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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Oct 31, 2013

Spicy Chicken Cacciatore

Libations used: 1/2 cup red wine...
Libations left over: pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner or pour yourself a glass while the chicken is braising...
We're still having our occasional warm 70 plus degree days in LA, but the colder periods (for us, at least) are becoming standard now.  These cool, crisp days means I love dusting off that Dutch Oven and putting it to serious good use.  I was looking for a simple and fairly quick braised chicken dish for this past Sunday night, and Food & Wine's Spicy Chicken Cacciatore by esteemed Boston chef Barbara Lynch fit the bill.  It's got a slight kick with a few pickled hot peppers, a nice dose of vino rosso and is served over a pile of farro.  If you can't handle the spice, then leave the hot peppers out, as you'll get enough flavor with all the red peppers, tomatoes and onions in there.  I plan on adding this easy dish to my regular rotation now!

Spicy Chicken Cacciatore - serves 6-8
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 6-8 boneless chicken thighs
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 pickled hot peppers, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine (I used The Show's Malbec)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lb ripe plum tomatoes, coarsley chopped
  • 2 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups farro.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- In a Dutch Oven or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Cook the chicken for about 8 minutes, browning each side, starting with the skin side down.
- Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onions, bell peppers, hot peppers and garlic and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Add the wine and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it's well evaporated (about 5 minutes).
- Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and season with more salt and pepper.
- Return the chicken to the Dutch Oven or skillet and nestle them amongst the veggies.
- Cover partially and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the sauce is reduced by about half.
- While your chicken is cooking, prepare the farro according to your package instructions.  About 2 cups should be enough once cooked for 6-8 people.
- Add the cooked farro to each plate and place a thigh in each.
- Spoon some of the sauce and veggies over it, and garnish with the parsley.

Oct 30, 2013

How You Like Them Apples?

I haven't been blogging much lately, as work has been keeping this Lush rather busy, but I still find time to shake up a cocktail on a Monday or Tuesday night.  A great libation always helps me write a little better too!  Doesn't it help all great writers?

Anyway, when fall rolls around, that means I'm putting Applejack, a bonded apple brandy, in nearly all my drinks.  And I'm drinking apple cider morning, noon and night, so why not add that in a cocktail?  This little creation includes three iterations of apple with Applejack, spiced apple cider (Trader Joe's version is a fave) and an apple slice garnish.  The Grand Marnier balances out all that apple with some orange flavor and adds an extra boozy kick.  I lined the glass with some Vermont maple sugar that my parents gave me to create a festive look and add a little more sweetness.  Sooooo perfect on cocktails.  Thanks mom and dad!  If you can't get your hands on maple sugar, then a cinnamon sugar combo would work equally well.  Batch this up and serve as a punch during Halloween, or serve individually for a lovely pre-Thanksgiving dinner cocktail.  You might even make Matt Damon jealous...
How You Like Them Apples?
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 3 oz spiced apple cider (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 1/2 oz Applejack
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • Maple or cinnamon sugar for garnish
  • Apple slice for garnish
- Chill a martini glass and run an apple slice around the rim, so you can garnish it with the maple sugar.
- In a shaker, combine the lemon juice, apple cider, Applejack and Grand Marnier with ice.
- Shake and strain into your prepared glass.
- Garnish with an apple slice.

Oct 17, 2013

Fall Cocktail Round-Up

It's now starting to feel like autumn in Los Angeles.  Even though our leaves really don't change out here, us Angelenos get in the spirit by artfully scattering fake leaves and acorns on our tables, and setting out pumpkins on the front porch.  You know it's really fall when this McSweeney's article gets passed around about decorative gourds — makes me laugh every year.  So to get you all in the spirit, here's a rundown of some of my favorite, seasonal cocktails.  So toss some gourds around your neck and get that shaker out!
Figs are in abundance at the market right now, and this fresh fig cocktail with bourbon, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar (yes, try it!) and orange juice, really "falls up" your Old Fashioned.  If you don't have access to fresh figs, then buy some fig jam, add a little cinnamon, rye whiskey and lime juice, and you have yourself this lovely Whiskey Fig Jam libation.
Of course, everyone is obsessed with anything pumpkin flavored right now, so I've got you covered. Warm up those crisp, autumn evenings with a Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum that has both regular butter and pumpkin butter, along with some pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar.  It's the perfect dessert when topped with whipped cream!  Before you use that whole can of pumpkin purée for a pie, save an ounce for The Midnight Pumpkin Cocktail, which includes tequila, Cointreau and lime juice on a cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar-rimmed glass.
If you're really into shrubs (drinking vinegars) like I am, then The Spicy Cider Mill Cocktail with bourbon, apple shrub and ginger beer, is incredibly refreshing and perfect after a day of picking apples or raking leaves.  Make a batch of ginger syrup, because you'll want to add it to just about any fall and winter cocktail this season, including this Bourbon, Ginger & Pear Cocktail.  For Thanksgiving, you can't go wrong with a really, boozy punch.  You'll be busy slaving over the stove, so make a couple batches of this Pear & Bourbon Punch with pear juice, lemon juice, bourbon, honey and a French sparkling hard cider.

And if you're looking for even more ideas, here's last year's Fall Cocktail Round-Up.

Oct 15, 2013

Silky Leek and Red Wine Soup

Libations used: 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs red wine...
Libations left over: About 3/4 of the bottle...
Angelenos have started busting out their warmer scarves and boots, so that means only one thing — soup season!  This Silky Leek & Red Wine Soup from Food & Wine uses pretty minimal ingredients and is a quick weeknight dinner recipe.  I stopped by the Sunday Santa Monica Farmers Market and bought some beautiful, fresh leeks and a loaf of crusty sourdough bread.  It recommends using a dry red wine such as a Bordeaux, but I ended up grabbing an inexpensive bottle of Barbera from La Famiglia Pirovano.  This is one of those really thick, bread-enriched soups, so need to serve with a side of bread.  Opt for a light salad instead.  Nevertheless, it's creamy and satisfying, and you can't beat the cheap ingredients (save for the saffron).
Silky Leek and Red Wine Soup - serves 4
  • Four 1-inch thick slices of country bread (I used sourdough) with the crusts removed
  • 3 1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on top of the bread
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced crosswise (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs dry red wine (I used a Barbera)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and brush them with olive oil.
- Bake until they're crisp, for about 10 minutes.
- Rub the toasted bread with the garlic clove.
- Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the 3 Tbs of olive oil.
- Add the saffron and all but 1/2 cup of the sliced leeks.
- Cook until the leeks are tender, for about 4 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup of the red wine and reduce to about 2 Tbs.
- Add the chicken stock and lower heat to a simmer, for about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the toasted bread pieces and simmer for another 3 minutes.
- Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor in batches.
- Return the soup to the saucepan.
- Stir in the cream and the remaining 1 Tbs of red wine, and season with salt and pepper, keeping warm over low heat.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 1/2 Tbs of olive oil and the reserved leeks, cooking over moderate heat until softened, for about 3 minutes.
- Using a heatproof spatula, form the leeks into four 2-inch rounds.
- Sprinkle 1 Tbs of the cheese over each round.
- Cook for another 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
- Transfer the rounds to a plate and let them cool until crisp.
- Transfer the soup into bowls and top each serving with a leek crisp.

Oct 8, 2013

Smoky Shrimp & Grits

Libations used: 1/4 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so buy a nice bottle and serve with dinner...
Usually when I make shrimp and grits, my go-to recipe is this one from Marcus Samuelsson for Red Grits & Shrimp.  But I had a little bit of white wine left in the fridge instead of red, and Food & Wine's recipe for Smoky Shrimp & Grits calls for only a 1/4 of a cup.  I upped the amount of grits and cheese to a full cup each.  If you want them even cheesier, add about 1 1/4 cup total of cheddar.  I opted for white grits for a prettier color contrast with the garlic-paprika sauce.  This is great to whip up on a weeknight, even if you don't have quick-cooking grits.  It will still be quick and easy!  I spent my time peeling the shrimp while my slower-cooking grits were on the stove.  

Smoky Shrimp & Grits - serves 4
  • 1 cup grits
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, chiffonade
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb shelled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (if you want a bit more heat, use hot paprika)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc)
- In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
- Add 1 cup of grits and a nice, big pinch of salt.
- Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes if they're quick-cooking or 20-25 if they're regular grits.  It should be a thick and porridge-like consistency.
- Season with more salt and pepper, and stir in the cheddar cheese.
- Stir in the baby spinach and chives, until the spinach is lightly wilted.
- Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- In a large skillet over high heat, add the olive oil.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant for about 30 seconds.
- Add the shrimp and paprika, and season with salt and pepper, cooking until shrimp are opaque, for about 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced.
- Spoon the grits on a plate or bowl, and top with the shrimp and the sauce.

Oct 3, 2013

Whiskey Fig Jam Cocktail

Anytime I do a cheese plate with my girl friends, we have to have a jar of fig jam out.  It's just a necessary luxury.  I had never thought about using it in cocktails until I stumbled across this recipe for a Whiskey Fig Jam Cocktail on the Dessert for Two blog.  Depending on the kind of jam you have, feel free to add a dash of cinnamon and "fall" it up.  I can't wait to have another get-together with my girlfriends and serve these drinks with a massive cheese plate.

Whiskey Fig Jam Cocktail
  • 1 Tbs fig jam
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbs of fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (I used Bulleit)
  • Lemon balm or thyme sprig for garnish

- In a shaker filled with ice, add the fig jam, cinnamon, sugar, lime juice and rye whiskey.
- Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with the lemon balm or thyme.