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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Sep 27, 2012

Libation Education: Green Chartreuse

It's been quite some time since I've done a Libation Education, but don't worry lushes, because I have a few coming down the pipeline.  My home bar has been steadily growing over the past year and a half, and these things take time.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my posting for the Italian's Last Word cocktail about my obsession with Green Chartreuse.  You might remember it as that weird liqueur you'd occasionally see on a cocktail menu, or that bottle gathering dust on the back of the bar.  Well, this monastic libation is finally shedding its cloak and having a total revival. 

Why is it that monks make such good alcohol?  Beer, wine, Frangelico and who knows what else.  Back in 1605, the order of the Carthusian monks in Vauvert, near Paris, received a gift of an ancient manuscript for an elixir from a Marshal of King Henri IV's artillery.  The recipe was nicknamed the "Elixir of Long Life" and was created by an alchemist who blended about 130 herbs and flowers to create a healing tonic.  The manuscript was eventually sent to La Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery located in the mountains of the same name near Grenoble, to be studied.  Thanks to Frère Jerome Maubec, he finally translated the manuscript in 1737 and wrote up the formula.  From there, the monks started making the "Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse" and selling small bottles of it in nearby towns.  In 1764, the monks started to realize that people were enjoying the elixir as a beverage as opposed to just a medicine, and made a slightly lower-proof version at 110 (still pretty high!).  Sound familiar?  The history of the liqueur is actually really fascinating - religion and politics nearly squashed it's existence, but it persevered.

Green Chartreuse stakes a claim that it's the only naturally green liqueur, and it gets that color from all the chlorophyll from those 130 plants.  The herbs and flowers are all macerated with a neutral spirit and then distilled and aged for about five years in oak casks.  It has a sweet and slightly vegetal flavor, with hints of citrus, thyme, rosemary, clove and cinnamon.  There's also Yellow Chartreuse, a sweeter and more mild cousin at 80 proof, that was developed in 1838.  It also gets its natural yellow color from all the plants and flowers macerated in there.  The flavor still has hints of citrus, but also some honey and lavendar.  You can drink either of these liqueurs straight, on the rocks or mixed in with cocktails (I prefer the latter).  Check out this site next Thursday when I'll be posting another cocktail recipe with this holy and healthy tonic.   

Sep 25, 2012

Summer Farro Risotto

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner or pour yourself a glass while you're stirring the farro...
It's technically fall, but it still feels like summer with the heat in Los Angeles, and the corn and tomatoes at the market are still plentiful.  This farro risotto dish from The Kitchn highlights both of these ingredients, and the freshness and texture are a lovely balance with the creaminess of the farro.  Instead of just cooking up the farro, this recipe cooks it like a risotto with plenty of stock and wine.  I typically cook with chardonnay when I need a dry white, but I already had a bottle of Pinot Gris open in the fridge.  The Kitchn uses just a cup of corn, but I added more for a little crunch.  I wish I had started making this earlier in the summer because it's quick, simple and so darn tasty!

Summer Farro Risotto - serves 4
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups yellow corn (2-3 ears)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil, for garnish
- Soak the farro in cold water for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse.
- Meanwhile, fill a stock pot with water and bring to boiling.
- Drop in your ears of corn for 2-3 minutes until the corn is cooked through.
- Let the corn cool, before slicing off the kernels.
- In a medium sauce pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil.
- Stir in the olive oil and farro.
- Reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- Drain and set aside.
- In the same sauce pot over medium heat, add the stock and warm it until it's hot, but not boiling.
- In a heavy sauce pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbs of the butter over medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook until they just begin to soften (about 3 minutes).
- Add the farro and stir until the grains are evenly coated with butter.
- Pour in the wine and simmer until it evaporates.
- Add 1/2 cup  of the stock and stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
- Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time and not adding more until the previous amount is absorbed.
- Stir in the corn with the final addition of stock.
- When all the liquid is absorbed and the farro is tender, stir in the Parmesan cheese and remaining butter.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the farro into bowls and top with the tomatoes and basil.  Feel free to sprinkle some more Parmesan cheese on top too.

Sep 20, 2012

The Official Emmy Cocktail

The 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards are coming up this Sunday, and all good awards show viewers should always have a couple of cocktail recipes up their sleeves.  Check out my earlier post on what I made for a Golden Globes party last February.  It's a long viewing session, because the full experience involves watching all of the pre-shows and commenting on the fashions before getting to the actual show (tune-in to ABC at 5pm PT/8pm ET). 

If you're looking to sip on the same Grey Goose libations that this year's nominees and guests will be imbibing at the Governors Ball, then you can shake up the official Grey Goose Emmy Cocktail.  It incorporates their Cherry Noir flavor, but if you don't have that on hand, use regular Grey Goose and do a floater of Maraschino liqueur to get some of that cherry flavor in there. 

The Grey Goose Emmy Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz Grey Goose Cherry Noir (or regular vodka)
  • 1 oz St. Germain
  • 1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz pomegranate juice
  • Champagne
  • Black cherry, for garnish
- Combine all the ingredients except for the champagne in a shaker with ice.
- Shake, shake, shake and strain into a champagne flute.
- Top with champagne and garnish with a black cherry.

Sep 18, 2012

Salt Cod with Corn & Littleneck Clams

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
Even though this past weekend was a scorcher, I managed to fire up the stove because I missed cooking!  I was given some lovely fresh corn from Jimenez Farms at the market on Sunday, so I decided to make this simple and quick recipe for Salt Cod with Corn & Littleneck Clams from Food & Wine.  I picked up the cod and clams from Santa Monica Seafood (would I go anywhere else in LA?), with one big, center-cut fillet providing enough for four servings.  With all this good seafood, I couldn't possibly enjoy it just by myself, so I invited a friend over.  This dish is actually perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or impromptu gathering.  Just prep all of your ingredients beforehand, and the actual cooking takes under 10 minutes.  The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of kosher salt, but I didn't use that much to coat the cod.  Just make sure you evenly cover each side with salt and don't let it sit any more than 10 minutes.  The corn underneath provides a nice, crunchy texture that perfectly balances the fish and clams, and the herbs and seasoning are light and simple.  Cut up some fresh, crusty bread for dousing in that broth, and you've got yourself a hearty, late-summer meal. 

Salt Cod with Corn & Littleneck Clams - serves 4
  • 4 skinless, center-cut cod fillets (about 5 oz each)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Wondra flour
  • 20 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cilantro sprigs
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a dry Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs chopped parsley
- Set the cod on a plate and cover both sides of the fillets with salt. 
- Let the cod stand for exactly 10 minutes, then rinse the fillets and pat them dry.
- Fill up a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
- Add the ears of corn and cook for 2 minutes.
- Drain them and pat them dry, and when they've cooled, cut the kernels off the cobs.
- In a small skillet, add the butter, lemon juice and corn kernels.
- Season with some white pepper and cook for about a minute, or until heated through.
- In a large, deep nonstick saucepan or skillet, heat the olive oil on high.
- Dust the cod with Wondra flour and white pepper on both sides.
- Add the fish to the pan, skinned side down and cook over high heat until golden (about 4 minutes).
- Flip the cod and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the clams, garlic, cilantro, thyme, wine and season with more pepper.
- Cover the pot and cook for about 6 minutes, or until the clams open up and the fish is cooked through.
- Discard the herb sprigs and any clams that don't open up.
- Rewarm the corn and spoon into 4 bowls.
- Top with the cod and sprinkle some smoked paprika on top.
- Spoon the clams and broth around the sides and garnish with the parsley.
- Serve with some crusty bread.

Sep 13, 2012

The Italian's Last Word

This coming Sunday marks the season 3 premiere of "Boardwalk Empire," and how could the Lush Chef not be a fan of a show about Prohibition?  I've been enjoying cocktails with Green Chartreuse lately, which seems to be experiencing a resurgence (expect a Libation Education on it soon) and ran across a Prohibition-era cocktail recipe that contains it.  "The Last Word" was created at the Detroit Athletic Club back in the 1920's.  So proud of my home state!  The drink was then popularized, and the name perhaps inspired by, a vaudevillian named Frank Fogarty who introduced it to New York.  In 1951, it got published in Ted Saucier's cocktail book Bottoms Up!, but then the drink kind of disappeared after World War II.  When the classic cocktail movement started, a bartender in Seattle brought the drink back to life.

The drink contains equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, lime juice and Maraschino liqueur.  I didn't have any Maraschino, but I had just bought a bottle of Averna (another Libation Education coming!) and thought this Italian bittersweet liqueur would be an interesting substitute.  The bitterness perfectly balances with the sourness from the lime juice.  I also added in a brandied cherry to still get a little bit of that flavor.  Nucky Thompson would be proud.  After all, he likes to have the last word.

The Italian's Last Word
  • 3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz gin (I used No. 3 London Dry Gin)
  • 3/4 oz Averna
  • 3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1 brandied or Luxardo cherry
- Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with some ice and shake.
- Add a cherry into the bottom of a chilled coupe glass, and strain the drink in.

Sep 11, 2012

Screwdriver Cupcakes

Recently, a friend of mine was having a birthday brunch, so of course I wanted to bring a boozy treat. She had a whole spread of cereal and milk, breakfast burritos, bagels and lox, mimosas and bloody marys.  There weren't any screwdrivers on hand, but I made up for that in cupcake form.  I love the inclusion of coconut in the cake, which gives it a nice texture and summer flavor.  The recipe from Booze Cakes called for orange-flavored vodka, but I never have flavored vodka on hand, nor would I ever purchase it.  I used regular vodka in my version of the recipe, and it still packs plenty of an orange flavor.  For some reason, I've always had problems with the frosting recipes in this book—they always use too much liquid and tend to curdle.  I used a buttercream recipe that contained more sugar, butter and equal parts fresh-squeezed orange juice and vodka.  The booze flavor is light, so it's the perfect, sweet way to ease into your day.  
Screwdriver Cupcakes - makes 12-15
Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vodka or orange-flavored vodka
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2-3 Tbs vodka or orange-flavored vodka
Garnish Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted
  • Zest curls from one orange

To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs until they're pale and foamy.
- In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter.
- Add the sugar and orange zest and mix.
- Add the beaten eggs and mix.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice and vodka.
- With the stand mixer on medium low, add in the flour and vodka mixtures in three alternating additions.
- Fold in the coconut.
- Pour batter into lined or greased muffin tins and bake for 20-23 minutes.

To make the frosting:
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until it's light and fluffy.
- Add the confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and 2 Tbs of the orange juice.
- Stir in the vodka, and if the frosting is too thick, add another Tbs of orange juice or vodka, depending on if you want more of an orange flavor or a boozy kick.

To decorate:
- When those cupcakes are done baking, leave that oven on so you can toast some coconut.
- Spread the coconut flakes on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 3 minutes.
- Remove from oven and stir up the flakes a little before popping them back in for 2-3 minutes.
- Using a peeler, cut strips of zest off an orange (I didn't need to zest the entire orange) and curl each strip by wrapping around a chop stick or straw.  My peeler cuts large pieces, so use a paring knife to thin out those strips if you have to.
- When the cupcakes have cooled, pipe the frosting on.
- Sprinkle with the toasted coconut and add an orange curl on top.

Sep 6, 2012

Fig Old Fashioned

Figs first started appearing at my farmers' market about a month ago, and while it marks the end of summer, there are so many fruits and veggies to appreciate during each season.  This recipe for a Fig Old Fashioned was first posted on The Kitchn back in October, but I had missed my opportunity to make it.  While it's not your typical Old Fashioned (whiskey/bourbon, bitters, sugar cube & citrus peel),  it mimics the flavors of one.  It's going to have a slightly thicker consistency because of the fig - you don't want to be chewing on seeds and pulp.  I actually added a bit more bourbon into mine so it would have a better liquid consistency (and I like my drinks a little stronger).  I'll be definitely be making this libation throughout the fall season, while I work my way through a bowl full of figs.

Fig Old Fashioned
  • 1 black mission fig
  • 1/4 oz maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
  • 1 1/2-2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Cut the fig in quarters and place in a mixing glass with the maple syrup.
- Muddle into a paste.
- Add the bourbon, orange juice, balsamic vinegar and some ice, and shake.
- Double strain, using either a Boston Shaker or a traditional shaker and a small fine-mesh sieve, into a glass filled with ice or one large ice cube.

Sep 4, 2012

Bloody Mary Tomatoes

Libations used: 2 tsp vodka
Libations left over: Plenty, so make some Bloody Marys...
Still not in a cooking mood, everyone.  It's summer and I want to be lazy, although my friends don't really understand my interpretation of lazy because it involves working long hours, socializing and writing 2 blog posts a week...

Anyway, I had a work reunion a couple of weekends ago and everyone was tasked with bringing something to eat or drink.  Well, of course I always manage to combine the two!  I wanted something quick and easy that didn't require turning on the oven, and these Bloody Mary Tomatoes from Good Food Stories fit the bill.  I added a little bit of salt on top, because I felt they needed a little more flavor.  Feel free to add some pepper or more hot sauce if you want an extra kick.  They're perfect for BBQs and parties because of the large quantity of small bites they make, and you don't have to worry about them sitting out for a bit.  They would also be a great addition to a boozy brunch, especially if you're doing a Bloody Mary Bar.

Bloody Mary Tomatoes - makes about 50-60
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 tsp vodka
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (I like to use Tapatío)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Salt, to taste
- Dice the celery and add to a medium bowl.
- Add the vodka, horseradish, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce and combine well.
- Let the mixture sit at room temperature for an hour, or in the fridge overnight to let all those flavors marry.
- Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and use your finger or a small measuring spoon to scoop the seeds out.
- Pour the celery mixture through a mesh strainer to drain any excess liquid.
- Fill the hollowed out tomatoes with small scoops of the celery mixture.
- Sprinkle some of the zested lime peel and salt on top of the tomatoes.