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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Jul 7, 2011

Brandied Cocktail Cherries

For the past month, the Lush Chef has been traveling and working like a mad woman, so it has left little time for slaving in the kitchen.  Now that the heat is setting in, all I want is a relaxing evening/afternoon with friends and a delicious cocktail in hand.  With all the beautiful produce overflowing at the markets, I've been whipping up tons of garden-inspired cocktail garnishes and mixers.  I've become rather spoiled by the Luxardo maraschino cherries at some of my favorite cocktail haunts, but I'm not always ready to spring $16 for a jar when cherries are in season.

Thank goodness for local chef Akasha Richmond and her simple recipe for cocktail cherries to fill my need.  Once you've had these, you'll never go back to the cheap-o, bright red jarred version.  These brandied and spiced cherries will give a wow factor to that Manhattan or a jolt to your tired gin and tonic.  There's more than enough syrup to flavor your own sodas — we're getting crazy here!  The cherries also taste like heaven over vanilla ice cream or can even be served plain in little bowls for your guests.  I could easily polish off half a jar if I'm not careful...

Brandied Cocktail Cherries - makes 1 big jar of cherries & an extra bottle of syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup agave, honey or maple syrup (make sure it's the real stuff - no Mrs. Butterworth's here) 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 fresh vanilla bean
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 lbs washed cherries - I took the stems off and pitted them.  If you don't have a cherry pitter, check out this awesome Martha Stewart technique (how MacGyver of her).
  • 1/2 cup brandy
- In a heavy medium sauce pan, bring sugar, water, agave/honey/maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, cardamon pods and star anise to a boil.  
- Reduce to a simmer and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add the cherries and bring it back to a simmer.  Let the cherries cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the brandy and let cool to room temperature.  
- Store the cherries and syrup in air-tight jars or bottles in the fridge.  They keep for 1 month.