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archive for celebration

cheeseboarding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Recipe: build your own cheeseboard

My parents did a lot of entertaining when I was growing up. It was something I was vaguely aware of as a little kid. Kris and I would belly flop onto my parents’ bed and watch television until we heard the adults move to the dining room for dinner. At that point, Kris would nudge me and say, “Come on, let’s go downstairs.” We’d sneak into the kitchen unseen by the guests (but always seen by Dad, who would flash us one of his goofy smiles as we tiptoed down the stairs) and nosh on whatever was left of the appetizers: smoked oysters, cheese, crackers, olives, caviar. Party food.

Mom and Dad still entertain to this day, so I found it amusing when Dad texted me last year asking what goes on a cheeseboard. He wanted ideas since I had plated a few during various dinner parties they had attended. I grabbed some photos from my archives as well as a handful off of Pinterest to give him some inspiration. When I threw Dad’s belated birthday party at our place last weekend, I made sure to kick it off with a nice cheeseboard because I know my Dad loves a cheeseboard packed with ALL of the goodies.

The holidays are upon us and that means party season is in full swing. Cheeseboards are a lovely way to get a dinner party started or to act as the workhorse for a cocktail party or to keep family and friends occupied as you rush to cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you are looking for ideas to spark your own cheeseboard artistry, I list and show some of my favorites here. There is enormous flexibility in cheeseboards, including not having any cheese!


neva wants to become an olympic cheeseboarder [note: grapes are toxic for dogs]



Let’s start with the actual board. The board can be a plate (porcelain, glass, etc.), slate, wood, whatever you like! Plates are the easiest to clean – especially if you serve things that are oily or messy directly on the board. And slate is great for writing the names of cheeses with chalk. I am partial to wood boards because of the beautiful natural colors and grain, which is why I have a lot of them. Some are gifts from my friend, Jamie, who is an incredibly talented woodworking artist. Occasionally, I use my largest Boos cutting blocks (24×18-inch walnut and 20×15-inch maple) because they give me the greatest surface area.

If you do have something oily like hot smoked salmon, and you don’t want the oils to soak into your nice wood boards (because let’s face it, once the board is out, it doesn’t get cleaned up until after the last guest leaves), you can slap a small plate underneath it to keep the fishy smells out of the wood. And remember, cheeseboards don’t have to be these gigantic cornucopias that can feed the whole neighborhood. Small cheeseboards for two are romantic. Medium cheeseboards for a cozy gathering of close friends work very well without being overwhelming. So don’t go crazy, but… you can go a little crazy.


you can serve on plates or slate

wood boards: an array of shapes, sizes, and designs



The fun part of cheeseboarding is picking out what to serve on your cheeseboard. It’s whatever you want it to be. I personally like the cheeseboards that don’t have much if any cheese because I don’t dig on eating cheese straight up. But I know the majority of my guests love cheese, so there is always at least one soft, one semi-soft, and one hard cheese. I also have friends who have Celiac disease, so I can either omit all gluten items (mostly crackers and breads) or plate those separately to avoid contamination of the gluten-free items.

Another nice thing about cheeseboards is that they can be as labor intensive as you like – or not! Just about everything can be purchased, but sometimes it’s nice to add your own personal touch. I always make my own crostini and I usually make those prohibitively expensive fruit, nut, and seed crisps unless I am slammed for time. Grissini happen to be quite easy to make at home, too.

I find fruit and fruity things pair well with various cheeses or act as a nice palate cleanser between nibbles. I don’t make my own fruit, but I do make my own fig and brandy jam every summer to serve with brie throughout the year. I have made membrillo, a delectable quince paste in the past to pair with manchego, but it requires a lot of work at my elevation, so I have resorted to purchasing it now that more stores carry it. In late summer, I love it when I can find good fresh figs. Lots of folks like figs with blue cheese and honey, but I tend eat them straight or with a little slice of prosciutto. Another crowd pleaser is baked brie with fresh cranberry sauce or fig jam or tomato jam. Goat cheese and jam is also a hit.


cheeses: aged cheddar, smoked gouda, brie, boursin, manchego

some gluten options: croccantini, brioche toasts, grissini, crostini, fruit and nut crisps, sliced baguette

fruity things: pomegranate, fig brandy jam, grapes, apple, membrillo



**Jump for more butter**

sometimes i do dumb things

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Recipe: cherry (ice cream) bombes

My 45 years of experience have taught me that if I don’t schedule my summers, the things I want to do will not get done. Some of those things are “need to do” items like house projects or house maintenance. Some of those things are “stuff I want to do” like hikes and Neva training (actually this is a “want” and a “need” to do item). Maybe that’s why summer is not a relaxing season for me. It’s ALL SYSTEMS GO because the mountains are calling, Neva wants to go out and play, the weather is nice enough to have people over for dinner, summer fruits and mountain forage are begging to be made into recipes, and of course, my parents are in Boulder for the summer. This is also the only time I venture down to Denver – when the roads are free of snow – to visit with good friends. But a drive to Denver once in a blue moon reminds me why I prefer to stay close to the mountains and away from the city. I am officially a country mouse.


let’s go for a hike!

hiking, swimming, having a blast

belated father’s day dinner (dad is happy because… good wine)

ellen being ellen at post oak hall

soup dumplings with erin



When I received a shipment of dark sweet cherries from Stemilt Growers last week, I looked at my notes to see what cherry recipes I wanted to try. There were several easy ones that involved little effort and even less time. Those would have been ideal considering how packed the days are. So of course, I chose a multi-day recipe that involved some technical unknowns (mainly because I didn’t know if it would work) with the potential for great disaster. My idea was to make a cherry bombe – cherry ice cream in a dark chocolate sphere, finished in a red mirror glaze. What could possibly go wrong?

eggs, salt, almond extract, vanilla extract, amaretto, cherries, cream, milk, sugar

pitting cherries

quartered



The cherry ice cream is the easiest part. It involves making a custard base, a cherry purée, and some chopped cherries. I added amaretto because I like boozy almond flavor with cherries, but it’s okay to omit it and stick with almond extract which is also in the recipe. I think I could have gone with more than a pound of cherries, because I like more fruit in my ice cream. So if you do decide to increase the cherries by another 8 ounces or so, just be aware that the final ice cream volume will likely approach one and two-thirds quarts or more. Then again, is there such a thing as too much ice cream? Important questions to ponder…

adding sugar to the cherries

stirring in amaretto after the cherries have simmered

reserve half of the cherries

purée the liquid and remaining cherries



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twenty

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

March 3, 2017: I updated my spam filter a few days ago and it seems that it wasn’t letting any comments through at all. I only found out after some readers let me know (please, if you run into any issues, don’t hesitate to drop me a line so we can try to fix it). I think it’s working now, but we’ll spend a little more time on it this weekend. Thanks for your patience! xo -jen

In the beginning, when Jeremy and I were newly wed, our wedding anniversary felt like an imposter. It wasn’t the day that was most important to us because getting married didn’t change much in our lives with the exception of the car insurance discount (the discount was awesome). Our special day was and remains November 1, 1992 when we decided we liked one another enough to be a couple. As we progress through life, that first kiss in the mechanical engineering building and that 13-person, 1-dog wedding in my graduate advisor’s living room begin to merge in retrospective. We now count our life together in decades rather than years.


anniversary dinner at frasca (last night)



Today marks our 20th wedding anniversary. Something about nice round numbers – because I am partial to decimal – grabs my attention. I assembled some photographs of us from the last couple of decades, which was no small feat prior to the smart phone. How time flies. Instead of making me feel old, it makes me feel very, very fortunate.

horse flats, california (1993)

strawberry peak, california (1994)

lassen volcanic national park shortly after getting married (1997)

redwoods national park (1997)

kaweah gap in the high sierra, california – name ring a bell? (1999)

single cone, new zealand (2003)

wine country, california (2003)


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