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 28, 2013

Spiced Persimmon Maple Old Fashioned

One of the fruits that embodies the fall and winter for me are persimmons.  I love their odd crunchy texture and the spiced flavor notes.  When I saw this Spiced Persimmon Maple Old Fashioned from Aida Mollenkamp, I couldn't wait to try it out!  Usually, when I drink Old Fashioneds, I go pretty simple and light on the fruit.  But when it's highlighting a fun and seasonal fruit, I'll make an exception.  Instead of a Fuyu Persimmon, I used Hachiya because it's a little softer and easier to muddle.  I also used a lot less maple syrup - 1 Tablespoon instead of 2 or 3.  For the orange bitters, I slipped in my homemade Bitter Revenge Bloody Sweet Blood Orange & Rosemary bitters to amp up that holiday spice.  With the maple syrup and cinnamon, it's the epitome of season, and a great post-Thanksgiving cocktail to extend the celebration!

Spiced Persimmon Maple Old Fashioned
  • 1/4 ripe Hachiya persimmon, diced into small pieces
  • Orange wedge with rind, about 1/8 of an orange
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • 2 oz rye whiskey (I used Bulleit)
  • 4 dashes orange bitters 
  • Cinnamon stick
- Add the persimmon, orange and maple syrup into an Old Fashioned glass and muddle, lightly bruising the orange.
- Add a few ice cubes, whiskey and orange bitters.
- Freshly grate in some cinnamon.
- Stir with the cinnamon stick until the drink is chilled.

Nov 26, 2013

Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup

Libations used: 1 bottle of pumpkin ale...
Libations left over: None, unless ya bought a six-pack...
I had one lonely bottle of KBC Pumpkin Ale kicking around in the fridge and it was just begging me to cook or bake something with it.  I was craving soup and this Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup from Spoon Fork Bacon with some garlicky sourdough croutons looked like the ultimate comfort dinner on a chilly fall night.  It's a fairly quick soup to make, so great for those lazy Sunday nights or week day.  I'm sure you could use any light beer you wanted, but the pumpkin flavor is so much fun and lends it a little seasonal spice.

Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup - serves 4
Ingredients for the soup:
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 rib of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 Tbs minced thyme
  • One 12 oz bottle of pumpkin ale (I used KBC)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin purée
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Ingredients for the croutons:
  • 1 1/2-2 cups diced sourdough bread
  • 3 1/2 Tbs melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
To make the soup:
- Pour the olive oil into a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and leek and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until they become translucent.
- Add the garlic, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper.
- Sauté for 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in the thyme.
- Add the beer and chicken broth and let the mixture simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the veggies are fork tender.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- In another medium pot, melt the butter.
- Whisk in the flour to create a roux and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes.
- Whisk in the milk, until no lumps remain and the mixture thickens.
- Stir in the pumpkin purée until smooth.
- In a large bowl, toss the cheddar cheese with the lemon juice.
- Add the cheese to the roux and stir until smooth.
- Stir in the mustard, paprika and nutmeg.
- Pour the cheese and broth mixture into a blender and purée until smooth.
- Pour the soup back into one of the pots or Dutch oven and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until it thickens slightly.

To make the croutons:
- While the soup is cooking, place all crouton ingredients into a medium bowl and toss together until evenly coated.
- Pour croutons into a large skilled over medium heat.
- Toast them for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently so they're evenly browned.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool and crisp up.
- Top each bowl of soup with croutons.

Nov 14, 2013

Cider Smash

While my family is dealing with light snowfalls and ice in Michigan, I'm still experiencing the occasional hot days in LA.  Which is why this Cider Smash from Miami's relatively new, and now acclaimed cocktail bar, The Broken Shaker, is so perfect.  Located in a hip hostel, the aromatic flavors in this cocktail are reminiscent of a hot toddy and must make travelers feel like they're at home while they're soaking up the rays on those sandy beaches.  That touch of Fernet is curing and the apple cider and rosemary gives it that holiday accent.

Cider Smash 
  • 1 1/2 oz dark rum - they recommend Atlantico, but I only had Meyers
  • 1/4 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1 oz apple cider (I used Trader Joe's spiced version)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz agave or rich simple syrup
  • 3 rosemary sprigs, saving 1 for garnish
  • Lemon wheel, for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the rum, Fernet, apple cider, lemon juice, agave and 2 rosemary sprigs.
- Shake and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass with ice.
- Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a lemon wheel.

Nov 12, 2013

Bourbon Baked Apples

Libations used: 1/3 cup bourbon...
Libations left over: None, but make this Spicy Cider Mill Cocktail while you're waiting for those apples to bake...
Still working your way through that crate of apples you picked earlier at the orchard?  I absolutely love this recipe from How Sweet Eats for Bourbon Baked Apples, as it combines a simple baked apple with a brown sugar and oat crumble mixture.  It's like a more apple-y version of apple crisp!  The bourbon and apple cider placed in the baking dish help steam the apple, and when the crumble mixture kind of oozes down, it creates this yummy caramel-like mixture to drizzle on top.  Use Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Fuji or Gravenstein apples, as they'll remain tart and on the crisp side without falling apart and getting all mealy.  You can either use a baking dish or a schnitzer, which is a funky, little Swiss cast iron baking dish, just for apples.  It's an easy dessert to whip up for dinner parties or the holidays.  The prep time is pretty minimal, and you can toss these in the oven to bake while you're eating dinner.  They'll be perfectly hot and ready for your guests.  Be sure to douse them in plenty of vanilla ice cream too!

Bourbon Baked Apples - serves 6
  • 6 large apples - either Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Fuji or Gravenstein
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup softened, unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/3 cup bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • Vanilla ice cream
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Core the apples, but leave a little apple at the bottom.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and chopped walnuts (optional).
- Add the softened butter and vanilla, mixing thoroughly with a fork and with your hands.
- Stuff the mixture inside the apples.
- Place the apples in a large baking dish.
- Pour the apple cider and bourbon into the baking dish.
- Bake for about 30-45 minutes, and use a baster or spoon to pour the cider mixture over the apples about every 10 minutes.
- When they're done, top with vanilla ice cream cream and serve!

Nov 7, 2013


Sometimes Monday nights call for a stiff drink, and earlier this week was one of those Mondays.  I recalled a cocktail recipe that STREET's Morgan Fox told me about a couple of months ago because we bonded over rye whiskey and that herbaceous, boozy delight that is Green Chartreuse.  Perhaps in another life, I visited the Diamondback Lounge in the Lord Baltimore Hotel during the 1950s, because I'm pretty sure this drink was invented in my honor.  The drink first appeared in print in Ted Saucier's Bottoms Up from 1951.  Not only does it have two of my aforementioned fave ingredients, but there's Applejack all up in there too!  This very bracing and simple drink has multiple variations that play on the ratios of the spirits.  Some do 2 ounces of rye with 1/2 ounce each of Green Chartreuse (or Yellow) and Applejack, while others make it with 1 1/2 ounces of rye and 3/4 ounces of the remaining spirits.  Morgan told me to just do equal parts of each (like a Negroni!) - easy to remember and nicely balanced.  I have a feeling this is going to be my new fall and winter cocktail go-to.

  • 1 oz rye whiskey (I used Redemption Rye)
  • 1 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1 oz Laird's Applejack
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add all the ingredients and shake.
- Strain into a chilled coupe.

Nov 5, 2013

Celery Root & Mushroom Lasagna

Libations used: 1/2 cup Marsala wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so save it for another recipe...
This past Sunday was one of those days when I wanted a good, long cooking project.  I've often turned to cooking or baking to relieve stress and take my mind off of things, and I needed a recipe that was going to occupy me for most of the day.  Plus, I was having a couple of my girl friends over that evening, and I wanted to treat them to something decadent, that would also make enough food so they could take home leftovers at the end of the night.  This Celery Root and Mushroom Lasagna from Food & Wine is a great fall/winter recipe for family and holiday gatherings, and a delicious way to treat the ones you love to a really special, gourmet meal.

The ragù not only has diced celery root and plenty of mushrooms (both dried and fresh), but leeks, prosciutto, fresh herbs, Marsala wine and cream, and it's layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mozzarella cheesy goodness.  I made a few modifications from the original recipe, which I indicated in the ingredients list, and I also cooked fewer noodles because I had to toss out so many unused ones.  This dish can be made ahead the night before and just popped in the oven the next day.  And because it's so rich I served this with a baby kale and mustard green salad with thinly sliced fennel, dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and a light, lemon-mustard vinaigrette.  I can't wait to make this same meal again, and impress my family during the holidays!
Celery Root & Mushroom Lasagna - serves 10
  • 1 cup dried mushrooms (I used Portobello, but Porcini or a mixed variety is great too)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb white mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto slices, cut into 1 inch pieces (the original recipe recommends the thickly sliced Prosciutto di Parma kind, diced into 1/4 inch pieces, but that's not always easy to find)
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 sage sprigs
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 lb celery root, peeled and finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 medium leeks (white and green parts only), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 lb lasagna noodles 
  • 1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese (the original recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced, but I'd already spent enough money on all the other ingredients!)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
- In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in the boiling water until they're soft (about 15 minutes).
- Drain and coarsely chop the mushrooms (hint - save and freeze the mushroom broth - it's great for soups and sauces).
- In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven, over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tbs of the butter and 2 Tbs of the olive oil.
- Add the fresh and formerly dried mushrooms and season with salt and white pepper, stirring occasionally until browned (about 10 minutes).
- Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl.
- Add the remaining 2 Tbs of butter and olive oil to the same pan and turn the heat down to moderately low.
- Add the prosciutto and shallots, stirring occasionally, until the prosciutto is crisped up and the shallots are softened (about 6 minutes).
- Tie the bay leaf, rosemary, sage and thyme into a bundle using kitchen string.
- Add the herb bundle and celery root to the same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery root is crisp-tender (about 6 minutes).
- Add the leeks and cook until the celery root is tender (about 5 minutes).
- Turn up the heat to medium, and return the mushrooms to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the Marsala wine and cook until it's evaporated (about 5 minutes).
- Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup of the cream and let it simmer for 3 minutes longer, or until the mixture has reduced to about 5 cups.
- Season the ragù with salt and white pepper.
- In a separate large saucepan, add the remaining 2 cups of cream and 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Simmer over medium heat until it's reduced to 3 cups (about 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Whisk in the eggs.
- Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth.
- Season the sauce with salt and white pepper and set 1/2 cup of it aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water.
- After the lasagna is cooked to just barely al dente, drain and transfer the noodles to the ice water to cool.
- Drain the noodles and pat them dry.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- Line the bottom with a single layer of noodles, overlapping them slightly.  Try to reserve your prettiest noodles for the top.
- Spread 1/5 of the vegetable ragù on top.
- Spread 1/5 of the cream sauce.
- Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella and then some basil leaves.
- Repeat to make 4 more layers, ending with a layer of noodles.
- Top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cream sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  You can even toss some leftover shredded mozzarella cheese on top if you have any!
- Bake the lasagna for about 1 hour.  It should be bubbling and golden.
- Let the lasagna rest for about 15-20 minutes before serving.