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Being Stephanie Izard must be fun

Stephanie Izard's new book is packed with advice ingredients technniques.

Stephanie Izard's new book is packed with advice on ingredients and technniques.

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:54AM

Stephanie Izard is all bubbly with a bit of badass thrown in.

If you haven’t experienced her or her crazy-popular restaurant Girl & the Goat on West Randolph, if you never watched her power through to the “Top Chef” title in 2008, the next best thing would be to open her book, Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats and Drinks (Chronicle, $29.95).

You will feel as though you are inside her head. And there is a lot going on in that girl’s head. The book, co-authored by Heather Shouse of Time Out Chicago, feels breathless, jam-packed as it is with Izard’s ruminations on ingredients and techniques, her beverage pairing suggestions, her mini-trips down memory lane as a Connecticut kid with a healthy appetite and then as a cook greener than lettuce, learning as she goes.

But it’s a hoot to read, even if you might not be inclined to shuck two dozen oysters, deep-fry them and top them with two dozen sunny-side-up quail eggs, or simmer a couple of pig tongues for a few hours as a partner to pickled sunchokes and shaved Brussels sprouts. (Those are two of the more ambitious recipes in the book, but there are plenty of simpler ones, too — the chapters on soups and vegetable sides, in particular, should be bookmarked.)

Izard’s knack for balancing savory and salty with sweet, heat and often, a textural surprise comes through in the book’s 100 recipes. She likes her fish sauce and sambal. She tosses in fruit where you might not expect to find it — blueberries with seared tuna, Honeycrisp apples in pork ragu.

On every page, she distills some aspect of her thought process in the kitchen, or why a particular food moves her. In one breath, she explains the little wonders of Wondra flour (dust some on a piece of fish before frying for the crispiest coating). In another, she admits to her coed days of indulging in vodka-soaked watermelons.

Too much information? In Izard’s book, there’s no such thing.

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