Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Apr 17, 2014

Ooo, La, La

It's been weeks since I've played with my home bar as I've been having a bit too much fun going out and trying other people's cocktails!  Easter is coming up this Sunday, and we've been blessed here in SoCal with some amazing strawberries at the market, so I was eager to shake up a drink that centered around the fruit.  I had bought a bottle of St. George Botanivore Gin a couple of weeks ago, so I knew that had to go there in as well.  To French it up a bit, I added St. Germain and lavender simple syrup.  With the fresh squeezed lemon juice and a spring of mint, it's like a spring garden in a glass.  The beautiful pink color and mint makes this a beautiful and refreshing drink to make for the Easter holiday.  Batch this up in a pitcher, and you've got the perfect cocktail for a truly boozy brunch.

Ooo, La, La
  • 1 strawberry
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz lavender simple syrup - recipe can be found here
  • 2 oz gin (I used St. George Botanivore)
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain
  • Mint leaf, for garnish
- In a shaker, muddle the strawberry with the lemon juice and lavender simple syrup.
- Add ice, gin, and St. Germain and shake.
- Pour into a glass.
- Slap a mint leaf between the palm of your hands and add to the drink as garnish.

Apr 15, 2014

Braised Chicken with Fennel and Fava Beans

Libations used: 1 cup white wine
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so pour yourself a glass while that chicken is braising...
Apologies dear lushes, for the rather long delay in posting anything.  I've just been having too much fun these past few weeks and haven't had time to sit down at my computer to hammer these recipes and stories out.  Easter is coming up next Sunday, and while most people traditionally serve lamb, my parents are not fans of the protein.  When I cook Easter dinner for them, it's typically a roasted or braised whole chicken — it's simple, delicious, colorful, and doesn't demand a lot of my time at the stove.  I recently made this Braised Chicken from Bon Appetit, but because baby artichokes weren't going to pop up at my market for another week or so, I added in fennel and a whole, sliced lemon.  I almost didn't track down any fava beans, and if you find yourself in the same situation, use some snap peas instead!  This is a great recipe to get creative with, so sub in any fresh, springtime vegetable you have on hand.  Serve with fresh, crusty bread, because you'll want it to sop up all that yummy wine sauce.
Braised Chicken with Fennel and Fava Beans - serves 4-6
  • 1 cup fresh fava beans (from about 1 lb of pods)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • One 4 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • 8 shallots, peeled and halved 
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced (reserve the fronds)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used Sanford's Flor De Campo Chardonnay)
  • 3 Tbs white wine or chardonnay vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil, and then add the fava beans, cooking until tender for about 4 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a colander set in a bowl of ice water to cool.
- Drain, remove the skins, and set aside in a small bowl.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil.
- Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken, skin side down without turning, until browned and crisp (about 6-8 minutes), and transfer to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and add the shallots and fennel, stirring often until golden brown and beginning to soften (about 8-10 minutes).
- Add the wine and vinegar and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits, and reducing to half (about 5 minutes).
- Add the broth and lemon slices, and then place the chicken back in the pot, skin side up.
- Top the chicken with some large fennel fronds.
- Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through (about 20-25 minutes).
- Mix in the fava beans.
- Serve the chicken topped with chives and parsley, with the fennel, shallots, and lemon on the side.

Mar 18, 2014

Shrimp & Pasta Stew

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner or drink a glass while that shrimp is cooking...
The first day of spring is this Thursday, but while we have sunshine and 80 degree temperatures in Los Angeles, many of you across the country are still feeling like it's winter.  This Shrimp and Pasta Stew from PureWow is comforting, hearty, and is a nice winter to spring transition dish.  It's incredibly thick, so feels more like a saucy pasta, but whatever you want to call it, it's delicious!  The lemon, kale, and parsley give it a bright flavor and texture.  The vegetables are cooked in a little bit of dry, white wine, so use a decent wine that doesn't break the bank and that you'd actually like to drink the rest of — I used a Red Diamond Chardonnay. This dish comes together fairly quickly, so it's great to make on a weeknight.
Shrimp & Pasta Stew - serves 6-8
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups pearl onions 
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used Red Diamond Chardonnay)
  • 1 Tbs paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs lemon zest, plus more for garnish
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • One 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups seafood or vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 cups rigatoni pasta
  • 1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3-4 cups roughly chopped kale
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil.
- When it's warmed up, add the onions and celery and sauté until tender (about 5-6 minutes).
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute more).
- Add the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer, cooking until the liquid is reduced to about half (6-7 minutes).
- Add the paprika, cayenne pepper, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, simmering until fragrant (about 1-2 more minutes).
- Add the tomatoes with juice and the broth, and return the mixture to a simmer.
- Stir in the pasta and cook until it's nearly al dente (about 5 minutes).
- Reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp and kale, continuing to simmer until the pasta is tender, the shrimp is cooked through and the kale is wilted (about 4-5 minutes).
- Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with lemon zest and parsley.

Mar 6, 2014

Right Hand

Continuing my ode to Miracle Mile Bitters Co., I bring you lushes a little variation on the Right Hand cocktail.  If you're a Negroni fan, then this is a great drink to shake up your routine.  I made slight changes to the recipe Miracle Mile's Louis Anderman sent me, only because I had no aged rum in the house (yeah, gotta change that situation) and combined it a little bit with Michael McIlroy's (formerly of Little Branch and Milk & Honey) original recipe.  Sometimes you just have to use what's stocked in the home bar and experiment a little.  I opted for Crusoe's Organic Spiced Rum and Punt e Mes for the Sweet Vermouth.  I've included their recommendations below, so feel free to play around!  For the bitters, I used Miracle Mile's not-for-sale "The 7 Deadly" which is infused with tobacco and has hints of clove, cinnamon, and coffee (from what I gathered).  Since you can't get these in stores, any aromatic bitters such as Angostura or Peychaud's is fine, but why settle when you can get more creative flavors that Miracle Mile does actually sell, such as their Chocolate Chili or Forbidden Bitters.

Right Hand 
  • 1 3/4 oz aged rum (Louis recommends Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year Old Rum or Zacapa and Michael's recipe calls for El Dorado 15 Year)
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Michael's recipe recommends Carpano Antica)
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 2 dashes of aromatic bitters
  • Orange peel, for garnish
- Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Option to garnish with an orange peel (I forgot to add this because I was too excited to just drink it already).

Mar 4, 2014

Brown Butter Apple Bread

Libations used: 3 Tbs apple brandy
Libations left over: None, but make yourself an American's as American as this apple bread...
We're finally getting rain here in Southern California and it's been coming down with a vengeance. So on these rainy nights, I'm either making soup or baking bread.  Bread won out this week, and it was this recipe for Brown Butter Apple Bread from The Kitchn that won me over.  This is probably some of the moistest bread I've ever had and there are oodles of apples and pecans in it. You really can't go wrong when you see crème fraîche and apple brandy in a recipe for baked goods — and you do taste the brandy in this recipe.  I'm a fan of Laird's Applejack, but if you don't have any apple brandy in the house (I'll be sad for you), feel free to sub in regular brandy or bourbon.  For the apples, I used a combination of Granny Smith and Pink Lady.  Always do a mix of tart and sweet apples when you're baking, as it varies up the texture and the flavor.  In addition to the above varieties, The Kitchn also recommends Braeburn, Gala, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, McIntosh, and Honeycrisp.  I brought this bread to work the next day, and it was perfect paired with everyone's morning coffee, and a great way to kick off the week.  I can't wait to make this bread again with pears and other stone fruit too.

Brown Butter Apple Bread - makes 1 loaf
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 3 Tbs apple brandy (I used Laird's Applejack)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used 1 Granny Smith and 2 Pink Lady)
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a large loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray.
- Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, and melt until it turns golden brown and takes on a nutty aroma (swirl the pan around to prevent it from burning).
- Set pan aside to cool slightly (you don't want scrambled eggs).
- In a large bowl, add the white and brown sugars, and eggs.
- Add the butter into the large bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
- Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, stirring until just combined.
- Add the crème fraîche, apple brandy, vanilla bean paste, apples, and pecans and carefully stir to combine.
- Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth out the top.
- Bake for one hour, and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Feb 27, 2014

Fourth Regiment

Frequent readers of my blog know my deep appreciation for bitters.  Not only do I have a blast occasionally making my Bitter Revenge bitters for friends and family, but I love trying all the different flavors by small-batch producers out there.  One of the best is LA-based Miracle Mile Bitters Co. by a very un-bitter man named Louis Anderman.  He was getting ticked off that all my postings and Instagram pictures had bottles of bitters...that weren't his.  And he had every right to be ticked off because his bitters are awesome.  I use his sour cherry flavor in my Old Fashioneds.  Not only does he make traditional flavors such as orange and celery, but more out-of-the-box, fun flavors like chocolate-chili, yuzu, bergamot, and an aromatic "Forbidden" flavor.  He even works closely with local bars and bartenders to create custom-lines of bitters based on the types of cocktails served or the personality of that particular mixologist. My lack of Miracle Mile bitters has since been rectified, and I'm going to make up for lost time.  I wrote it here!

So my first cocktail I made with his glorious bitters included three flavors — orange, celery and a barrel-aged version of his Forbidden bitters. The Fourth Regiment is an old, classic cocktail that is essentially a variation on a Manhattan. Its origin isn't clear, with some citing its first appearance in 1889's 282 Mixed Drinks from the Private Records of a Bartender of the Olden Days, Drinks by Jacques Straub from 1914, and a 1931 version of The Gentleman's Companion. Let's just praise the cocktail gods that the recipe has been tracked down and now shared widely amongst us nerds.  The celery bitters add a more vegetal and herbal note, and nicely offset the sweetness from the vermouth.  If you'd like to buy Louis' bitters in LA (which you should), you can find them locally at K&L Wine Merchants and Bar Keeper.

Fourth Regiment
  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (I used Templeton)
  • 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (I used Punt é Mes)
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters, such as Angostura or Peychaud's (I used Miracle Mile's Barrel-Aged Forbidden bitters)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish
- In a mixing glass filled with ice, add all the ingredients and stir.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Feb 25, 2014

Bourbon Steak au Poivre

Libations used: 1/4 cup bourbon...
Libations left over: None, but make yourself a Manhattan or a Boulevardier (they're all the rage right now)...
I very rarely cook steak at home, because frankly, I'm a little nervous to.  Preparing steak has always been relegated to my dad firing up the grill at home, and now my guy friends have taken over the task. The most I've ever contributed to the process is the marinade (I still swear by this Sugar Steak with Bourbon recipe), but I started this blog for a reason, and that's to learn and constantly push myself.  I invited one of my friends over who's a fantastic cook to provide moral support and make sure I didn't light myself on fire with Food 52's Bourbon Steak au Poivre recipe.  Hey, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to go all the way and play with some flaming bourbon here.  I probably should have taken the batteries out of my super sensitive smoke detector first, but having it go off repeatedly is a right of passage.  Make sure you get those long kitchen matches so you don't burn yourself.  The sauce is oniony, sweet, rich, and smacks of delicious bourbon.  It's a quick and flavorful weeknight recipe, and a great dish to prepare for a special dinner for two.

Bourbon Steak au Poivre - serves 2
  • 2 small (6-8 oz) steaks, about 3/4-1 inch thick (I used Rib Eye)
  • 3 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • Peanut oil
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow oninon
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Bulleit)
- Using a paper towel, blot the steaks on both sides, until very dry (this helps you get a good sear)
- Season both sides of the steak with the freshly ground black pepper and salt.
- Coat a cast iron pan with a thin surface of peanut oil and place over high heat.
- When the oil is shiny and hot, turn on those fans above your stove and add the steaks in the pan, cooking on each side for 4 minutes (medium-rare), or longer if you prefer more well-done.
- Remove the steaks to a plate and let rest.
- Add the butter to the same pan and melt.
- Add the onions and sauté until browned and soft (about 2 minutes).
- Turn the fan OFF and reduce the heat to low.
- With a long kitchen match, light the bourbon on fire and let the flames subside.
- When that fire has gone out, pour the sauce over the steaks.