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


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the frenzy

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Recipe: wild mushroom pizza

Here it comes. Cooler weather, I’ve been waiting for you since May. We were so used to leaving our windows open overnight to cool the house down that it came as a surprise to us when we woke up Saturday morning and the temperature inside was 52°F. That’s even lower than what we set our heat to overnight in winter (we set it to 55°F). No wonder Neva was all snuggled up between us on the bed after her 6 am breakfast. Outside we could see an impressive frost on the deck. Well alright then! The scrub in the high country has been turning red and gold for a couple of weeks now, but the leaves are finally following suit at higher elevations. My landscape photographer friends are getting itchy for the fall shoot. We’re all waiting to see if the colors will be on time (like usual) or if they’re going to bust out of the gate early.


bright red huckleberry bushes on cottonwood pass (looking west toward taylor reservoir)

dreamy sunset colors

red aspen leaves against bluebird skies



But before I could even think about the fall shoot, I had to research, test, make, and photograph recipes with my foraged chanterelles and porcini from last weekend. Oh, and I had to clean them – a time-consuming process with the chanties when you have several pounds. From the moment I cut the mushrooms off the ground, the clock starts ticking. I store them in brown paper bags in the refrigerator and they last about a week. Brown paper bags populated all of the non-freeze zones of my refrigerator while I shifted everything else around them. The rest will be sautéed in butter and frozen for winter. Any chanterelles that are too far gone to eat get chucked into a separate bag. Those will soak in a combination of water, molasses, and salt for a day or two before pouring the “spore” water out in suitable chanterelle environments.

Generally, I don’t pick the porcini that have been wormed out (the stipe or cap will feel particularly squishy), but sometimes you can pick a firm porcini and the few worms present will make Swiss cheese of the inside while you hike around, drive home, and pop it in the refrigerator. That’s why I try to dress the porcini (cut out any worms) in the field if I have the time. Porcini that are too wormed out (those itty bitty worms, they have voracious appetites) get staked under an appropriate spruce where some spores might take hold in the future.


always delightful to peer into the huckleberry leaves and find a chanterelle or two

porcini like the huckleberry plants, too



The first recipe I wanted to shoot involved both kinds of mushrooms, mostly because I wanted to take care of the porcini before the worms ate anymore of them (or any more worms escaped onto the refrigerator shelf). The reality of foraging porcini is that you will deal with worms. I’ve rarely encountered chanterelles that were wormed out, but it has happened on rare occasion. Even if your porcini have some worms, you can usually cut that section out and salvage the rest. So let’s make some wild mushroom pizza! And as always, you can substitute any combination of edible mushrooms.

chanterelles, porcini, pizza dough, parmesan, fontina, butter, flake sea salt, sea salt, thyme, garlic

melt the butter and mince the garlic

mix the garlic into the butter



**Jump for more butter**

veg head

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Recipe: veg head sandwich

We waited out the Cold Springs Fire in Crested Butte as federal, state, and local wildland fire response teams accomplished the superhuman feat of keeping the fire in check during terrible conditions – high and erratic winds, dry air, hot temperatures – and put everything they had into it. After the worst of the weather had passed, these amazing crews were able to get the fire contained and put out within a week of it starting. That right there is beyond impressive considering how bad past wildfires have gotten.

Jeremy and I were glued to Twitter and other information sources for a day, but had to pull ourselves away as we realized how exhausting and futile that activity was. Our neighborhood remained out of harm’s way, but was still disturbingly close to it. We kept tabs on developments, but for the most part we resumed our work schedules and managed to get some fresh air. It comes up time and again, but you learn an awful lot about a person in times of crisis. Some people are helpful, others are useless, still others are worse than useless – they are drama queens (or kings). Thankfully the majority of our neighbors are great, keeping level heads and having plans of action. Those are the folks you want on your team during the zombie apocalypse. That one neighbor who is always drunk, stoned, or both? He’s a red shirt.


neva enjoys a nice cool stream crossing

hiking above copper lake (on the return, neva swam her brains out in the lake)

wildflowers showing off their stuff in the high country

jeremy and neva at east maroon pass with aspen in the background

cutthroat trout coming to check me out

jeremy paddles at lake irwin

rafting together to enjoy a cool breeze and a lovely view



Crested Butte’s wildflower season gets going in late June and runs through August and even into September if the rains deliver on their promise to the land. I know when the wildflowers are going strong without having to look because my allergies kick into overdrive. My nose starts running as soon as I start running. My eyes itch the minute I set foot on the trail. But it’s worth it. I just wish it would rain, because the animals need their berries, the mushrooms have yet to really flush, and wildfire season is just getting started.

We came home to Nederland a few days ago. Everything seems to be that crunchy kind of dry underfoot right now, but there is rain in the forecast that would be most welcome here. Oh, angelitacarmelita asked for a picture of the oyster mushrooms we found in Crested Butte a couple of weeks ago. These aren’t the best oysters I’ve found, but the ones we ate were certainly delicious. These aspen oyster mushrooms grow on – you guessed it – aspens (and sometimes other trees)! We found both sets at the base of dead aspens.


a single (with a really tiny mini version growing behind it which i left in place)

the older ones were more tan and dried out and ruffled (and wormed out)



Porcini (king bolete) or Kings are supposed to be making an appearance any day now. Actually, some already have, but they are being extra shy without the rain to coax them up. It’s easy to become obsessed with mushrooms, until you realize that they can dominate your entire summer. I like finding mushrooms and I have a pretty good eye for them, but for Jeremy’s and my own sanity, I try not to let mushrooms derail plans for long hikes, trail runs, or backpacks. In any case, when they do flush, I will have to revisit this sandwich which was so wonderfully packed with vegetables. I call it the veg head and you can make it with any kind of favorite mushroom.

arugula, mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, eggplant, zucchini, salt, maple syrup, butter, dijon mustard, ciabatta roll, and porcini

slice the vegetables



**Jump for more butter**

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**