morel prosciutto asparagus pizza thai sticky rice and mango pheasant and morel vols au vent strawberry butter


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archive for chinese

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



**Jump for more butter**

pow pow pow!

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Recipe: sweet and sour chinese mushrooms

Timing can be everything when it comes to winter storms. You certainly want to avoid driving in one around these parts of Colorado. And if everything works out, you’ll get to your destination BEFORE the storm hits, then hunker down and wait for the powder day. We are not always so lucky nor do we always have the flexibility to chase storms, but we hit the jackpot for the second time in a row this weekend. Crested Butte began to see some flurries on Saturday, and by Sunday morning we went in search of the powder on the mountain. More snow (a lot more) is forecast for the next couple of days, which is great if you can stay put and enjoy it. We’ve already got a wall of snow 6 feet high adjacent to the driveway and it is not going away anytime soon. Neva likes standing on it because… she’s a crazy little girl.


it just keeps snowing

telemark skiing powder is possibly the best thing ever

jeremy agrees



Chinese New Year is coming up in a week and I’ve already got the grocery list for all of the ingredients I’ll need to make our little feast on Sunday, New Year’s Eve. For several years now, my minimum menu has included Chinese potstickers, cellophane noodle soup with dan jiao (egg dumplings), and rui tsai (lucky ten ingredient vegetables). Before I settled into my Chinese New Year cooking groove, I’d often call up my mom or grandmother to ask what I should make. They would always reply with a casual, “Oh, any Chinese dish is fine.” But then I’d get warnings not to eat squid (bad luck), or white tofu (death?), and not to buy salt for a month after New Year’s Day – oh heck, just to be safe, don’t buy salt for the month prior! That’s why I’ve settled on my SAFE list. Barring a few specific ingredients, I think most dishes should be fine. If you’re looking for ideas, you can always visit this recipe round up I posted a couple of years ago. Or perhaps you’d want to try these sweet and sour mushrooms?

Back in our Southern California days, we would occasionally meet up with friends at a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park: Happy Family Restaurant. It may not sound very interesting or exciting, but everyone we took there (even the carnivores) loved it. Every dish on the menu was plant-based and absolutely delicious. Chinese Buddhists have a culinary tradition of making vegetarian “meat” from vegetables or tofu. One of our favorites was the vegetarian chicken, which was essentially deep fried mushrooms tossed in a wonderful sauce. My version of it is close, but… I use egg whites which is a big no-no in Buddhist cooking. It’s still vegetarian, but it isn’t vegan. If you want to go full Buddhist vegetarian, omit the egg whites in the batter and you’ll probably have to omit some of the sauce ingredients like Worcestershire sauce. I’m pretty sure there is no Worcestershire sauce in any Buddhist cooking – vegetarian or not. It’s just a hunch.


mushrooms, flour, cornstarch, egg whites, baking soda, salt, celery, vegetable oil, water

whisk the egg whites until frothy

combine the batter ingredients (except for the egg whites)

fold the egg whites into the batter



**Jump for more butter**

i can’t wait

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Recipe: braised napa cabbage with bean curd sheets

How has the start of your new year been? You can sum ours up in one word – COLD. I mean, we expect it to be cold in January around Colorado, but the first of the year put us in the deep freeze. We actually had to wait until afternoon before we could ski in temperatures above zero.


the nest thermostat reported -32°f outside

frosty branches as the sun rose over the mountain



But don’t cry for us! Cold in Crested Butte is not the same as cold in places like… the Midwest. These frigid temperatures occur when the skies are clear overnight, allowing any heat to radiate straight up toward the stars. That also means the sun is out full and bright in the morning, doing its job of warming us up into the single digits, providing happy rays, and basically making Colorado the awesome winter wonderland that it most definitely is.

we took neva on the nordic trails – she was a happy nutjob

racing the sun as it drops behind whetstone mountain for the day



On the drive home to Nederland, Jeremy and I observed how Neva is improving (i.e. calming down) each day with house guests, ski touring, walks, and general every day behavior. She’s less of a spaz, although she is still very much a spaz. Our hope is if she can learn to stay with us on skis while leashed, she’ll naturally transition to trail running in the summer. “I can’t wait for summer,” I whispered. Jeremy gave me a look – the look that wonders “What have you done with Jen?” Oh sure, I love winter and I will relish every last snowflake this season! But last summer was ALL ABOUT PUPPY and itty bitty hikes. This next summer will be great big hikes, long trail runs, multi-day backpacks, and a very happy Neva.

I also couldn’t wait to get home and stuff my face with vegetables. When we are in Crested Butte, the access to vegetables is somewhat limited compared to our usual array on the Front Range. That is especially true of Asian vegetables. I owe my vegetable addiction to my mom, who not only provided at least two vegetables with every dinner, but she prepared them in the most delicious ways possible. These days, Mom and I exchange vegetable recipes when we cook for one another. I usually introduce her to new western-style salads or preparations, and she is constantly surprising me with what she calls “old” Chinese recipes. How many treasures are locked up in her head? I’m doing my best to have her teach me when she’s here in the summers. She taught me this napa cabbage recipe a few years back. Winter is the perfect time for its warm, comforting flavors.


dried bean curd sheets – found in asian grocery stores

bean curd sheets, ginger, salt, chicken (or vegetable) broth, green onions, napa cabbage



**Jump for more butter**