chinese red-cooked pork crested butte: montanya distillers tasting room coconut sorbet pickled beets


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yes i am home

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Recipe: chinese red-cooked pork

Each day last week listed snow in the weather forecast for Crested Butte. That was mostly a good thing. Mostly. It was time for us to head back home for stuff like work and sanity, although we are only able to be in Crested Butte because of the internet (and the ability to work online). At first we thought we might be able to get home Thursday, then it looked more like Saturday. Well, I’m glad we didn’t plan to leave Thursday because that was (yet another) powder day. Remember how Crested Butte got four feet of snow the first week of January? They received another five feet in the second week of January. Do the math. Four feet plus five feet equals some of the best powder skiing ever.


jeremy drops into one of our stashes

how the snow piled up in our front yard



The plan was to ski Friday morning if the mountain received 6 inches or more overnight or to skin up the mountain if it was less. I awoke at 5 am when Neva kicked me in her sleep (she starts off in her bed, but always winds up on ours in the middle of the night). The mountain reported a few inches. I checked the pow cam, then three different weather forecasts. Our window of least snow had moved up a day. I woke Jeremy and we discussed our options in the dark as Neva began to petition for dinner (breakfast). If we wanted to leave that day, there was much to do in order to button up the place – wash towels and linens, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub the kitchen, dishes, empty the refrigerator, clean bathrooms, dust, take trash and recycling to the dump, pack up, unplug, clear snow off the middle eaves. Six hours later, we were on the road. Five hours after that, we were home.

We spent a glorious month in Crested Butte, which is the longest we’ve been there in one go. Jeremy didn’t think I could do it because I usually start to lose my marbles after 2+ weeks, but I managed. Barely. As much as I love Crested Butte – and I really do love it – I get more done in Nederland. Thankfully, we were greeted with fresh snow and a calm atmosphere. Positively the best weather the Front Range can offer between November and April. Living in Gale Force Wind Central, you learn not to take days like that for granted. So we got out to enjoy this otherworldly (some might call it the Upside Down) version of home.


sunrise skate ski through the hall of trees

backcountry skiing with neva

hoar frost

close up of the crystals



The first order of business was to ski, because exercise keeps us all nice nice. The second order of business was to cook. Chinese New Year’s Eve is Friday, January 27th. I perused my list of “want to make” Chinese recipes and settled on red-cooked pork (hong shao rou). When I was little, my grandma and parents made it with a bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder cooked super tender and infused with the flavors of the heady, savory braising liquid. If you search online recipes, you will discover that most people are cooking with pork belly these days, which is far more luxurious than a humble pedestrian pork shoulder (but let’s all agree that pork shoulder is a truly wonderful cut). It’s best to get pork belly with the skin on, which my local Whole Foods doesn’t have. As my mom complained this summer, “They trim the skin off the pork belly – that’s the best part!” If your local Asian grocer has a butcher’s counter, then you can probably score skin-on (maybe even bone-in) pork belly. That’s what you want.

Other ingredients you should pick up while you’re at the Asian market are: Shaoxing cooking wine, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Shaoxing is also known as huang jiu (yellow wine), but you can substitute dry sherry in its place. If you can’t find light soy sauce, using your regular soy sauce should work. The dark soy sauce is different though – it’s less salty, has a sweet finish, and adds a deep, rich color to the dish.


green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, star anise, pork belly, shoaxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce

close up of the bottle labels



While researching recipes, I decided to go with the one that was the most straightforward. But it didn’t include ginger, which was in another recipe I liked. In these instances, the only solution is to consult with Mom. We exchanged a few texts and I was off to the races. Earlier this evening, after I had finished cooking, my dad called me.

“Mommy says you asked her about how to make hong shao rou. You should have asked me. Okay, tell me how you cooked it.” Before I could even describe the process, he interjected, “Now, first you have to cook the pork belly in cold water.” See, my dad gets SO excited about cooking and he is SO certain that his way is the right way, but it’s quite the ordeal to squeeze a reliable recipe out of the guy.

“I did that, Dad.”

“But did you scoop the scum away? You have to boil the yucky stuff off first.”

“DAD! THIS IS WHY I ASKED MOM AND NOT YOU!”


cover the pork belly with cold water

remove the scum from the surface of the liquid

slice the pork belly into 1.5-inch pieces



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great balls of kalbi

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Recipe: kalbi meatballs

Winter is trying to make its way into Colorado, but it has been a slow process. Little storms sandwiched between warm and sunny spells aren’t conducive to good skiing, or any skiing for that matter. At least the storms are finally coming, and hopefully they are gathering strength. The past couple of weeks have been an emotional slog for me, so it was nice to pack up our little family and head to Crested Butte for Thanksgiving week. I don’t want to be social. I just want to be with my pack (Jeremy and Neva), work, and get some damn snow to ski.


sometimes neva insists that you play with her

last week, we got the first snow in over a month

jeremy and i hopped out for a quick ski tour

neva relaxes in crested butte



Of course, our version of Thanksgiving is very un-Thanksgivingish. We’re not having turkey (we’re having ribs) and we aren’t spending it with extended family. It’s the introvert’s Thanksgiving. This suits Jeremy just fine because he is an introvert through and through, but even extroverts (me) can only take but so much before they need to lie low and recuperate. However, we ARE thankful for so much: good people, health, kindness, compassion, love, opportunity, wild spaces, one another, and that crazy furry baby dog. I hope you all enjoy and/or survive your Thanksgiving festivities with as much love and thanks as your hearts can give and then some more. That’s what it is really all about.

Today’s recipe is most definitely un-Thanksgivingish. Maybe it’s in part because I am not a fan of turkey, but mostly it’s because you should file this away for the holiday season and beyond. I am a huge fan of Korean barbecue – particularly galbi. But Korean barbecue short ribs require marinating time and can be messy to eat. Put this in the form of a meatball and you have shaved off quite a bit of time and everything is packaged into a delicious little morsel. Kalbi (I see it spelled both galbi and kalbi) meatballs, people.


ground beef, honey, ginger, asian pear, garlic, onion, bread crumbs, bread, eggs, black pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, chardonnay, rice vinegar

grate the ginger

prep the ingredients



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octoberings

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Recipe: shrimp and vegetable tempura

I’m trying to make the most of shoulder season – that period between summer season activities and winter season activities. Autumn is glorious, but it can also be a little frustrating with the back and forth between hot weather and snow. It’s far too sketchy for any skiing that won’t result in massive gouges on the bottoms of our skis. Hiking and trail running up high is a bit sloppy with the diurnal melt and freeze. We’re making due with whatever exercise we can get right now, all in the hopes that we won’t be sucking wind when we finally slap those skis on. Plus, Neva doesn’t care WHAT the season is nor WHAT the weather is doing, she just loves to be outside.


squiggly aspens

jeremy and neva after an icy hike up to the lake



My parents are back in Colorado for a couple of weeks to sample a season other than summer. They are not fans of winter and snow, and I’ve warned them that crazy (i.e. snowy) weather can happen any time between October and May, but they took the chance. Luckily, the snow has stayed up here in the mountains. It happened to be Dad’s birthday last week and the plan was to have my folks up to our house for a celebratory dinner. But Dad’s back was acting up and I didn’t want him driving the canyon, so we prepped as much as we could and then brought dinner down to cook at my parents’ place in Boulder. When I entertain, I typically plan the menu and let Jeremy pick the wines to pair. But whenever I cook for my parents, Dad picks the wines he wants to serve and I create the menu around the wines.

happy birthday, dad!



As darkness encroaches on both ends of the day, we find Neva requesting dinner earlier and earlier in the evenings. The orbit of the Earth around the Sun is messing with her internal doggy clock pea-brain. I have no idea how she’s going to deal with Daylight Saving ending in November. It’s a bit of an adjustment for me, too. More so for Jeremy. It seems we also cue on the daylight for dinnertime – eating as late as 10 pm in the summer, which I don’t really like. One of the positives of the winter months is that I feel good about eating dinner at 7 pm and having a few hours after dinner to digest. We also find ourselves dining out less in the darker months. I think that’s partly because we’re getting older and partly because I can cook some meals better at home for less than it costs to go out to eat. Jeremy and I still love to go out for sushi since it’s hard to source that much variety in fresh sushi-grade fish at home, but I have given up on ordering tempura because I find it far easier to make my own using my favorite ingredients for the dish.

kabocha squash, enoki mushrooms, broccolini, lotus root, shrimp

ice water, baking soda, egg, flour, mirin, hondashi, sugar, soy sauce



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