about it for a while. It is massive at 864 pages, and contains 600 recipes from some of the country’s best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit masters, and chefs. A little more than 10 years ago, former New York Times editor Molly O’Neill, set out on a cross country trip to investigate reports that Americans had stopped cooking. She found quite the opposite. She travelled thousands of miles, meeting people from all walks of life, who helped her put that fear to rest. This book is almost an encyclopedia of America’s rich food heritage. There are recipes for the most traditional of American foods, as well as the ethnic foods of other lands, brought here by immigrants from around the world. The story of how each dish came into the hands of each contributor is told with reverence and respect. Throughout the book Molly weaves in the history of American food, and the various products, and equipment used throughout the years. This book is a great representation of how we cook in this country. If you are looking for a cook book that is truly diverse, then One Big Table is the book that you are looking for.
With the 4th July just barely in the past, I thought it would be fitting for me to share a recipe from one of our country’s favorite presidents, Thomas Jefferson. This recipe was contributed by Charles Insler of St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Insler found this recipe while researching the food preferences of the American presidents. Fricassee is a traditional French technique for stews, using a gravy or a stock with white sauce. This recipe leans a bit towards the gravy side of the boat. The ingredients are fairly simple, but is a dish that does take a little bit of time to make. It is rich and delicious, and served on a bed of rice or egg noodles, it is perfect for a Sunday dinner.
THOMAS JEFFERSON’S CHICKEN FRICASSEE
One 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Koser salt and freshly grated black pepper (to taste, I used a 1/2 teaspoon of each)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 ounces white mushrooms, stemmed and halved
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 Tablespoon sage, fresh chopped parsley
1. Pat the chicken pieces dry and season with the nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 8 to 10 minutes (turn chicken halfway through), until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2. Stir the flour into the fat remaining into the remaining in the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes until lightly browned. Whisk in the water and wine, scraping up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.
3. Return the chicken to the skillet, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes on medium-low heat, until a thermometer registers 175 degrees F in the thighs and 165 degrees F in the breast (if you don’t have a thermometer, cook until the juices just run clear). Transfer the chicken to a serving platter or bowl and cover to keep warm. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a large liquid measuring cup and set aside.
4. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in the reserved sauce, half and half, and sage. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken, garnish with the parsley, and serve.