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.

About Me

My Photo
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
View my complete profile


Powered by Blogger.
Oct 27, 2011

Libation Education: Bols Barrel Aged Genever

Since I've started blogging about cooking and cocktails, it's been amazing how much I've learned in the past 6 months or so.  This endeavor began as a way for me to expand my creative boundaries and gain some knowledge in the process.  So when I got a beautiful bottle of Bols Barrel Aged Genever in the mail from their lovely publicist, I couldn't wait to try it and share the knowledge and results with my readers.

You may have seen Bols Genever on cocktail menus, and wondered what the heck it is.  Jenever or Genever is a juniper-flavored liquor made primarily from malt wine, and is actually the libation that gin originated from.  Hailing from Holland, it's a distillate made from rye, wheat and corn and is triple distilled in copper pot stills.  The unique spiced flavor comes from a blend of hops, cloves, anise, licorice, ginger and of course, juniper. Back in the olden days (Bols Genever goes all the way back to 1575), the distilling process resulted in rather unpalatable concoctions, so the herbs were added to mask the taste.  Because of the medicinal properties of juniper berries, Bols Genever was first sold as a medicine in the late 16th century.  In 2007, it was awarded AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controllée) status, so Genever can only be produced in Holland and some select neighboring areas.  

The barrel aged version I received was aged for 18 months in oak barrels form the French Limousin region.  The maturing results in a slightly sweet taste and maintains some of those young wood flavors.  I also love the way it's packaged—in grey clay jugs.  Basically, if you're looking for a twist on a whiskey cocktail, you can substitute this.  It's yummy in Manhattans and Mint Juleps, or you can sip it straight or as an aperitif.  It's a great starter liquor for those who aren't big fans of brown libations—the sweetness factor helps one ease in.

Oct 25, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Butter Rum Glaze

Libations used: 1/4 tsp dark rum
Libations left over: None.  Lay off the sauce for a while, won't ya?
Every time I walk up to my door, the pumpkin I picked a couple of weekends ago sits there in silence and reminds me I need to make something with him.  Well, I want him to sit there and look pretty a little longer, but there's always store-bought purée.  This Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread from Willow Bird Baking has been tempting me for weeks, and a quiet Sunday afternoon finally afforded me the time to make it.

Making bread is a rather lengthy process because of all the rising and resting, blah, blah, blah.  But I love making it, and my co-workers love eating it even more.  The pull-apart nature of this bread makes it easy and fun to share, and who doesn't love sugar and spice coated bread with tons of rum glaze (arrr!)?  The top of this bread gets all crispy and caramelized, so definitely share this because you could very well eat the whole one sitting...

Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Butter Rum Glaze - serves 8-10

Bread Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
Butter Rum Glaze Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp rum

To make the bread:
- Grease and flour a medium loaf pan and set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the butter.  Let it bubble and foam and when you see it start to brown, stir so it browns evenly.
- When it looks like some dark pirate rum, remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl to cool.
- In the same saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk until it bubbles.
- Remove from heat and pour into the large mixing bowl.
- Let the mixture cool to about 100-110.
- Stir in the sugar and yeast and let the mixture sit for a few minutes.
- Stir in the pumpkin, salt and 1 cup flour.
- If you're using a stand mixer with a dough hook, attach that or knead the dough by hand.  Add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring between each addition.
- When the dough is combined, knead for about 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp cloth.  Let it rise in a warm place for an hour or until it doubles in size.  If you do this the night before, put in the fridge overnight and then let it sit out for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

To make the filling:
- While the dough is rising, mix the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a small bowl.
- When the dough is almost done rising, melt the 2 Tbs of butter in the small saucepan over medium-high heat and brown it like before.  Let it cool before you use it as indicated below.

To shape the bread:
- Knead about 1 Tbs of flour into the dough to deflate it.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
- Flour your work surface and turn the rested dough onto it.
- Roll it out to a 20x12 inch rectangle.  You may have to lift the corners and tug to shape.  If the dough is  snapping back, cover it with the damp towel and let it rise for about 5 minutes before continuing.  I definitely had to do this a couple of times.
- Spread the browned butter over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush.
- Sprinkle the sugar mixture onto the dough and pat it down so it mostly sticks.
- With the long edge of the rectangle facing you, cut it into 6 strips.
- Stack the strips on top of each other and then cut again into 6 portions.
- Place these little strips one at a time into your loaf pan.  The strips should have the short end on the top and bottom.  I also ran some of them through the extra sugar mixture so they're coated evenly.
- Cover the pan with the damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until it's about doubled in size.
- While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 350.
- When the dough has risen, place the loaf pan on top of a cookie sheet to catch those cinnamon/sugar drippings and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until it's a dark golden brown on top.
- Let the bread cool for 20-30 minutes before dousing it in glaze.

To make the glaze:
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the butter, milk and brown sugar to a boil.
- Remove from heat, add the powdered sugar and rum and whisk until smooth.
- Drizzle the glaze over top, or you can remove from the pan and drizzle warm glaze over individual portions.

Oct 20, 2011

Drink Pyramid

The Lush Chef's dad is so supportive of her writing endeavors. His Sip and Savor blog inspired me to write my own, dedicated to libations and vittles.  He sends her recipes all the time, which I've posted on here or tuck away in my recipe files for future cooking adventures.  He even sends her little musings like this Drink Pyramid from the Underground Detroit blog.  This past summer, the USDA decided to do away with the food pyramid because it just confused people and didn't give folks a real sense of how much broccoli they should be eating a day.

So they reconfigured it to look like a plate and dumb it down for us all.  Uh...huh.  Still not clear to me.  What if I don't eat from all four food groups for one meal?  What do I do?

There's Ruth Bourdain's gluttonous option.  God bless him/her.

But Underground Detroit's version made the most sense to me.  I measure cocktails all the time!  So tuck this in your pocket and remember to imbibe healthfully this Halloween weekend.  Oh yeah, and raise a glass to the Lush Chef's dad.

Oct 18, 2011

French Onion Soup

Libations used: 1 cup of red wine
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so pour yourself a glass...or two while cooking, or serve the bottle with dinner if you can wait that long.
I love, love making soups during this time of year.  Sometimes, I want to eat it every day (and get pretty close to it).  One of my favorite soups to make is French Onion.  It makes my apartment smell like heaven and it's one of the cheapest dishes you can make.  Feel free to get creative with the herbs and additional seasonings, but this recipe is a good base to get you started.  And since I'm the Lush Chef, I like to put some red wine in there too because yes, it really does make everything taste better.

French Onion Soup - serves 4 (or 2 hungry people)
  • 2 1/2 lbs of onions - I like to use a mixture of yellow and sweet
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups beef stock 
  • 1 cup red wine - I used a cheap Shiraz that I had on hand
  • Freshly ground black pepper & salt
  • 1 huge sprig of rosemary - I just toss the whole sprig in
  • French baguette, cut into medium slices
  • Gruyere and Parmesan cheese

- French cut the onions.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.
- Once the butter has melted and foamed up, add the onions and stir to coat them well with the butter.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and let the onions caramelize for about 45 minutes.  Here's where you pour yourself a glass of red wine and hang out by the stove.  You'll want to stir occasionally so the onions don't burn and you get a nice dark color on the onions.
- When the onions are done caramelizing, add the beef stock, wine, rosemary and freshly ground pepper, to taste.  If you're going to be topping the soup with cheese, then I like to leave out the salt because the cheese already has a salty taste.
- Bring the broth to a boil and then turn the heat to low and let it simmer for about 45 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, heat your oven to 425.
- When ready to serve, pour the soup in oven-safe bowls (I like using my little Staub Cocottes) and top with a few bread slices and a mixture of Gruyere and Parmesan cheese.  I like to use little chunks as opposed to grating the cheese, because I loooooove cheese.
- Put your bowls on a baking sheet and then pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Oct 17, 2011

Libation Location: Crescent Hotel

With the Lush Chef's full-time job, it's not like I'm home every night baking, cooking and mixing up cocktails (as lovely as that sounds).  I'm a social butterfly and sometimes my work involves catching up with friends and work acquaintances over lunch or drinks, so when I was invited to the fall menu preview at the Crescent Hotel in Beverly Hills, I happily obliged.  My office is in the area, so it's always nice to find a quick and convenient spot for a drink meeting that won't require me to go further east.

I had been to this hotel many years ago with friends and had completely forgotten it was there.  It's on a quiet corner of Crescent and Brighton Way (403 N. Crescent Drive) and there are some public parking lots around, in addition to valet.  They have an intimate outdoor patio by the fireplace and a cozy lounge decked in white.  The noise level is perfect for an after-work meeting over a cocktail and some tasty small bites.

The night I was there, they debuted 3 new cocktails (I took sips from two):
- Lucia Bosé - Genever, Campari, Strawberry Gomme, Lemon + Rosé

- Spiced Amaro Julep (served in a legit julep cup!) Black Pepper Infused Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Pineapple Gomme + Mint

- Grassroots - Vodka, Amaro Montenegro, Sweet Vermouth, Lime + Rosemary

They have other specialty cocktails that include mezcal, rum, tequila, whiskey and pisco, in addition to traditional libations.

Small bites they served us that night included Lamb Meatballs with a mint yogurt and chickpea lentil stew (I could have eaten several of these), Falafel Sliders with tahini aioli, feta, caramelized onions and frisée and Kobe Beef Sliders with truffle aioli, pea shoots and monterey jack cheese.  There were two flatbreads— Prosciutto with fig tapenade and burrata and Grilled Taleggio with porcini and chard.  Of course I tried one of everything with American Trilogy, the lovely Lynn from The Actor's Diet (a fantastic blog that documents her dining and culinary adventures) and her husband Abe.  A perfect, chill night on a crisp, fall evening.

Oct 13, 2011

The Sidewalker

Now that the sun is setting earlier and the weather is getting chillier, sometimes all I want to do on a Friday night is stay in, watch a movie and have a cocktail.  When I saw this cocktail recipe come through my inbox via Gilt Taste, I couldn't wait to make it.  This Sidewalker, made by Damon Boelte from Brooklyn's Prime Meats, has so many elements of fall—apple brandy, maple syrup, beer (good anytime of year).  I wasn't sure how all the ingredients were going to come together, but I'm always willing to experiment.  There's been a resurgence of including vinegar or "shrubs" (a combination of vinegar, fruit and sugar) in cocktails as mixologists hit the history books for inspiration.  The flavor reminded me of a sour beer, and American Trilogy and I slurped this down with sushi while we caught the first couple of hours of Ken Burns' "Prohibition."

The Sidewalker - serves 1
  • 1 oz Applejack
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz maple syrup
  • 1/4 oz apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bottle cold wheat beer (I used Blue Moon Hefeweizen)
  • Lemon wedge, to garnish
- Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with ice and pour the brandy, lemon juice, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in and shake.
- Strain the mixture into a chilled, tall glass.
- Top with the beer and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Oct 11, 2011

Ginger Apple Torte

Libations used: 3 Tbs dark rum
Libations left over: none
I have a tendency to show up at parties, get-togethers...your house...with baked goods or ingredients for a cocktail.  Well, this past weekend was no exception.  A friend was moving to Germany and we all gathered at Will Rogers Park in the Pacific Palisades for the Veuve Clicquot Polo Match.  We donned our fancy dresses, hats and polo shirts and drank plenty of champagne as we lolled in the sun.  With so much champers flowing, I knew we would need something to soak up all that alcohol, so this Ginger Apple Torte from Food52 would do the trick.  Yes, there's rum in it, but not much and the baking burns off the alcohol content.

I had spent the previous day wandering through apple orchards in Oak Glen and so I used a combination of Mutsu and Braeburn apples I had selected from Snowline Orchard.  My momma taught me that you should always use multiple kinds of apples when baking to give depth of flavor.  All of the spices and fresh ginger makes this the perfect torte for the fall.  The turbinado sugar and walnut topping meant I didn't have to worry about frosting or glaze melting in the sun and getting on anyone's pretty frock.  After we spent the halftime filling in divots, this torte went as fast as those horses.
Ginger Apple Torte - normally serves 6-8, but I cut into smaller pieces to serve 14-16 people
  • 4 medium apples (I used Mutsu and Braeburn, which are great for eating and baking)
  • 4 Tbs turbinado sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 2 Tbs for cooking the apples
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbs lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tbs molasses
  • 3 Tbs dark rum (aka pirate rum to the Lush Chef)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Walnut halves or pieces to garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9" cake or springform pan.
- Core and peel apples and cut into thin slices.
- Melt 2 Tbs butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until it is lightly browned.
- Toss in the apple slices and 2 Tbs turbinado sugar and stir so apples are evenly coated.  Sauté until apples are softened and most of the juices have evaporated.  Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt.  Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until it's fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs.
- Beat in the lemon zest, ginger, molasses, rum and vanilla extract.
- Stir in the flour mixture a little at a time until the batter is thick and smooth.
- Fold in the milk and yogurt till batter is smooth.
- Put half the batter in your pan.
- Cover with the apple slices and spread the other half of the batter over the slices.
- Smooth the top and garnish with walnut halves and turbinado sugar.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Serve plain or with some vanilla ice cream or cinnamon-spiced whip cream.

Oct 6, 2011

American Trilogy

No, I'm not referring to American director Ken Burns' stunning trilogy on Prohibition, but to a modern cocktail that very well could have hailed from that time.  This simple drink was introduced to me by a good friend who first had it at The Varnish, but it actually originated from the head barman Michael McIlroy at the members-only Milk & Honey in New York.  It's an American twist on an Old Fashioned and makes me think of the fall.  McIlroy recommends using 100 proof, bonded Applejack, but use whatever you have (we're not running a professional bar here, and 80 proof will do ya just fine).  I'm also a huge fan of Bulleit's (pronounced "bullet" not "boo-lay" - it's American, not French) fairly new rye whiskey because it's reasonably priced and great for mixing in cocktails.  Save the expensive stuff for sipping neat or plain on the rocks... 

American Trilogy - serves 1
  • 1 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Applejack
  • Brown sugar cube
  • 1/2 tsp soda water (or just water is fine)
  • 4 dashes orange bitters (I like using Fee Brothers
  • orange twist
- Put sugar cube in the glass, add orange bitters and soda water and muddle all together.
- Add the rye and Applejack.
-  Fill glass with ice and stir.
- Garnish with an orange twist.

Oct 4, 2011

Dutch Apple Brandy Pie

Libations used: 2 Tbs brandy
Libations left over: Make yourself a cocktail if you feel so inclined.
I'll be heading out to Oak Glen this weekend to pick a couple crates worth of apples (I'm a Michigan girl at heart), but I couldn't resist making an apple pie a couple weekends ago for a Lush Chef family dinner.  My mom makes the most amazing Dutch Apple Pie, but since this was a dinner filled with libations, I had to find a way to sneak something in.  Apples and brandy just work so well together (hello, Applejack!), so I tossed that in with the apple mixture.  The alcohol content burns off in the baking, but the brandy gives it another small depth of flavor.  You can have your cake brandy and eat it too. 

Dutch Apple Brandy Pie - serves 8
Ingredients for the pie crust:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 Tbs cold water
Ingredients for the pie filling:
  • 6-8 cups of apples, peeled and sliced thin (always use 2-3 kinds - I used Granny Smith and McIntosh)
  • 1/2-2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2 Tbs brandy (I used Raynal's French Brandy b/c it's cheap)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
To make the pie crust:
- Cut shortening into small pieces.
- Add flour and salt.
- Slowly add cold water 1 Tbs at a time and work into mixture until dough comes together.
- Roll out and place in a 9" pie dish.

To make the pie filling:
- Preheat oven to 450.
- Mix apples, sugar, cinnamon, brandy and 2 Tbs flour.
- Pour into a 9" unbaked pie shell.
- Bake pie for 10 minutes at 450.
- Mix butter, brown sugar and 1 cup of flour and use your hands to crumble the mixture.
- Take pie out and drop the temperature down to 300.
- Put edge protectors on pie and sprinkle crumble mixture on top.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes and test for doneness by poking fork through (the apples should be soft and tender).
- Garnish with whip cream (I sprinkled a little cinnamon into it).