Do people write cookbooks like Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin's A.O.C. Cookbook any more? There's just so much information in this thing: pages-long intros to each chapter, paragraphs-long intros to each dish. Most recipes are several pages long and, not for nothing, appear to have been actually tested by real live human beings. There's also a 56-page long guide to cheese in the back of the book. It brings to mind cookbooks of a few years back that had some time sunk into them, like Judy Rodger's Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Like Goin's first effort, the Beard Award-winning Sunday Suppers at Lucques.
A.O.C. is Goin's wine and cheese bar, but that doesn't mean these dishes are just small plates and snacks. Most of the recipes are pretty complex, comprised of several elements. It makes for conveniently teasing out sub-recipes: no time for braised duck with madeira, kale stuffing, and dates? The stuffing looks pretty good on its own. The kumquat sambal or the coconut rice from a pink snapper dish might stand up on their own, as well.
That said, the recipes aren't necessarily easy. In the introduction, Goin writes:
This is not the easiest cookbook you will ever use...in the 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. She mentions that "If I am asking the reader to do something the 'hard way' it really does make a difference." This is all too rare a sentiment in cookbooks; while faithfully recreating the process a restaurant uses is a valuable record, far too few chefs consider why they are requesting home cooks do it the same way. For example Goin has an entire chapter of wood-fired recipes, but for those without access to wood-burning ovens, she suggests cranking up the heat on your oven and making do. And why not? Why not let everyone at least try to partake in the process?
The A.O.C. Cookbook was written by Suzanne Goin, with wine notes and other expertise from her business partner/sommelier Caroline Styne. Photography was done by Shimon and Tammar, and in the grand tradition of California cookbooks, the recipes are divided first by course and second by season. The book comes out October 29 from Knopf (pre-order on Amazon). Look inside: