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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Dec 31, 2013

Forbidden Pear Cocktail

You can do champagne, and then you can really class it up and do champagne cocktails for New Year's Eve.  Whether you're hosting a party and pouring cocktails all night or want to do something special for that midnight toast, this Forbidden Pear cocktail is sure to impress your guests.  It's a slight twist on's Forbidden Apple recipe, which is also a slight twist on a traditional champagne cocktail (sugar, bitters, champs).  Isn't almost any cocktail a twist on something classic? used Calvados, which is an apple brandy, Grand Marnier and some Angostura bitters.  Instead of Calvados, I used J Pear Liqueur, which I included in a Spiced Pear Margarita for last New Year's Eve.  I absolutely love this stuff.  It's made by J Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg, California using Bartlett pears and has hints of cinnamon, vanilla and honey — perfect for winter.  If you can't find this particular liqueur, feel free to use any kind of pear brandy, as well as your favorite aromatic bitters.  I had recently finished making a batch of aromatic bitters for my little Bitter Revenge line to give out during the holidays.  I left out the orange twist, as I wanted to taste more of the pear notes.  I can't wait to make this drink for friends and really kick off the New Year, or just find an excuse to celebrate anytime this winter.  It's a rich, slightly sweet libation that makes any special occasion feel a little more luxe.

Forbidden Pear 
  • 3-5 dashes of Angostura or aromatic bitters (I used my Bitter Revenge "Et Tu, Brute" house bitters)
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz pear brandy (I used J Pear Liqueur)
  • 4 oz champagne (I used Moet Chandon's Imperial)
  • Optional - orange twist for garnish
- Add the bitters, Grand Marnier and pear brandy into a champagne flute.
- Top with champagne.
- Optional to add the orange twist.

Dec 20, 2013

Bourbon Dark Chocolate Crack Cookies

Libations used: 2 Tbs of bourbon...
Libations left over: Make a pot of Wassail Punch to really get in the holiday spirit...
Right before Christmas, I normally go into a baking frenzy and make all sorts of pretty and yummy cookies to share with my friends and co-workers.  This year, I just didn't have the time (or the energy) to spend a full weekend baking, but I had an itch to at least do a little.  These Bourbon Dark Chocolate Crack Cookies from White On Rice Couple are so fast and easy, with fairly minimal ingredients.  They have a little bit of a boozy kick, are super soft and insanely addictive.  I ended up bringing these along on a little wine tasting trip to Santa Ynez, and we couldn't stop eating these.  They're perfect paired with red wine or a holiday-spiced Wassail Punch, and Santa would approve if you left these out on the fireplace!

Bourbon Dark Chocolate Crack Cookies - makes 2 dozen
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, broken into squares
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for coating)
  • Confectioners sugar (for coating)

- In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a medium bowl, placed over a small pot of simmering water, add the chocolate, butter and bourbon.
- Gently melt the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until smooth.
- Remove the bowl from the heat.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and sugar.
- Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on high for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture forms a "ribbon" when the whisk is lifted from it.
- Gently fold in the chocolate mixture and stir by hand.
- Gently stir in the flour mixture.
- Cover and let the dough firm up in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 325 and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the granulated sugar and confectioners sugar in two, small separate bowls.
- Roll the dough in to 1 1/2 inch balls.
- Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and then the confectioners sugar.
- Place them on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart from each other.
- Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the cookie sheets.
- Bake for another 6-8 minutes - the cookies should still be soft in the center and a little firm on the outside.
- When they've cooled down a little, transfer to a cooling rack.

Dec 12, 2013

Mexican Fernet Hot Chocolate

In my effort to get over a cold earlier this week, I was experimenting with various hot cocktails - a lush's true medicine.  I was craving hot chocolate after dinner and I simply love it spiced Mexican style with some cinnamon, cayenne and vanilla...and tequila.  I usually make this version of Mexican Hot Chocolate, but I was feeling lazy and had some of Trader Joe's Spiced Hot Cocoa Mix on hand.  In addition to tequila, I added in some Fernet (it lends that holiday minty taste) and a few dashes of The Bitter Truth's Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters.  Feel free to use any cocoa mix, or the recipe from my regular Mexican Hot Chocolate, and any kind of aromatic bitters (i.e. Angostura) is fine.  Scoop in a little bit of vanilla bean ice cream, and you've got yourself a restorative boozy treat!

Mexican Fernet Hot Chocolate
  • 6 oz milk
  • 2 spoonfuls of Trader Joe's Spicy Hot Cocoa Mix
  • 1 oz tequila (I used Patrón Silver)
  • 1 oz Fernet-Branca
  • 3-4 dashes of The Bitter Truth's Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters or any aromatic kind is fine
  • 1 scoop of vanilla bean ice cream
- Heat up the milk and stir in that cocoa mix.
- Add the tequila, Fernet and bitters and stir.
- Plop in a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Dec 10, 2013

Spice-Braised Chicken Legs with Red Wine & Tomato

Libations used: 1 cup of red wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so pour yourself a glass while that chicken is braising or serve with dinner...
Baby, it's starting to get cold outside! When it's Sunday night and it gets dark early, there's nothing I like doing more than tossing some chicken or beef in the Dutch Oven and braising away.  It usually involves pouring a little wine in the pot and drinking the rest, whilst perched in front of the telly.  This recipe for Spice-Braised Chicken Legs with Red Wine and Tomato from Alex Guarnaschelli at is a lovely and very easy dish to make in those days leading up to the big Christmas dinner.  The cinnamon, ginger and cumin actually gives it that holiday-inspired spice, and it's a great dish to feed a crowd if you double the recipe.  Feel free to use any parts of the chicken.  I actually couldn't get any whole legs at the store, so just purchased a dozen thighs, as it was cheaper than purchasing both thighs and drumsticks separately.  Alex recommends serving the chicken with white or brown rice, but I opted for quinoa.  You might as well slip in some healthier whole grains if you're splurging on seasonal treats!

Spice-Braised Chicken Legs with Red Wine & Tomato - serves 6
  • 3 Tbs canola or olive oil
  • 6 whole chicken legs, split into drumsticks and thighs with skin and fat removed
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (feel free to use ground cumin if you don't have)
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tbs fresh grated ginger 
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup dry red wine (I used Bogle's Petite Syrah)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • One 28 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
- Season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- In a large and deep skillet or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat, add the 2 Tbs of the oil.
- When the oil is shimmering, add half of the chicken to the skillet and brown each side (about 3 minutes per side).
- Transfer the browned chicken to a plate and add the rest of the chicken to the skillet.
- Pour any fat and juices from the plate into the skillet.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of the oil and add the cumin seeds or powder and stir for about 10 seconds.
- Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until softened.
- Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, crushed red pepper and bay leaves and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic is golden.
- Add the wine and simmer over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock and tomatoes with their juices and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the chicken and any juices from the plate to the sauce and simmer over low heat for about 50 minutes, rotating the chicken a few times, until it's thoroughly cooked through.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves and season with any additional salt and pepper.
- Serve over a whole grain, such as quinoa, couscous, wheat berries or farro.

Dec 5, 2013

Bran's Dram

As soon as my Thanksgiving vacation began, I got hit with a coughing and sneezy cold.  I kept pushing away the medicine that my parents offered me, and got through the short break on a steady regimen of hot toddies before bed.  When I got home, I was catching up on issues of Bon Appetit and ran across this recipe for Bran's Dram in their December issue.  The hot berry tea and white rum makes me think of a ray of tropical sun shining down on a snowman...if that's ever possible.  I pulled out some Raspberry & Quince tea and some Bacardi and set my tea pot on the stove.  This is a fun twist on a traditional hot toddy, with the "curative" powers of tea, booze, honey and lemon.  The best part is?  You don't need to be sick to enjoy this wintry libation.
Bran's Dram
  • About 6 oz, or just under a cup of hot water
  • 1 bag of berry herbal tea (I used The Republic of Tea's Raspberry & Quince)
  • 1 1/2 oz white rum (I used Bacardi)
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon twist, for garnish
- Steep the tea in some hot water and remove the tea bag when done.
- Add the white rum, honey and lemon juice and stir.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.