California-French late-summer soirée
L.A. chef Suzanne Goin has several restaurants but still loves to make food at home. Her genius party menu will help you celebrate the season—wherever you are
Goin, winner of two James Beard awards—for best cookbook and best California chef—happily cooks on her days off. “It’s actually cathartic,” she says, tying on a slate gray apron, with the pitter-patter of children’s feet in the background. “I get to enjoy the ‘hanging out’ part of cooking—people in the kitchen, talking and sipping wine around me.”
With her business partner, she has four thriving restaurants in L.A.: Lucques, Tavern, the Larder at Maple Drive, and A.O.C., and she’s channeling the latter restaurant as she makes this menu. “It’s California cooking with a Mediterranean influence, and it’s all about communal eating, with shared plates, which is, to me, the best way to eat.”
Her food is fresh and sophisticated, yet doable for us home cooks. She follows simple tenets: “Produce that’s at its peak should be the heart of the meal,” she says. “And I always have an anchor dish that inspires the rest of the menu.”
Each of Goin’s recipes is like a little cooking class, full of interesting techniques that bring out the best in the beautiful ingredients she has chosen. Follow her lead and you’ll enjoy an afternoon of seeing into the mind of a great chef—how she combines flavors, thinks about textures, and creates the look of a dish. By the time you sit down to this wonderful dinner, you’ll be a better cook.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound 1/2 small clove chopped garlic with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Pack a 1/2-cup measuring cup tightly with fresh basil leaves, then add half of it to mortar and pound to a coarse paste. Add remaining basil with 1 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley and pound in. Stir in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and season to taste with pepper and more salt.
Goin's business partner Caroline Styne, also the wine director for A.O.C., chooses Riesling for the salads: “The goat cheese and tomatoes work with wines that show a bit of sweetness as well as racy acidity.” For the sausages, Syrah. “Its dark fruit and intense savoriness reflect the gamy yet sweet flavors in the meat.”
- Domaine Ostertag 2010 Riesling “Vignoble d’E” (Alsace, France; $30). “The aroma is of peach and honeysuckle; when you sip, you get apricot and unripe stone fruit, along with pumpkin-pie spice and a long, rich finish.”
- Tatomer 2009 Riesling, Kick-on Ranch (Santa Barbara County; $30). “This young winemaker learned from the masters of Riesling in Austria. With classic Riesling aromas of diesel (a good thing), jasmine, and honeysuckle, the wine itself has richness, yet also bright acidity and intense minerality.”
- Copain 2009 Syrah, James Berry Vineyard (Paso Robles; $60). “This winemaker, Wells Guthrie, is a genius. Full-bodied, with dark berry fruits and a hint of black olive and tar.”