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april doings

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry brioche

When I left the house Tuesday morning, we still had a couple feet of snow blanketing the yard. Several hours later I stepped off my plane into the sticky, warm embrace of Charlotte, North Carolina to catch my connection to Virginia. April is about as late as I am willing to visit the southeast because it’s usually after my local ski resorts close, but before Virginia weather becomes unbearably and oppressively hot and humid. Jeremy and I spent a few days with my parents – a belated celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. Really though, any opportunity for us to spend time together is a celebration of sorts. We dined out, we dined in, we drank many fine bottles of wine, everyone had a lovely time. It’s also a chance for me to observe how my parents live their lives when we are apart. Obviously, they don’t indulge in the wine and food the way they do when we visit, but I like knowing that they are surrounded by caring friends and neighbors, that they get regular exercise, and that they are generally happy and in good health.

sunset from my parents’ backyard

breakfast out at a local diner

dad pours a 24 year old dom pérignon

the view of the front yard

As you can see, spring has full on sprung in Williamsburg and I imagine it is that way around most parts of the country. Jeremy and I did a quick 5-mile run that didn’t involve clambering over snow or scrambling up rocky trails (crazy, I know) and gave us green-out because everything is so leafy and springy. Dad took us night-fishing and we caught and released a couple of channel cats (catfish). We met with neighbors over cocktails and shared a dinner with a longtime family friend. I cooked red wine braised short ribs for my parents. And we watched The Revenant, which made me homesick for the American West. Also, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little pup pup who was living it up at doggy camp with all of her pals.

post bath, pre-treats

Around this time last year, we were prepping our house and our lives to welcome little Neva. We knew full well that our freedom was limited, so we got our last spring backcountry ski trips and trail runs in, we enjoyed some meals out, and I shot a lot of recipes. But one recipe in particular was begging to be made. If you know anything about me, you know that I am crazy for huckleberries. [The thought had occurred to me to change this blog to Use Real Huckleberries, but I am still quite devoted to butter.] One day, a search for “huckleberry brioche” brought me to a million blueberry brioche recipes. How is that? The blueberry brioche recipe came from a cookbook by the name of Huckleberry, which was written by the owner of a Santa Monica bakery, Huckleberry. Well, I didn’t want to make blueberry brioche, but blueberries are often substituted for huckleberries, which are harder to come by (but so much better than blueberries), so why not substitute hucks for blues? Why not! Of course, if you don’t have hucks – you can always make the recipe as it was originally intended.

huckleberries, lemon, yeast, sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, butter, eggs, salt, milk, cream, egg yolks

There was a major snafu from the beginning and that was because there is an error in the original recipe. The flours were listed by weight and volume. The volumes were correct, but the weights were not. Unfortunately, I mostly go by weight when possible, so my dough looked really dry and wrong. I stopped before adding the butter and looked online for clues. Apparently, the cookbook has a number of errors that people were (rightfully) upset about. The weights for the flours were doubled in the blueberry brioche recipe. Luckily, I caught it in time to double the rest of the ingredients. I wound up with two loaves instead of wasting my precious ingredients. Still, I would have liked to dope slap the editor.

Fresh berries are going to give you the best results. In April, my only choice was to use frozen huckleberries, but my reasoning went like this: the fresh berries are placed in the freezer while the dough is being prepared, so the berries are partially frozen when you use them. My berries were just MORE frozen. See? I’ll tell you why it makes a difference and how to counter the effects a few paragraphs down. If you can use fresh, use fresh – but frozen will work in a pinch.

whisk the yeast into the warm milk

add the eggs, yolk, flours, sugar, salt

the dough should start to pull away from the sides

**Jump for more butter**


Monday, March 14th, 2016

Recipe: chorizo sliders

Spring has sprung. It is sprang. It skis like spring. It feels like spring. For all intents and purposes, it is spring. Last week, we went into the backcountry on the Front Range for a little ole ski tour. The snow started out okay, but as the daytime temperatures rose above freezing, the snow began to stick to our climbing skins in giant 6 inch thick clumps. Then it turned to mashed potatoes by the time we skied out and we were like, “Let’s go to Crested Butte.”

cruising the meadow before the descent

a rosy sunrise on james peak

Well, it’s spring in Crested Butte, too! It’s snowing right now, but the sun keeps poking through sucker holes in the cloud deck and it is warm. Now is the time to embrace whatever nature throws at us, be it powder (please, throw A LOT OF POWDER) or corn snow or mashed potatoes. Jeremy and I are already discussing our plans for Neva adventures this spring and summer – by ski, by bike, or by foot. We are all about human- and doggy-powered activities.

crested butte has pretty sunrises, too

skinning uphill at crested butte mountain resort before the lifts open

neva loves the snow

It’s nice getting out on the Crested Butte food scene after a long hiatus (read: Neva). There are new and old restaurants that we’ve been interested in checking out for a while. Last month we dropped by a taqueria, Bonez, for happy hour. All of the food was excellent (I’ll write that up soon), but the thing that blew us away were the chorizo sliders. Each one was a package of spicy, tangy, sweet, creamy, crunchy, buttery. Delicious and totally doable at home! I’ve already posted recipes for two of the components: sweet potato rolls and fennel slaw. You could buy brioche buns instead of the sweet potato rolls, and I’m guessing fancier grocers or delis may carry fennel slaw. The rest is simply: chorizo patties, garlic aioli, and tomato jam. For the tomato jam, I used a shortcut based on the recipe the server gave me.

pico de gallo, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar

place it all in a saucepan

boil it down to a jam

easy tomato jam: tangy, sweet, and a little spicy

**Jump for more butter**

march ahead

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Recipe: sweet potato rolls

Daylight Saving doesn’t really bother me the way it bothers some folks. I have never paid much attention to it except when we get that extra hour in the fall. I kinda like that extra hour. But certain people get really bent out of shape over the revisited darkness in the mornings. I’ll let you in on a little secret… both Jeremy and I are really looking forward to setting our clocks ahead this Sunday. You know why?

because of this girl

Neva still wakes up at 5:30 every morning. EVERY. MORNING. Lately, we’ve been leaving her crate door open and she sleeps through the night without a problem. I sleep on the right side of the bed, and because of my lymphedema in my left arm, I sleep on my right side. Like clockwork, Neva shoves her nose into my face at 5:31 am (presumably she takes a minute to get out of the crate, stretch her front half, stretch her back half, rub her left side against the bed, then rub her right side against the bed, and shake off). It scared the hell out of me the first time, but now it’s just really sweet except for the puke-thirty in the morning feeling when your REM sleep has been interrupted. I’ll feed her a couple of treats so her empty tummy doesn’t revolt, and then she jumps up onto the bed to snuggle between Jeremy and me… for all of ten seconds. Then she jumps down off the bed and trots around the room and jumps back on until Jeremy wakes up, dresses, and takes her out to potty. We are hoping after Sunday, that Neva will wake up at 6:30! Right!? I mean, it’s got to work for at least a few days, yes?

Meanwhile, we are patiently waiting for the big snows that have yet to deliver this month. They said March would be snowy, but we’ve only gotten dribs and drabs interspersed with loads of warm weather. February was four whole weeks of freakish mother-loving sunshine. I feel as if I wouldn’t know what to do if we DID get a big dump powder day. Actually, I would totally know what to do – I’d SEND IT.

local benefits: ski the powder then go to work

It’s clear that winter skiing is fast becoming a faded memory. The sun is getting higher in the sky each day and the snowpack is feeling it. When we pack up for a backcountry ski, we dig around for lightweight gloves instead of super warm gauntlets. And during my weekly menu planning, I’m thinking more and more about summer barbecues, summer fruits, and well – summer foraging. But let’s talk about barbecue. I’ve always been a fan of barbecue and the assortment of sides that come with it: baked beans, coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, cornbread, rolls, mac and cheese, the list goes on. Last year I was getting barbecue at a roadside stand when I saw “sweet roll” as a side option. When I asked what it was the guy said, “It’s a sweet potato roll.” I couldn’t figure out if he meant it was a potato roll that was sweet or if it was a roll made with sweet potato or what. I bit, and it was – nice. So I set out to make some myself, because homemade is almost guaranteed to be better.

sweet potato, flour, yeast, water, butter, salt, honey, eggs, warm water

peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks, then boil

mash the sweet potato and let cool

**Jump for more butter**