Sunday Suppers at Lucques is not the oldest cookbook on my shelf, nor is it the most used. It is, however, one of my most beloved for its tone, for its palate, and for what it has taught me about cooking over the years. Oh, and for that slow-roasted salmon recipe that will never leave my dinner party and brunch rotation. Ever.
The first thing to know and understand about Sunday Suppers at Lucques is that while it is a chef's cookbook, it's still quite accessible. It's true that the recipes here can be a little complicated and show their restaurant roots when they call for three or four separate components for a single dish. But if you take the title to heart and dive deeply into this book on a quiet Sunday (or whenever you have the time to enjoy messing up your kitchen), you will not regret the time or effort, especially when you end up with a really satisfying and delicious meal.
It's also true that it's not always necessary to cook the whole, multi-layered dish. I go to Sunday Suppers for my romesco sauce recipe, for instance, as well as for Goin's version of salsa verde and for an amazing recipe and technique for pickling golden raisins (for whenever I want a delightful squirt of sweet-and-sour in a dish). Another way to work with the more complicated recipes is to make the components and sub-recipes in advance, so on the actual day of cooking it's not that hard to bring everything together.
I also appreciate Sunday Suppers for what it has taught me to love. It introduced me to cavolo nero, a.k.a. dino or Tuscan kale, way back in 2005 when it was a little bit harder to find but worth seeking out. Goin's liberal use of chiles de arbol caused me to buy a large packet, which quickly made it my go-to chili. She also introduced me to serving summer fruits with almonds and arugula as a first course salad and generally helped to convince me to cook as seasonally as possible.
Other favorite recipes are Curried English Pea Soup with Crème Fraîche, Goin's take on the Irish condiment Gentleman's Relish, and Warm Kabocha Squash with Dandelion, Bacon, Roncal, and Pecans. And of course the aforementioned salmon recipe, Wild Salmon Salad with Beets, Potato, Egg, and Mustard Vinaigrette, which I use as my go-to technique for cooking salmon (low and slow in a moist oven).
The book is beautiful, with lots of lush photographs that were styled with restraint to emphasize the food. The binding has held up well over the years and the dust jacket isn't in half-bad shape, due mostly to the fact that I remove it before bringing it into the kitchen.
Sunday Suppers at Lucques also makes a great gift, especially for a younger cook who has been working hard on their kitchen skills and would appreciate a way to show them off. This book will instruct and inspire and, if you toss in a bag of chiles de arbol, will ensure that you will be eating very, very well the next time you visit.
→ Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin.