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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Mar 28, 2013

Sunset French 75

One of my favorite champagne cocktails to make is the French 75.  I was going whale watching a few weeks ago with some friends and wanted to bring a daytime cocktail.  I had been making blood orange bitters earlier that day which requires using just the peels, so I had ton of fresh-squeezed juice.  I decided it would be perfect for a twist on the French 75.  Instead of regular sugar, I used some lemongrass simple syrup, which matches nicely with those herbal and juniper notes you get in gin.  I made a big batch of just the gin, juice and syrup in a jar so the prosecco could be added later when we were on the boat.  Next time I make this, I'll need to juice more blood oranges.  I just added some regular orange juice to make up for the lack.  If you want to make this drink for just one person, then follow the recipe above.  We quickly downed this cocktail before the sun even set, but it was the perfect way to toast a productive day of seeing the whales.  I can't wait to make this again for brunch or another day of sailing.
Sunset French 75 - serves 10-12
  • 3 cup freshly-squeezed blood orange juice
  • 2 cups gin
  • 1/2 cup lemongrass or regular simple syrup
  • 1 bottle of champagne or prosecco
- In a quart-sized jar or punch bowl, add the orange juice, gin and simple syrup and stir.
- If making in a punch bowl, add all the champagne or prosecco.  If making individual drinks, fill each glass halfway with the gin/juice mixture, then top with a slightly equal amount of champagne.

Mar 26, 2013

A Very Lush Easter

Still planning your Easter menu for this Sunday?  Need an alternative to lamb?  Whether it's a brunch or dinner, here are some ideas to help you celebrate the holiday and arrival of spring.

Wake up to Easter egg hunts to the smell of these Limoncello Breakfast Rolls.  Prep them the night before so you can quickly pop them in the oven before all the holiday action begins.

What better way to start off brunch with a cocktail or two?  Make use of all those blood oranges at the market with this Blood Orange, Ginger Beer & Tequila libation.  If you haven't hard-boiled all of your Easter eggs, then turn them into fizzes with a classic Gin Fizz or an Apricot Bourbon Fizz.  For an all day drink, the Kew Garden Cocktail with white rum, St. Germain, lime, cucumber and mint can easily be made by the pitcherful.  Give your Old-Fashioned a festive and spring twist by using a little St. Germain and lemon bitters in this Elder Fashioned.
Nothing says Easter like eggs, right?  This Leek & Pancetta Risotto with a Fried Egg on top is a great meal to serve at brunch, and you can cook up a large batch for guests.  Another simple pasta dish that can be served for brunch or dinner is this Chicken & Swiss Chard Pasta Bake, and you can offset all those Easter Basket sweets by using whole wheat penne.  Marcus Samuelsson's recipe for Red Grits & Shrimp is incredibly flavorful and a nice way to end the Mardi Gras season.  One of my dad's favorite pork preparations is this Pork Loin with White Wine, Fennel Seed and Mustard Sauce.  Whether it's Easter or another holiday, this usually makes an appearance on our table at least a few times a year.

Last year when the Lush Chef's parents came to visit during Easter, I served this Sticky Orange Cake with Vodka & Marmalade Glaze for dessert.  It's vegan, but that didn't stop all of us from devouring this moist cake.  It's simple and quick to make, and can be served for brunch or with pistachio or vanilla ice cream after dinner.  A couple of years ago, I also served this cooling Orange Moscato Pudding to my parents for Easter.  It's another light dessert to end a heavy holiday dinner.  Even though pears and Riesling are more appropriate for the winter, this Pear Riesling Sorbet is still a perfect spring dessert.  If you have any of that Limoncello still lying around from the breakfast rolls, then use the rest for a Limoncello Rosemary Cake.  The candied lemons and rosemary sprigs make such a festive and tasty decoration.

Mar 21, 2013

Whiskey Sour

A couple of weeks ago, I finished making my first batch of amaretto, so here's my first cocktail with it!  My first whiskey sour was made with rail whiskey and sour mix, but man, it makes a world of difference when you use a nice whiskey or bourbon, fresh squeezed lemon juice and some amaretto.  It's a very simple cocktail to make it and you should definitely have it in your bartending arsenal - it hits that perfect note of both sweet and sour.  I had a bunch of blood oranges in the fridge and thought it would look pretty with the bright red of those jarred maraschinos.  Yeah, I normally never use those kinds of cherries, but I needed something to remind me of that first whiskey sour I had...

Whiskey Sour 
  • 1 oz whiskey or bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace bourbon)
  • 1 oz amaretto
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Maraschino cherry and orange slice for garnish
- In a glass filled with ice, add the whiskey, amaretto and lemon juice and stir until chilled.
- Garnish with the orange slice and cherry.

Mar 19, 2013

Stout Ice Cream

Libations used: 1 cup beer...
Libation left over: About 1/3 of the bottle, so polish that beer off while the ice cream is mixing...
St. Patrick's Day may have just ended, but I'm still in a beer mood and had some stout left over.  I hadn't made ice cream in a while and found this recipe from the Los Angeles Times for beer ice cream. It didn't specify what kind of beer, but I felt like a stout with those chocolate and coffee flavor notes, would be the best.  With only four ingredients, this ice cream is super easy to make.

Stout Ice Cream - serves 4
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup stout (I used Stockyard Oatmeal Stout)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
- In a medium bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk until they're pale and lemon-colored.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the stout and cream and bring to a simmer.
- Slowly pour it over the sugar mixture and whisk throughly.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking frequently until it thickens.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer over a medium bowl.
- Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow those directions.
- Let it freeze for a few hours or more until it's hardened.

Mar 14, 2013

A Lush St. Patrick's Day

Well, that seems redundant, doesn't it?  Of course, it's going to be a lush day!  And in preparation for this day when non-Irish folk celebrate an Irish holiday by imbibing, here's a round-up of some of my favorite St. Patrick's Day-inspired recipes.  Just remember, lushes - pace yourselves.

The best way to truly enjoy a cupcake on St. Patty's Day is to pair it with the libation you're drinking.  Luckily, you have three options from me.  For Bailey's lovers, these Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes with a vanilla cake base and Irish Cream frosting perfectly embody the liqueur.

For those who prefer a rich chocolate dessert, my Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes contain the booze in the cake and frosting, and I filled them with a cinnamon, vanilla whipped cream for good measure.  It's like an Irish version of a Hostess Cupcake!

If you're going to be a little alternative and drink a non-Irish libation, then these Blue Moon Cupcakes with an orange and Hefeweizen-inflected cake and vanilla cream cheese frosting will do the trick.

You'll need some snacks to fill your belly and sustain you on this lush adventure, so whip up some Guinness and White Cheddar Spread the night before.  It'll be perfect by the next day, and your friends will thank you as they lap up this addictive dip with pretzels or crackers.

You can't go wrong with putting an egg on it.  This Beer-Braised Spring Onion, Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza has seasonally appropriate veggies and runny eggs to serve as the perfect sober-up or hang-over food.  Just remember to share a slice with your friends!

Need an easy snack to stash in your pockets or purse?  This Cheddar Beer Bread is not only one of the simplest breads out there to make, but it's perfect for transporting on your bar hops.

For a dinner party, these Guinness-Braised Short Ribs are decadent.  They'll take about two hours to braise, so start preparing it before the drinks flow.  They'll be ready just when you need them to be!

Jamie Oliver's recipe for Beef & Ale Stew, which I like to make with stout, is perfect for a large group.  The ingredients are very cheap and a hearty stew does wonders for those who have been drinking all day.

If you're a vegetarian, then this Vegetarian Stout Stew has plenty of potatoes and mushrooms to give it texture and make up for the lack of meat.  Your carnivorous friends will probably want a bite.
Cheddar Ale Soup is one of my favorite kinds of soups and an amazing way to cook with beer.  This version is super cheesy and is topped with diced pancetta and honey-mustard pretzel pieces.

Speaking of cheese, this Beer-Baked Mac 'n Cheese contains five kinds - Cream Cheese, Cheddar, Parmesan, Brie and Gorgonzola.  It's insanely rich and delicious.  The perfect stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal for this day.

If you're actually hosting a St. Patrick's Day party and need to make the drinks, this Jameson & Ginger Beer cocktail is incredibly simple and refreshing.  I like to use Reed's Extra-Ginger Ginger Beer to give it an extra kick.

If you're drinking a lot of beer and would like to mix things up, this Sidewalker cocktail, which contains beer, Applejack, maple syrup, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar is reminiscent of a sour beer.

Mar 12, 2013

Vegetarian Stout Stew

Libations used: About 12 oz of beer...
Libations left over: Not much, so polish off what's left in the can...
It's Saint Patrick's Day this weekend and what better way to celebrate than dumping some beer in your stew?  I've made a Beef & Ale Stew a few times before, and it's one of my favorites, but for all you vegetarians out there (or if you're observing Lent), this Vegetarian Guinness Stew from The Kitchn is incredibly flavorful.  The mushrooms give it that meaty texture and hints of paprika and mustard give it a little extra punch.  I didn't have any Guinness on hand, but any stout will do.  There's plenty of veggies and potatoes in this stew, so it's a good stick-to-your-ribs dish if you're doing some heavy St. Patty's Day celebrating.  

Vegetarian Stout Stew - serves 6
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 small yellow onions, two finely chopped and one French-cut
  • 16 oz white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 large carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 12 oz Guinness or stout (I used Murphy's Irish Stout)
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 Tbs vegetable bouillon (I used 2 little packages)
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

- Add the olive oil into a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the celery, the finely chopped onion and half of the mushrooms.
- Cook until softened and slightly browned (about 10 minutes).
- Add flour to the veggie mixture and stir to coat, for about 2 minutes.
- Pour in the stout and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (I like to add the veggies and water last so I can stir in all the spices).
- Bring the stew to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, or until all the veggies are tender.

Mar 7, 2013

Homemade Amaretto

A while back, a friend from the Farmers' Market had given me a bag full of apricot pits.  She knew I wrote this blog and figured I could make some homemade amaretto, a sweet almond liqueur, with the kernels (seeds) within the pits.  I finally got around to this project at the beginning of the new year and now it's ready!  The recipe comes from and takes about 4 weeks to make.  If you can't get the kernels from a farmer friend, eat a lot of apricots, order them online or find them in a health food store.  The recipe makes 4 cups, so I plan on giving out a few small bottles to friends and adding a large bottle to my home bar.  This amaretto lasts for up to 6 months if stored in a cool and dark place.  A cocktail recipe will be coming up next week!

Homemade Amaretto - makes 4 cups
Ingredients for the macerating mixture:
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup purified water
  • 2 cups vodka (I used Skyy)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole, skin-on coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped apricot kernels
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried, unsweetened cherries
Ingredients for finishing the liqueur:
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup purified water
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 tsps almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the macerating mixture:
- In a 2 quart jar with a tightfitting lid, soak the dried apricots in the purified water until they're rehydrated.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed after 3 hours.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the jar, cover and shake.
- Place the jar in a cool and dark place for about 4 weeks, shaking once a week.
- After those 4 weeks, place a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl.
- Squeeze the cheesecloth to wring all that liquid out of the solids.
- Discard the cheesecloth and solids.
- Rinse and dry the sieve and place it over another large bowl.
- Set a flat-bottomed paper coffee filter inside the strainer and pour the reserved liquid through that.
- Let the liquid filter undistributed for about 5 hours, or until all the liquid has passed through.  You'll get this beige film lining that filter.
- Remove the strainer and discard the filter.
- Measure the amount of liquid you have left over — it should be about 1 3/4-2 cups.

To finish the liqueur:
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown and granulated sugars.
- Stir until they dissolve, for about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
- Add the vodka, almond extract and vanilla extract to the reserved filtered liquid and stir to combine.
- Add half of the sugar mixture, stir to combine and taste.
- If you'd like it sweeter, add more sugar.
- Transfer to a 1 quart container or multiple sealed bottles.

Mar 5, 2013

Stuffed Under the Skin Chicken

Libations used: 1/2 cup dry white wine...
Libations left over: pretty much the whole bottle so pour yourself a glass while the chicken is roasting, or serve with dinner...
I haven't roasted a chicken in so long, and it's one of my favorite things to do.  If you've ever seen Amélie, you may recall a scene where the character Dominique Bretodou roasts a chicken each Sunday night and just loves picking apart the carcass.  Yeah, I understand that.  I usually roast it simple with fresh herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil, or I'll do a Beer Can Chicken, but this time I wanted to try something different.  I had never tried a Stuffed Under the Skin Chicken recipe and most call for some kind of soft cheese, fresh herbs or spinach, garlic and spices.  I found this simple recipe a couple of times on the interweb that uses goat cheese, garlic, fresh herbs, some lemon juice and white wine.  Bingo.  Gotta have the booze in there or else I can't blog about it!

Some recipes tell you to just start stuffing the cheese mixture under the skin, but I found it was easier to butterfly or spatchcock the chicken first.  If you've never done it before, it's actually quite easy and fun. Here's a great video to show you how.  This will make the stuffing process so much smoother since you'll have a flatter surface to work with.

Stuffed Under the Skin Chicken - serves 4-6
  • 3-4 lb chicken
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, thyme and sage)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper & salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Toasted Head Chardonnay)
- Preheat oven to 400.
- In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the goat cheese, herbs and garlic.
- Spatchcock (this word is more fun to say than butterfly) your chicken and press it flat.  You can cut it in half at this point so it fits whatever roasting vessel you're using.
- Run your fingers underneath the skin of the chicken to open up those pockets, being careful not to break the skin.  I like to open an area by each breast and then one by each thigh.
- Take small globs of the cheese and start to stuff it underneath the skin.  Don't be afraid to get messy here!
- In a roasting pan or large Dutch oven, place the chicken in breast side up.
- Pour lemon juice and generously sprinkle salt and pepper on top.
- Roast for about 40 minutes.
- Pour the stock and white wine on top and roast for another 10 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.