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.
Dec 27, 2012

Spiced Pear Margarita

For New Year's Eve, I'll be in tucked away in a log cabin in Big Bear with a few of my close girl friends.  There will be plenty of champagne and good wine, and of course, a specialty cocktail to ring in the new year.  All of us love our margaritas, so I'll be making this winter version from The Kitchn that uses pear and holiday spices.  If you plan on making this libation, be sure to start preparing the simple syrup a couple of days in advance so the spices have time to steep.  For the pear brandy or eau-de-vie, I used J Pear Liqueur by J Wine Company, which the fine folks at K&L Wine Merchants highly recommended.  Here's to a new year and plenty more Lush Chef treats!

Spiced Pear Margarita
Ingredients for the spiced simple syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 8 whole cloves
Ingredients for the spiced sugar:
  • 1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Ingredients for the cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz silver tequila (I used Patrón)
  • 3/4 oz pear brandy (I used J Pear Liqueur)
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz spiced syrup
To make the spiced simple syrup:
- In a small sauce pan, add all the ingredients, stir and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to medium-low so it simmers for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool before transferring to a container in the fridge.
- Let the ingredients steep for 24-48 hours and strain the spices.

To prepare the garnish:
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
- Take a chilled coupe and lightly dip the rim in the simple syrup.
- Dip the glass in the spiced sugar and set aside.

To make the cocktail:
- In a shaker filled with ice, add all the ingredients.
- Shake and strain into your prepared glass.

Dec 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Today the Lush Chef is doing some much-needed relaxing with her family, and I hope all of you are as well.  But if you're in dire need of some Christmas cocktail recipes, here are a few of my favorites to sip on.  They're all hot cocktails, so hopefully you're in a cold climate, and even if you're not, they're sure to keep that holiday cheer going.

Eggnog spiked with your favorite cognac, rum, whiskey, bourbon or brandy
- Wassail Punch with bourbon or whiskey
Mexican Hot Chocolate with tequila
- Hot Apple Toddy with Applejack
- Whiskey Chai with rye whiskey
- Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum with dark rum

Dec 20, 2012

Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes

Libations used: 1 1/2 tsp bourbon...
Libations left over: Add some bourbon to a warm cup of eggnog...
I have been on a baking spree this month.  Thank goodness I have tons of amazing people in my life to give all these sweet treats too.  My co-workers were the lucky recipients of these Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes adapted from Completely Delicious.  The cake includes coffee to really bring out the chocolate flavor.  I brewed up a small pot of some French Roast coffee, and actually used a little less in this recipe so the batter wouldn't be too runny.  For the buttercream, I added some of my homemade eggnog, which was already spiced with vanilla bean, nutmeg and cinnamon.  If you can use homemade eggnog, as opposed to store-bought, your buttercream will just have this richer, more complex flavor.  I added in my favorite Bulleit bourbon for a boozy kick, but feel free to use cognac, dark rum or brandy.  To give these cupcakes an added holiday flair, sprinkle a little nutmeg and white sanding sugar on top for spice and sparkle.
Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes - makes 16-18
Ingredients for the cake:
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup and 2 Tbs sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients for the buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 2-4 Tbs eggnog (I used 2)
To make the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 and line your muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the coffee and cocoa powder until it's smooth.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg, egg yolk and sugar and mix on medium-high speed with the paddle attachment until the mixture is a pale yellow.
- Add the sour cream and mix until well combined.
- Add the vegetable oil and combine well.
- Add all of the flour mixture and mix until well combined.
- Add the coffee and chocolate mixture and combine well, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
- Fill your cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter and bake for 12-15 minutes.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

To make the buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter.
- Add the powdered sugar, salt, nutmeg, vanilla and bourbon.
- Add the eggnog 1 Tbs at a time on medium-high speed, until desired consistency.
- Increase the speed to high and beat for a couple of minutes until it's smooth.
- Frost the cupcakes and garnish with more nutmeg, white or silver sanding sugar, chocolate or snowflake sprinkles (get creative)!

Dec 18, 2012


It's been a rainy couple of weeks in LA and sometimes that can put a damper on one's holiday spirit, but nothing beats a warming spiced drink to turn that around.  I came back from the Sunday farmers' market a little damp and chilled, and all I was craving was a warm mug of eggnog.  This recipe comes from Michael Mina, and once you start making it at home, you'll never want to drink the store-bought stuff again.  It's so much creamier than anything you'd get in the store, and it's rich enough to serve for a holiday dessert.  It would probably also make for some killer French toast.  I think I just drooled typing that.  To Lush Chef this up, add your favorite dark spirit.  I used Rémy Martin cognac, but you can add brandy, dark rum, bourbon or whiskey.
Eggnog - serves 4
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise & scraped
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup cognac, brandy, rum, bourbon or whiskey (I used Rémy Martin cognac)

- In a large pot over medium heat, add the cream, milk, sugar and salt.
- Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod into the milk mixture.
- Simmer gently until the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until slightly thick and bright yellow.
- Using a ladle, add about half of the milk mixture a little at a time to temper the egg yolks.  If you do this too quickly, they'll get scrambled...
- Return the tempered eggs back into the large pot and whisk over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  If you feel like the mixture is too thick, you can add some more milk.
- Run the eggnog through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl.
- Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and your spirit of choice.
- Serve immediately and feel free to top with whipped cream and nutmeg.

Dec 13, 2012

Whiskey Chai

I'm all about hot cocktails in the wintertime. It's the perfect way to warm up and unwind after coming in from the cold.  And yes, us Angelenos do get chilly!  It may only be in the 50's here, but our blood is thinner, so cut us a break.  During the holidays, my mom and I love to drink chai, but we've always just bought tea bags of it and never actually made it from scratch.  This recipe from Saveur for Bourbon Chai uses whole spices to make a slightly sweet and fragrant tea that's perfect for drinking on it's own.  I actually had all of these spices on hand because they're frequent ingredients for my cocktail bitters.  I highly recommend going the whole spice route and busting out your mortar and pestle.  You get a much richer flavor as opposed to using ground spices, and it makes the straining process much easier.  I used Tazo's Awake tea, which is a very simple black tea with no overpowering flavor notes.  Instead of bourbon, I opted for Redemption Rye Whiskey because it has a spicy finish that pairs nicely with the chai.  They also make a high-rye bourbon, which I have yet to try.  This recipe makes more than a pitcherful of tea, so it's perfect to serve at holiday parties.  I would recommend letting people add in their own spirit, so you have a boozy and non-boozy option for a warming drink.

Whiskey Chai - serves 8-10
  • 8 bags black tea, paper and strings removed (I used Tazo's Awake)
  • 8 green cardamom pods, crushed 
  • 8 whole allspice berries, crushed
  • 8 whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg, chopped
  • 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 6 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave syrup
  • 1 cup rye whiskey (I used Redemption) or bourbon if adding in beforehand or 1 oz per serving
- In a 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, add the tea, spices, ginger, vanilla bean seeds and pod and hot water.
-Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Add the almond milk and honey/agave, whisking to combine.
- Return to a simmer.
- Remove from heat and allow it to steep for about 10-15 minutes.
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth (I put a big piece over my pitcher and fastened it with a rubberband).
- Press down on the solids or squeeze the cheesecloth to extract those spicy flavors.
- Add in the whiskey or bourbon and serve.  If you want to get fancy, top with whipped cream and sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon on top.

Dec 11, 2012

Hot-Spiced Bourbon Balls

Libations used: 1/4 cup bourbon
Libations left over: Well, these cookies are like doing a shot, but if you need a festive drink, then make this Wassail Punch...
Last weekend, I was on my Christmas cookie-making bender, and there are always two treats I try to make - my mom's snowflake sugar cookies and Rum Balls.  Those no-bake, booze-laced treats were always a hit at parties and the office.  When I saw a variation on that cookie with these Hot-Spiced Bourbon Balls from, I just had to try the recipe.  Everyone knows how the Lush Chef loves her bourbon and I liked the blend of cayenne pepper with holiday spaces.  For those who don't have a handle on the whole baking thing, then these cookies are your ticket for all those holiday cookie exchanges and potlucks.  There's no oven involved and these can be whipped up in less than an hour.  The hardest part is perhaps rolling the mixture into balls.  I find it's easier to pulse the cookies and nuts so they're a finer texture (I could have pulsed mine a little longer, frankly), and if you feel like the mixture is too dry, then add a tiny bit more molasses and bourbon.  A little trick in forming the balls is to put an entire handful of the mixture into your palm and work it down as some pieces fall off.  If you like more of a chocolate flavor, you can dust the cookies in a mixture of cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar.

Hot-Spiced Bourbon Balls - makes 20-24
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101 proof)
  • 2 Tbs molasses, honey, cane syrup or sorghum syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (use 1/4 if you can't handle the spice)
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace (or nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 oz vanilla wafers (almost a whole box of Nabisco vanilla wafers)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
- In a small bowl, whisk together the bourbon and molasses until well combined.
- In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar with the cocoa powder, cayenne, mace, cinnamon and salt.
- Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the bourbon mixture until a smooth paste forms.
- In a food processor, pulse the wafers into fine crumbs.
- Add the wafers and pecans into the bourbon mixture and stir until it's kind of doughy and workable.
- Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll them in the remaining confectioner's sugar.
- Store in an air-tight container on sheets of waxed paper in the fridge for up to four days.

Dec 6, 2012

Pear & Bourbon Punch

'Tis the season for endless holiday parties and if you happen to be hosting one, stand out with a punch. Yes, it's great to have a plethora of wine and beer, but if someone wants hard liquor at your party, then you really don't want to be juggling host/hostess duties with making individual cocktails.  And when the punch runs out, the punch runs out.  It'll save you from having to raid your liquor cabinet or home bar.  This year for Thanksgiving, I made a Pear and Bourbon Punch from a 2010 Tasting Table Thanksgiving menu that was refreshing and perfect for the holidays. The Etienne Dupont Cidre Triple that I picked up at Whole Foods even had a tag saying it was best served with turkey (fate!).  I anticipated some heavy drinking at this outdoors Venice dinner party so I doubled the recipe, but I've posted just one batch below.  Because I like my punch to er...have a punch, I added in more bourbon (their recipe uses just 2/3 cup).  Needless to say, this drink goes down easy, and it's sure to stand out amongst all those holiday soirees.

Pear & Bourbon Punch - serves 8
  • 4 cups cold pear juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • One 750 ml bottle of chilled, dry French-style sparkling hard cider (I used Etienne Dupont Cidre Triple)
- In a large pitcher or punch bowl, add the pear juice, lemon juice, bourbon and honey and stir until the honey is completely dissolved.
- Add the sparkling hard cider and stir.  Serve immediately!

Dec 4, 2012

Spiced Squash Bisque

Libations used: 1/2 cup cognac
Libations left over: None, sip on some cognac after dinner...
I absolutely love making soups in the winter, and pretty much prepare one every week or two.  They're perfect for those cold days and I tend to pack my freezer with little containers of soup to get me through the busy days.  I have a Butternut Squash Soup recipe that I usually make, but there's no liquor in it, so why would I post it here?  I had saved a recipe from Tasting Table that was sent out last fall for a Spiced Hubbard Squash Bisque that has some cognac and plenty of winter spices that remind me of Christmas.  If you're looking for a healthy soup, then stop reading now.  I mean, it's bisque and be prepared to use tons of butter, milk and creme fraiche.  If you're looking for something hot, rich and comforting for the holidays, then keep reading.  I couldn't find any Hubbard squash at the market and stores, so opted for Butternut instead.  It's a little labor intensive because you have to roast the squash first and deal with a blender twice, but it's worth it if you have time on your hands to prepare a special meal for Christmas Eve or Day.

Spiced Squash Bisque - serves 8
Ingredients for the Bisque:
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • One 5 lb squash, cut in half with seeds removed
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup of cognac (I used Remy Martin)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
Ingredients for the Nutmeg Creme Fraiche:
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 Tbs nutmeg
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
To make the Bisque:
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the butter until it has melted and begun to brown (about 5-7 minutes).
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the squash halves on a sheet pan and drizzle with 2 Tbs of the olive oil.
- Season with salt and white pepper.
- Roast in the oven for 60-80 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. Scoop out the flesh and discard skins, when cooled.
- Puree the squash in a blender or pass through a food mill and set aside.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil, onion, garlic and thyme, and cook until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the cognac and cook until the liquid is reduced by half (about 6-8 minutes).
- Add the squash and mix well.
- Add the milk, brown butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock and bring the bisque to a simmer.
- Carefully transfer the bisque to a blender and puree.
- Add the bisque back to the pot over low heat, and season with salt and pepper.

To make the Nutmeg Creme Fraiche:
- In a small bowl, add the creme fraiche, nutmeg, cinnamon, chives, salt and white pepper and thoroughly combine.

- Divide the bisque into bowls and garnish with a dollop of the nutmeg creme fraiche and a few chopped pieces of chives.