Suzanne Goin's previous cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, is one of my top favorite cookbooks of all time. I love it for its casual elegance, for its tried and true restaurant-tested recipes that are also accessible to the home cook. Not a beginner's cookbook, it is aspirational but within reach, a perfect balance of professional technique and warm, inviting recipes that make you want to invite a bunch friends over to dinner right now! Will this follow-up book, published eight years later, live up to its predecessor's reputation? Read on for an initial peek into the much anticipated The A.O.C. Cookbook!
• Who wrote it: Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne
• Who published it: Knopf
• Number of recipes: Around 100, with many additional 'sub-recipes'
• Recipes for right now: House-Smoked Black Cod with Endive, Persimmon, and Lemon Cream; Braised Duck with Madeira, Kale Stuffing, and Dates; Sweet Potatoes with Bacon, Spinach, and Romesco; Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce, Mint, and Feta; S'Mores with Caramel Popcorn and Chocolate Sorbet
• Other highlights: This is a big book, coming in at almost 430 pages. While there are lots of beautiful full-color photographs throughout, it is mostly text. So from the get go, it is clear that this is a thoughtful book with much to teach us. Beginning with a table of contents and acknowledgements, we get a glimpse of things to come with Goin's introduction. Here we learn about the opening of her L.A. restaurant A.O.C. which she describes as as a 'full restaurant with the heart and soul of a wine bar.' The food is offered in small plate and shared dishes, which when eaten together make up a full meal.
The structure of the restaurant's menu is reflected in the chapters of the book. Beginning with cheese and charcuterie, we move on to salads, fish, meat, vegetables, from the wood oven, and desserts. Each of these main categories is divided into the four seasons and offers four dishes per season. I appreciate the attention to seasons here, as it makes it easy to figure out what's possible to make right now by just checking each chapter by winter, spring, summer or fall. Goin recognizes that a home cook will probably not want to cook up a dozen small plates for a dinner party, so most of the recipes have been adjusted to serve 6 people unless otherwise noted.
Wine is front and center in this book as well. Goin opened A.O.C. with business partner Caroline Styne who serves as sommelier and wine buyer. Styne's very informative introduction shares her inspiration and thinking behind how to pair wine and food. She also offers very helpful pairing advice for each recipe.
"This is not the easiest cookbook you will ever use," Goin writes. "I feel that part of the success of Sunday Supper's at Lucques was in not dumbing down the recipes or concepts to meet what was perceived as 'what the public wanted.' In an era of thirty-minute meals, my recipes do take longer, but I hope you will be pleased with the results and also learn something along the way. The beauty is in the details, and those details do sometimes just take another step (or two.) I have worked hard to ... make sure that if I am asking the reader to do something the 'hard way' it really does make a difference."
Only time will tell if The A.O.C. Cookbook will get as much use in my kitchen as Sunday Suppers at Lucques does, but I suspect that I'm going to have a wonderful time finding that out. So far, so good, though. The recipes I've tried (Kale Stuffing, Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Red Vinegar, Green Romesco Sauce) have indeed taken more than a few minutes but they have been wonderfully, deliciously worth it.
• Who would enjoy this book? Lovers of Sunday Supper's at Lucques will not be disappointed as the same attention to detail and beautifully structured dishes is offered here. While perhaps not for beginners, do consider giving this cookbook to the people in your life who love to cook and enjoy having dinner parties. And while you're at it, be sure to pick up a copy for yourself!
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne
• Visit the author's website: AOC Wine Bar and Restaurant
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