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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Nov 29, 2012

Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum

Halloween and Thanksgiving may be over, but I'm still in the pumpkin mood.  It's only just now starting to feel like fall in LA, so we're a little bit behind on the seasons.  I adapted this recipe for Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum from The Kitchn for one person, but you can see their version for six people here.  It's buttery, sweet, hot and delicious and perfect for an after-dinner treat on a cold night.  Use a dark rum and feel free to play around with how much hot water you add.  If you really want to dress it up, add some whipped cream and sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top.

Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum - serves 1
  • Just under 1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 tsp pumpkin butter
  • 1/6 tsp pumpkin pie spice, plus more for garnish
  • Tiniest pinch of salt
  • 2 oz dark rum (I used Meyers)
  • Hot water
  • Whipped cream, optional
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
- Combine all the ingredients until there are no lumps of butter and it's nice and creamy.
- Add to a heated mug.
- Add the rum and top with hot water (I used about 4 oz).
- Stir and garnish with more pumpkin pie spice and whipped cream.

Nov 27, 2012

Halibut en Papillote

Libations used: 4 Tbs of white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner or pour yourself a glass while the fish is cooking...
It's after Thanksgiving and you're probably sick of eating poultry and heavy meals.  It's time for some lighter fare so you can do it all over again during the winter holidays.  And you're probably looking for something fast because you've been spending long hours in the kitchen.  I'd been wanting to try cooking some fish "en papillote" for a while because it's quick and easy.  It means "in parchment" in French, and for all of you out there who are terrified of preparing fish because you tend to overcook it, this might be a great method to try.  I had a huge filet of halibut in the freezer from Santa Monica Seafood that I had been saving, but you can use whatever fish you feel like.

When you're cutting out the parchment paper, make sure you have about 2 inches on each side of the filet so you're able to easily fold the pieces together.  I didn't have enough parchment on hand, so that made things a little difficult.  This is why I try things out for all of you first so you don't make my mistakes!  The ingredients are simple and healthy - lemons, tomatoes, thyme and a little white wine.  I used a variety of fresh heirloom tomatoes from the Farmers' Market — red and black Brandywine and Cherokee Purple, but use whatever you have on hand.  After 15-18 minutes in the oven, it's done and the fish is cooked perfectly.

Halibut en Papillote - serves 2
  • 1 Halibut filet, cut in half
  • 1 medium tomato or 3-4 small ones, diced
  • 1 lemon
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • 4 Tbs white wine (I had a Sauvignon Blanc chilling in the fridge already)

- Preheat oven to 425.
- Cut out 4 squares of parchment paper that are big enough for there to be 2 inches around each filet.
- Place 2 of the parchment squares on a baking sheet.
- Add a small dollop of olive oil on each square and brush evenly to coat.
- Place a piece of fish on each piece of paper.
- Slice the lemon in half and use one half to squeeze juice on each filet.
- Sprinkle 2 Tbs of wine on each filet.
- Distribute the tomatoes on top of each filet.
- With the remaining half of the lemon, cut 4 slices and place 2 on each piece of fish.
- Put a sprig or two of thyme on top of each piece of fish.
- Oil the other 2 pieces of parchment paper and place them oil side down on top of the fish.
- Bring up the bottom sides and fold twice with the top sides so that they're sealed well.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Serve filets in the parchment paper, so you can sop up all those yummy juices.

Nov 20, 2012

A Lush Thanksgiving

For the first time in years, I won't be flying home to be with my family for Thanksgiving.  I'm sad to be missing this traditional meal with them and getting the Christmas tree a couple days later, but I'll still be having a delicious dinner and sharing it with people I care about here in SoCal.  I'm sure many of you have already planned out your Thanksgiving menu in it's entirety, and I typically do as well, but this year, the holiday snuck up on me.  Work kept me busy, but I also knew I would only be in charge of one dish and a cocktail, so I didn't need to plan too far in advance.  For those of you still looking for ideas, I bring you a very Lush Thanksgiving, with old family favorites and new recipes.

Preparing such a big meal usually involves getting up pretty early, but you can't make it through the whole day without eating!  Make this Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Rum Glaze a day or two before so you can pop in the oven and serve for breakfast with some fruit on Thanksgiving morning.  

This Roasted Acorn Squash with Amaretto has been on our family Thanksgiving table for about five years now and I don't see it ever leaving.  I mean, there are cookies...and amaretto involved.  It's insanely easy to make and a crowd-pleaser.  There's also barely any squash left by the time we're done with dinner.  

Everyone knows how the Lush Chef loves her bourbon, so why not slather it on your fruits and vegetables?  Go nuts at the farmers' market and gather up some fancy heirloom carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, fennel, apples, persimmons and oranges for a colorful and sweet side dish.    Be creative with your combinations in this recipe for Bourbon, Molasses & Orange-Glazed Fall Fruits & Veggies

If that turkey is still baking and you're just plopped in front of the TV waiting for everything to come together, then shake up this Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail.  It's one of my new favorites for the fall and is so refreshing.

The only member of my family that loves pumpkin pie is my brother.  The rest of us aren't the biggest fans, so our go-to pie for years has been a Honey Crunch Pecan Pie with Bourbon.  It's insanely rich, but oh-so-good, and is best served hot with a dollop of whipped cream on top.  It's the only time of year I have this pie and I look forward to it each and every time.  And yes, my mom uses Jim Beam in the recipe from a bottle that has probably been above our fridge for a decade now.

Because it's a special holiday, my mom likes to go a bit overboard and bake two pies.  Well, why not?  And if you're having a large group over for dinner, one pie is not going to cut it.  My mom's Dutch Apple Pie is truly my favorite pie ever.  I can't have anyone else's apple pie because it never stacks up to my mom's, and that brown sugar streusel topping is to die for.  I recently started making it Lush Chef style by adding a little brandy.

And if you are a Pumpkin Pie fan, then I highly recommend the recipe from SoHo House in West Hollywood (there's some brandy in it as well).  The filling has a beautiful creamy texture that reminds me more of a pudding than a purée.  You can use your favorite homemade crust or a store-bought one.  And if you prefer your pumpkin pie in drink form, then try this Pumpkin Pie Martini instead!

What better way to celebrate our nation than with this American Trilogy cocktail?  It's a fall twist on the Old Fashioned and is one of my go-to cocktails during this time of year.  It's the perfect after-dinner drink, and the simplicity of it means you won't be playing bartender all night for your friends and family.

Nov 15, 2012

Pumpkin Martinis & Pie

Earlier this week, I attended a pie-making class at SoHo House in West Hollywood (no, I'm not a member...sigh) with a friend.  Not only did their delightful pastry chef lead us through a class on how to make a pumpkin pie, but they also served a small group of us Grey Goose Pumpkin Pie Martinis.  Brand Ambassador Ron Patric shook up some tasty libations that smacked of autumn. It was like dessert in a glass and could easily get one quite tipsy if you weren't too careful.

SoHo House's pastry chef mixed up the pumpkin pie purée while we sipped our cocktails.  She exclaimed there would be no healthy substitutions in this recipe.  If you're going to have pie, then you have to go all the way, which means eggs, heavy cream, sugar...and some brandy.  The crust she used was a Speculoos crust, which I unfortunately don't have the recipe for yet (I'm working on it).  If you haven't had Speculoos before, then go find right now.  It's a spiced cookie that hails from the Netherlands and is finally making it's way to the states in cookie, waffle and butter form.  And it's heaven!  Now, I'm normally not the biggest pumpkin pie fan because of the texture, but I loved this recipe - the pureé is really smooth and creamy.  Maybe it was because the chef used fresh pumpkin pureé (she recommends using the white or lighter-skinned pumpkins) and not the stuff from a can.  Either way, this is a great recipe to bust out just in time for Thanksgiving.  Oh, and be sure to make these cocktails while that pie is baking in the oven...

Pumpkin Pie Martini
  • 1 1/2 oz Grey Goose La Poire
  • 1/2 oz Allspice Dram
  • 1/2 oz Licor 43
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 heaping tsp of pumpkin butter
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • Cinnamon sugar & dried apple chip, for garnish
- Dip your finger into the simple syrup and rub along the outside edge of a martini glass.
- Run the top of the glass in the cinnamon sugar.
- Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake.
- Strain into the glass and garnish with the apple chip.

Pumpkin Pie - serves 8-10
  • 1 pre-baked and cooled 10" pie shell
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1/2 cup dark Muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Have pie shell ready to be filled.
- Combine the purée, eggs, egg yolk, cream and brandy in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk until smooth.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, ginger, cinnamon, mace, pepper and salt.
- Whisk the sugar and spice mixture into the pumpkin mixture until smooth.
- Pour into your prepared pie shell.
- Bake for about 50 minutes, or until set and lightly browned around the edges.
- Place on cooking rack to set before slicing in!

Nov 13, 2012

Bourbon, Molasses & Orange-Glazed Fall Fruits & Veggies

Libations used: scant 1/2 cup of bourbon...
Libations left over: Make yourself a cocktail like this fall-inspired American Trilogy while everything is cooking...
This past weekend was the first chilly one in LA where I had to turn on the heat and don a hat and fingerless gloves.  Yes, us Angelenos have it pretty easy.  I feel truly blessed to have such an amazing farmers' market close by that always has a wonderful selection of fruits and veggies, no matter what time of year.  Sunday's visit produced a cornucopia's worth of produce.  I just kept adding more to my bag without really thinking about what I was going to do with everything.  After spreading everything out on the table, I decided to do a fun medley of roasted fruits and veggies using a bourbon, molasses and orange glaze recipe from an old Thanksgiving Tasting Table guide.  I had picked up some beautiful purple, yellow and orange fancy carrots from Weiser Family Farms, so I had the base for the recipe, but wanted to jazz it up.  I ended up using a mini butternut squash, a couple of Fuyu persimmons and two heads of fennel, but feel free to get creative.  You can use a couple of apples if persimmons aren't handy, a couple of sweet potatoes instead of the squash or add some parsnips.  If you're looking for some Thanksgiving side dish ideas, this is a perfect one to serve because it's relatively fast to prepare and will pair really nice with that turkey!

Bourbon, Molasses & Orange Glazed Fall Fruits & Veggies - serves 8
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 bunches fancy (young) carrots, peeled and halved
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 heads of fennel, sliced (not too thin)
  • 2 Fuyu persimmons, sliced (not too thin) 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • Scant 1/2 cup bourbon (I used 101 Proof Wild Turkey)
  • Juice from 2 medium oranges, plus 1 Tbs of orange zest
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- In a dutch oven or medium sauce pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the carrots, squash, fennel and persimmons.
- Season with salt and pepper, and cook everything for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the brown sugar.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the bourbon.
- Return to the stove and cook for 2 minutes longer.
- Add the molasses and orange juice and cover.
- Cook the fruits and veggies for about 8-10 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Also, make sure there is enough liquid in the pan by checking every few minutes.
- Remove the lid and reduce the liquid until it becomes syrupy.
- Add the butter and stir to coat everything with the glaze.
- Season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and transfer to a serving dish.
- Sprinkle with the orange zest and parsley.

Nov 8, 2012

The Spicy Cider Mill Cocktail & Apple Shrubs

I'm still working my way through all the apples I picked back in mid-October from my trip to Oak Glen.  I've been baking with them, making apple sauce, apple bitters (pictured on the below photo at left) and more. A fantastic way to preserve seasonal fruits is by making a shrub or drinking vinegar.  Shrubs, along with house-made syrups and bitters, have had a resurgence thanks to the craft cocktail community. There are a couple of origin stories for shrubs, but basically folks found that by infusing fruits with vinegar over a period of 3-5 days was a great way to preserve them without refrigeration.  The fruits were then strained out, and a sweetener such as sugar or honey was added.  Shrubs were especially popular during the Colonial times and would be added to water for a nice, cooling beverage.  It was also discovered that shrubs tasted pretty darn good when you added them to liquor - it kind of cut down on the acidity of the shrub or masked the potency of moonshine you were mixing up in your tub.

Food52 recently posted a recipe for a Fresh Apple Shrub, which can be used in cocktails, soda water (for you non-alcohol drinkers out there), vinaigrettes and marinades.  I let mine infuse for 5 days, but feel free to let it go a little longer if you want a stronger apple flavor.  I was on a time limit because a friend of mine was having a birthday BBQ this past Sunday and I was tasked with bringing something Lush Chef-inspired.  Because I was working a huge event over the weekend, I knew I wouldn't have time to cook or bake anything, but I'd have time to pour a bunch of stuff in a pitcher!  He's a big bourbon fan, so I had at least two components down.  Ginger seemed like the natural third choice, and I wanted a fizzy drink to pair with whatever meats he'd be grilling on a hot November afternoon.  I ended up choosing Reed's Extra Ginger Ginger Beer, so it could cut through the vinegar taste.  I prefer having more of the bourbon and apple shrub taste, so feel free to adjust.  I brought a couple extra bottles of ginger beer so folks could add a little more to their cocktail, which I've named the Spicy Cider Mill!

The Spicy Cider Mill Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit, of course)
  • 1 1/2 oz apple shrub (recipe below)
  • 4-5 oz ginger beer (I used Reed's Extra Ginger)
- Add all the ingredients into a glass filled with ice and stir.

To make a full pitcher of this, I used 2 cups of bourbon, 2 cups of apple shrub and 5 cups of ginger beer.

Apple Shrub - makes 2-3 cups
  • 3 medium apples (I used Rome)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
- Shred the apples on a box grater and add them to a glass jar.
- Add the vinegar and sugar and stir.
- Close the jar, give it a good shake and store it in your fridge for 5 or more days.
- Strain out the apple using a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth so you can get all that juice out.

Nov 6, 2012

Chicken in Garlic-Almond Sauce

Libations used: 2/3 cup dry sherry
Libations left over: serve some with dinner as an aperitif...
I recently decided to have some girl friends come over for an impromptu Sunday dinner.  All of us live by ourselves, so it's nice to come together on that traditional family dinner night and share a meal.  I'm all about making dishes that aren't going to require you slaving over the stove while your guests are around.  Bon Appetit published this recipe for Chicken in Garlic-Almond Sauce in their October issue.  It's a Spanish braised chicken dish and uses dry sherry or white wine.  I absolutely love making meals in my Dutch oven when guests are around.  It makes meats incredibly tender and requires little attention.

I actually started working on this dish a little early so I could get the sauce all prepared and blended.  I started browning the chicken about 20 minutes before my guests arrived, so it could then be transferred into the Dutch oven to finish cooking.  I served it with a light salad using Maggies' Farms Spicy Mix, persimmons, goat cheese and walnuts with a champagne walnut dressing (store-bought, but I maybe I should try making one!).

Chicken in Garlic-Almond Sauce - serves 4
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 2 cups 1/2" cubes of crustless white bread
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley

- In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat 3 Tbs of the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the almonds and stir until golden brown, for about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the almonds to paper towels.
- Place 1/3 cup of them in a food processor or blender and set aside the remaining for garnish.
- Add the bread cubes and garlic to the same pot.
- Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the bread is golden brown and crisp.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bread and garlic to the blender with the almonds.
- Add the broth, sherry, 1/2 tsp of pepper, saffron and a pinch of salt.
- Process until smooth and set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat the remaining 1 Tbs of olive oil in the same pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken to the pot and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown on all sides (you can also turn the heat down a little, if needed).
- Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is caramelized on the edges.
- Add the sauce and chicken to the pot, making sure the chicken is submerged in the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish each serving with some parsley and toasted almonds.

Nov 1, 2012

Breeders' Cup Cocktails

Like many of us food bloggers out there, we have full-time jobs and somehow manage to squeeze in the cooking, baking, cocktail making, writing, research and photography on the side.  My friends aren't quite sure how I find the time to do everything and I often wonder that myself.  It all comes down to impeccable planning, but sometimes, I honestly don't have time to make enough food and drinks for two postings a week.  This coming weekend, I'll be working the Breeders' Cup — two full days of thoroughbred horse racing at Santa Anita Park and the culmination of the season.  It's full of high fashion, high stakes and plenty of cocktails flowing.  If you can't make it out to the track this weekend, you can watch the races on Sunday at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET on NBC.  For those viewing at home or throwing a party, there are plenty of official GREY GOOSE cocktails to stir up.  Here are a couple libations that I hope to try this weekend (after I'm off the clock, of course!).

Down the Stretch
  • 1 1/2 oz GREY GOOSE Original Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Blue Curaçao
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • 2 oz lemon-lime soda
  • 1 squeeze lemon wedge
  • 1 lemon slice & blackberry, garnish
- Add all the ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice.
- Stir vigorously.
- Put the lemon slice and blackberry on a toothpick and place along top of glass for garnish.

Zenyatta, the legendary and recently retired thoroughbred racehorse won 19 out of 20 races during her career, so of course she gets a drink named after her (jealous).

  • 1 1/2 oz GREY GOOSE Le Citron (their recipe called for a 1/4 oz less vodka)
  • 2 1/2 oz pink lemonade (yes, pink - this needs to be a girly color)
  • 1 mint sprig, garnish
- Fill a glass with ice and add the vodka and lemonade.
- Stir and garnish with mint sprig.