Cook the Book: 'Coi' by Daniel Patterson


Once a year, San Pellegrino and Restaurant Magazine puts out a list of what they've determined to be the 50 best restaurants in the world. The list is far from exhaustive and equally far from surprising, but it's still one of those things that I scan through at its announcement, throwing up a mental fist pump any time a US restaurant gets a nod. Last week, the 2014 list was released, and for the first time, a San Francisco restaurant—Coi—got a shout-out, sliding in at #49.

I've never eaten dinner at Coi, but I've visited some of Daniel Patterson's more affordable restaurants in Oakland; his cerebral vision for California cuisine is a rewarding departure from the oft-repeated combination of roast chicken and a seasonal salad seen at many restaurants in the Bay. Knowing how refined and particular Patterson's cooking can be, I approached his new cookbook, Coi, with more than a little trepidation. In fact, I planned my week around it, expecting to spend ungodly hours toiling away at sauces, foams, and powders.

I was only half right.

Coi (the cookbook) is absolutely a challenging cookbook. To cook from it, you will need to shop conscientiously, work slowly, and pay attention to just about everything. However, unlike most other high-end restaurant cookbooks, Coi is fun. Patterson is a fantastic writer, and somehow managed to find the time to write an essay to accompany each recipe. These essays aren't Cooks Illustrated-style meditations on culinary technique; instead they share the story behind the recipe or Patterson's reflection on the moment in time in which the dish was conceived. The recipes that follow are likewise not what you'd expect from such an exacting chef. They're conversational, smart, funny, and peppered with pep talks and tips. Patterson clearly wants you to be at home in your kitchen, to cook with confidence, and make the recipe your own.

That said, I did spend a full day making stocks and sauces for the recipes this week. You will too, if you want to cook all of the recipes as written. However, Coi is full of shorter, more accessible techniques, and if you've already got stock in your freezer (or a good source of quality stock nearby) a lot of the work will already be finished. There are, of course, more than a few recipes in the book calling for expensive equipment and hard-to-find modernist ingredients. If you've got the means, go ahead and try them. If not, take a look at the ingredients and flavor pairings and get inspired. That's the real object of books such as Coi.

This week, we'll tackle three of Patterson's recipes. The first, Carrots Roasted in Coffee Beans, is a great introductory recipe. The other two, Earth and Sea and Chicken and Egg, are more demanding and time consuming, so we'll split them up over the rest of the week.

Win 'Coi'

Thanks to the kind folks at Phaidon, we have five (5) copies of Coi to give away this week. All you need to do for a chance to win is to tell us what you think of when you think of California cuisine.