Wednesday, January 22, 2014


The galley isn't a thing of beauty, but the hardcover book is a knockout.
Some facts about Suzanne Goin, author of The A.O.C. Cookbook: She was born in Los Angeles, graduated from Brown, worked at Al Forno and Chez Panisse, and opened the restaurant Lucques in West Hollywood in 1998. The Lucques bar was so lively and popular that in 2002 she opened A.O.C. to “recreate that energy." This second restaurant serves wines by the glass and a menu of Mediterranean small plates. Her business partner, Caroline Styne, writes that  A.O.C. is all about “noncommittal” eating.

In a 2013 review of A.O.C., here's how Jonathan Gold describes Goin's cooking style: 

strong flavors, puddles of broth and extremely seasonal produce; slivers of lemon peel where other chefs tend to use zest; lots of olives, fennel, thyme, chiles and other hints of the Provencal palette even when the dish in question comes from elsewhere. 

Goin, who is in her forties, is married to a man whom she describes as “salty” and they have three children. I think she's a dead ringer for the actress Genevieve Bujold.

That's Goin. Now to the cookbook.

Of The A.O.C. Cookbook Goin writes, “This is not the easiest cookbook you will ever use.” Spend a few minutes flipping through its pages, and you'll agree. Almost every recipe is for a compound dish, as in: black bass with fennel puree, winter citrus, and green olives in green harissa

Or consider her recipe for s’mores

1 recipe graham crackers (recipe follows) 
1 recipe bittersweet chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
1 recipe marshmallows (recipe follows)
1 recipe caramel popcorn (recipe follows)
1 recipe  chocolate sorbet (recipe follows)

But you can’t fault her for any of this when she’s been so clear from the outset. A.O.C. is a sophisticated restaurant and she’s giving us recipes for sophisticated restaurant dishes that take time and effort to recreate and if that’s not what you’re up for, well, you’ve been warned. 

I’m up for it, but as usual, I went straight for the lowest hanging fruit: balsamic glazed brussels sprouts. You cook whole sprouts in oil and butter, add chopped pancetta, cook some more, add garlic and shallots, cook some more, add balsamic and veal stock, cook some more. Serve. 

Veal stock. I don’t do it. I substituted vegetable stock and it worked fine.

Not so fine was the balsamic vinegar. Goin doesn’t specify what type to use and I only had a fancy, superthick California balsamic, the kind you’re supposed to apply by the droplet to strawberries and aged ribeye steak. Heavy, rich, and sweet, it threatened to overwhelm the poor little sprouts. Did I choose the wrong vinegar? Possibly. Did I fail to reduce the glaze sufficiently? Possibly. Was the dish tasty nonetheless? Yes. Mark ate one sprout and Owen ate none, so it appears that Isabel and I ate almost the entire pound.


  1. Yes! She looks just like Genevieve Bujold in "The King of Hearts."

    1. Anne of 1000 Days. That was my first Genevieve Bujold movie. I thought she was the prettiest person in the world.

  2. I am thankful for and impressed by your intrepid nature. Unless I am in extraordinarily good spirits a compound recipe is a dealbreaker. Too daunting for a putterer like me.

    1. Too daunting for me too, unless it's part of a "project" which this blog sort of is for me now.

  3. Lucques is my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. I have met Suzanne Goin (pronounced like go-in, not rhyming with coin, in case you were wondering), even auditioned for her twice (many years ago), and I thought she was beautiful, but I never realized she looked like Genevieve Bujold! She so does! And Forage's owner, Jason Kim, was her sous-chef at Lucques for many years. Her style is my favorite kind of cuisine, though I recognize it is still "restaurant fare" and not easily approached by the home cook. I wish there was a better way to direct the home cook to a more relaxed style of cooking, because that is what really happens in a restaurant kitchen. The components are many, but they aren't terribly complicated--they have to be executed by a non-English-speaking prep cook with no nuanced appreciation for special technique most of the time--and you can usually substitute something or fake something if you need to (the phrase "fake it 'til you make it" is like a mantra.) I am excited to hear what you will be making from this tome. My co-workers went to the book's launch party!

    1. I'm finding the food is less technically tricky than it is in some books, like Thomas Keller's, but it does require a lot of components. Some non-English speaking prep cooks would be helpful. She's a very good, confidence-inspiring guide. You read her headnotes and think, yeah, I can do this, and once you get going it becomes clear that you can.

  4. You are on a tear with your posts which makes me happy because I love reading when procrastinating on my "real work." Your writing is spot on and I recommend your blog to all who love to cook and think and question. Thanks!

  5. Chiming in to agree with Anonymous above - it is quite a thrill to have a new post from you almost every day. Thank you!

  6. I am with Layne. 99% of the time, compound recipes are just too much for me to contemplate. That's what restaurants are for! But I really do admire your fearless and energetic approach in the kitchen. I am always educated and entertained, a difficult combination to achieve. Thanks again.

    1. Too much for most of us to contemplate. But fun to mess around with every now and then.

  7. This sounds like a great idea. I'd love to try it out!! I'd cook some hot wings on there. They get so greasy...
    cookings set

    cookings set

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