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4.7 out of 5 stars
Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
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132 of 138 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has dined at either of Suzanne Goin's Los Angeles restaurants (Lucques and A.O.C.) you know the standards for this book are as high as they can be. No detail is overlooked, and yet there is a lack of pretension and fussiness that is as refreshing as it is welcoming and comforting.

So it is with Sunday Suppers at Lucques. This truly is what a cookbook should be. The format of presenting complete three course menus, oriented wholly around what is fresh and available, is a brilliant stroke that has eliminated my usual frantic search through several books to find the right accompaniments. The menus are generally focused around a salad, followed by a fish or meat course and finishing with dessert, but you are given the freedom to mix and match as sounds appealing.

Along the way Goin provides great insight and straightforward advice. I can't tell you how long I've waited to have a cookbook that actually helps you learn how to cook - the advice on chopping onions is worth the price alone. For Goin the foundation of great cooking is great ingredients. It sounds much more obvious than it really is. Along with other advice including how to learn to season foods properly and to think like a chef while cooking, you will learn a great deal while making delicious meals.

The sections on the foods that are available in each season are incredibly helpful to anyone who has ever gone to a store or farmers market with a comprehensive list for a menu only to find that none of the ingredients on the list are available. By helping you understand and focus your cooking on the fresh and seasonal Goin helps you craft a dinner that is as mouthwatering as it reads.

The menus themselves make me wish I could quit my job and cook every night and somehow still pay the rent! This is great Mediterranean/California cooking that makes you believe that making great food is within your reach. Gather a few friends together (all the menus are for six) and tuck in for a night of delicious food, wine and conversation, exactly what a Sunday night should be. Very highly recommended.
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91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after examining its beautiful pages various times at the bookstore. Last night I cooked from it for the first time. It was a lot of effort, but it did pay off. Last night I made the Deviled Chicken Thighs. My work began Sunday with four trips to different stores to assemble the various necessary ingredients. Yep, two supermarkets, the liquor store, and a bodega (I live in Jersey City, just outside Manhattan). Then the next day was the cooking. Altogether it took me about four hours for that part of the task. Honestly, halfway through I seriously considered giving up. But I persevered, the author's directions are very precise and very clear, so I just concentrated on completing each step. When I was done, my kitchen smelled wonderful (between peals of the smoke alarm set off by the cooking of chicken in oil) and I had a beautiful and delicious meal to serve. So, my thoughts are this . . . don't pick this book if you expect a quick and easy meal to toss onto the table. This is serious cooking and it takes a lot of work and dedication to get through it. But, wow, when you are done, you feel like you've climbed a mountain, and you have this wonderful meal to show for your efforts. Also--now that I have been through the entire recipe, I bet I can do it again, with much less effort and pull it off again more easily. Meaning -- I learned some things about cooking while working my way through it. Not something you can say about a lot of cookbooks. I'm going to put this book aside for a month or so, and then carefully pick a recipe and do it all again. I recommend this book heartily to someone who is interested in cooking and most of all LEARNING.
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81 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
`Sunday Suppers at Lucques' by chef / owner Suzanne Goin with assistance from food writer, Teri Gelber is a superior celebrity restaurant cookbook which very successfully combines three different concepts used individually by many other cookbooks; however, this is the very first time I have seen all three combined at all, let alone done so well.

The three ideas are:

1. Grouping dishes around a menu. Madame Goin realizes this concept so well because it wasn't something she thought up as a gimmick for this book. She has been serving fixed menu dinners at her Los Angeles restaurant, Lucques for several years. A few of the menus do coincide with a special occasion such as St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

2. Filling menus with dishes suitable to a particular season, so that most featured ingredients are `in season' together, such as a Spring menu featuring morels, peas, and strawberries or an Autumn menu featuring squash, cranberries, and apples.

3. Providing menus which are suitable for a `Sunday Dinner'. This notion is almost totally new, as almost all other menu oriented cookbooks concentrate on special occasions. This may give the cook just a bit more freedom than giving only a single menu for, for example, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Here, you get to choose from eight different seasonal menus or even create your own menu from the 32 (eight menus times four recipes) seasonal recipes, none of which are dedicated entirely to a single holiday.

While I am quite impressed with this book and am quite capable of letting my enthusiasm get away with me, I should point out that these recipes are from a `haute cuisine' restaurant with roots springing from the famous Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse and the almost equally famous Providence, RI restaurant, Al Forno. This means that some of the recipes include some pricy ingredients and many recipes require a fair amount of time and culinary skill. Since each menu has four recipes, there is a good chance that in any given menu, one recipe will be pricy and one may be a bit challenging. I point that out because I happened to open the book at the same time I was contemplating planning a Spring church dinner with culinary help which was amateur at best. And, none of the menus came across as either easy or inexpensive.

While this estimable book is introduced by fresh, local seasonal foods doyen, Alice Waters, the authors do not make the mistake of harping on this principle on every page as if by doing so they automatically give us a superior cookbook. The advice to use fresh ingredients is common, and contributes nothing to our making better recipes. The very worthy service the book does is to give us a little guide to those produce items which are good the year around such as beets, carrots, fennel, garlic, leeks, and onions and which items are seasonal, according to the season in which they become available such as apricots, artichokes, asparagus, fava beans, and morels in Spring. The articles on each item give valuable advice on how to choose this produce, how to cook it and the pitfalls to avoid when cooking it. Rhubarb, for example has two danger areas, overcooking to overcome its fibrous flesh and over sugaring to overcome its bitter flavor. Another short introductory chapter covers basic pantry items which includes a fresh take on the difference between bacon and pancetta. I am immensely pleased to see a celebrated professional chef say that smoked pork products such as bacon can add an overpoweringly smoky flavor when cooked for a long time.

Before the directory for produce, there is a brief tutorial on techniques. These six pages will not replace Jacques Pepin's `Complete Techniques' or even the most rudimentary book on cooking techniques, but there is enough here to give you some insight into some of the most common cooking techniques. The author also offers some of her personal takes on these techniques as when she states that when she removes vegetables from the hot water of a blanche, she does not put them in ice water, in order that they do not become waterlogged. While I am not convinced that a fast ice water bath will waterlog blanched Swiss chard or string beans, I do appreciate a professional chef's telling me that this may be an unnecessary step, so I don't run out for a bag of ice whenever I blanch my spinach.

On the one hand, Ms. Goin is very fond of a few somewhat special ingredients such as Mexican (NOT Portuguese) chorizo, ramps, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, and fingerling potatoes. While I know of a good local megamart that carries fingerling potatoes, I know of no local sources for the other four ingredients. I am happy to say that Ms. Goin is quite liberal about suggesting improvised alternatives to many of her ingredients. She also provides one of the best Internet source lists by ingredient, rather than by vendor. Unlike, for example, Madeleine Kamman, she does not object to our making our own `crème fraiche'. In fact, her recipe for this soured cream points out a tip I have never seen before, that each batch will become thicker, as you use part of the previous batch as a starter rather than the original culture source, buttermilk.

All recipes have a very useful headnote and I believe all recipes are written in an especially detailed manner, not leaving out many of the finer points of good cooking techniques and tips for making ahead. In the osso bucco recipe, for example, the author takes great care to describe setting up the braise by using a slightly lower than `average' oven temperature and taking special measures to insure that the braising liquid JUST covers the meat (and no more) and that the braising liquid stays in the braising pan and does not leak out at the lid.

Exceptional book of recipes and menus for entertaining!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is one of my favorite cook books ever. I love the concept of seasonal ingredients. I had expected the recipes to take the typical 'top chef' approach - really hard, complex with tough to find ingredients. I was surprised by how easy the recipes are - and the outcome is extraordinary. Everything I have tried, from roasted apples, to the arugula and pomegranate salad, to braised short-ribs, has been outstanding. I found the directions crystal clear. And, the few times the ingredients were not readily at hand, the substitution was obvious (vanilla ice cream that I bought at the store instead of home-made cinnamon was just fine with the roasted apples). Well written, beautifully illustrated and photographed - this is a must have for even a semi-serious cook.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Most of the recipes in this book involve many ingredients or many steps, or both. I was amazed, for example, at just how involved an initially simple-sounding pasta with cauliflower, black kale and currants was. But the fuss was worth it -- it was excellent, and much more than the sum of its parts. Every single recipe I've made from this book has turned out wonderfully and have made for some of my favorite ever home cooked meals. They have always received raves. This is not an everyday go-to cookbook. But when I can take the time to shop, read the recipe thoroughly and cook, I know that I will be well rewarded.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I haven't had much success with cookbooks from celebrity chefs-either they're overly complicated, with pages of ingredients, or they're the 'food network' type of cookbook (where one wonders who really came up with the recipes, the author, or a team of testers)?

So I purchased this cookbook primarily because the recipes themselves really intrigued me. They seemed simple, yet unique at the same time.

The recipes are time consuming, definately. But once you make a dish once, you can easily streamline the directions yourself, cutting out unnecessary steps. I tend to cut back on marinating and salting time, for example, and haven't had any negative effects.

Because the dishes take time, I've found I've been happiest when the end result has been unique enough to be worth the effort. The Devil's chicken thighs, for example, were delicious, and different enough from any other chicken dish I've made that I happy to have spent the time it took to make. Same goes for the halibut with roasted beets, and the torchio with cavolo nero, both of which I made on a weeknight after work.

I was also impressed by the attention to detail. Every recipe is designed for a group of 6--something so small, yet I find it so frustrating when a cookbook has quantities all over the map. The directions are extremely clear and concise, and I really appreciate the notes on prepping ahead. A home cook with a decent level of experience will have no problem. And the ingredient overviews at the beginning of each chapter are a perfect introduction to the seasonal menus.

A outstanding book that I love to cook from. I can't wait for the next one!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I first experienced the cuisine of Chef Goin when she was working in Boston at Alloro and I was hooked day one. Since then I have traveled cross country many times, with my mouth watering just dreaming of what she might be on the menu at one of her beautiful restaurants, Lucques or A.O.C., let me just say, It's worth it everytime!

I bought this book the day that it came out and haven't put it down since. Although I've only made a few of the recipes,(Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Cream & Grilled Pork Confit) they've been complete successes and my guest totally agree.

I think the best thing about this book is that Chef Goin not only lets you into her foodie head, but her home, and literally her heart, because that's defiantly where she cooks from, it's clear, she just loves food. With each recipe, you get a glimpse into what made this Chef a great Chef, in her own words all of the great little food stories about growing up, and her travels as an adult, that are the inspirations be each dish. The book not only loaded with amazing recipes, but each recipe has the "hows & whys" anwsered. She has this simple way of teaching that makes me understand food & cooking just a little bit better and manages to do it while making you smile, it's like she standing right next to you. Cooking the homey, fresh, satisfying recipes from this book, is like eating at one of Chef Goins restaurants, for me, it's worth it everytime.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Many of the reviews of this book have noted that its recipes are fairly complicated, not for the "amateur". That may be, but it really depends on your definition of amateur. I have been cooking for about 30 years, but have never taken a course, and I found the instructions on most recipes to be quite straightforward. Moreover, the majority of them seem to be fairly forgiving: you can make a mistake on time, and even in ingredients, and many if not all will turn out fine. The recipes are so spectacular that it would be a shame to hesitate buying the book. Among others, the pork confit, the flageolets, and the broccoli rabe recipes are beyond compare. My only caveat would relate to ingredients: since I live in New York City, most ingredients are fairly easy to find (although I have not yet searched for some of the more exotic ones like cavalo nero).
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a gorgeous book and the recipes are simple, quirky, thoughtful and elegant. It's perfect for someone who doesn't have hours so spend in the kitchen, but is looking for something new. It is organized around the seasons, and the emphasis is on market-fresh ingredients.

Some of the recipes are preceded by a little commentary explaining where they came from and their relationship to the restaurant. Knowing that I am making a dessert Suzanne Goin has made since childhood - or a salad that was devised for a special occasion makes the process more interesting for me. I love that she included "70s mom's chocolate bundt cake." We children of the 70s can relate!

This is also the kind of book that can inspire you to use a new method or riff on a recipe, even if you don't have all the ingredients pictured. The flavors are indulgent, but not over the top, and the recipes are interesting but not too complicated.

That being said, I've found some of the instructions to be imperfect. Some of the techniques are a little fussy, and some directions a little vague, but if you already know how to cook and you are interested in putting some new flavors together, I think you will really enjoy this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've made three recipes (warm mushroom herb salad, duck in banyuls, turnip/parsnip gratin). All three have been easy to make, without undue fussing at the end of the preparation. I monkeyed with the greens in the mushroom dish, and punted on types of mushroom (substituting less expensive baby bellas in amongst the pricey chanterelles and oyster mushrooms), without any problems with the outcome of the dish.

I find her prep to be consistent with the skills of the interested home cook. The way the recipes are presented (lots of verbiage rather than bullet style) makes it harder for me to remember what steps are coming next. I just rewrite the steps in bullet form, and go forward. I'm recommending this cookbook to many friends.
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