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archive for dinner

just in time for summer

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Recipe: sourdough pizza

The pine pollen apocalypse ended last week, giving way to smoke from distant wildfires burning in and around our beautiful state. We swept and vacuumed and air-purified the house to keep the allergens at bay, cautiously taking advantage of short windows of clear air (still smelled smokey) to get outside. It was a chance to let Neva get some leash training on her hike and to stretch her swimming legs once again after a long crappy (i.e. low snow) winter. My parents arrived in Boulder for the summer, too, which meant shuttling about on the flats and getting them settled in. Over the weekend, remnants from Hurricane Bud in the west pushed through Colorado and brought us our hoped-for rainy relief.


the colorado high country: our happy place

the parental units at happy hour

on the road to crested butte: neva is getting better about car rides



As the weather heats up, I tend to avoid baking. That means my sourdough starter, Wheatley, gets fed once a week and chills out in the refrigerator for long stretches of time. But I woke Wheatley from his slumber last week to bake an épi de blé sourdough baguette for my parents. And then I thought – why not keep the starter out so I can make some pizza? We grill our pizzas on a stone, so it’s not going to heat up the house. Pizza is perfect food for any weather, any season. I used to make pizza dough using this wonderful recipe, but since acquiring a sourdough starter from my professional pizzaiola friend (Dawn), I knew the switch to sourdough pizza was inevitable. I started in the spring with great results.

it snowed, we grilled pizza, neva was impressed



This pizza dough is flour, water, and salt. The commercial yeast pizza dough recipe I used to use also had olive oil in it, but after discussion with Dawn and my own testing, this sourdough pizza dough doesn’t really need it. The levain is sourdough starter, and if you are the kind of person who keeps your starter going on the counter and makes large amounts, then it’s no big deal to scoop what you need out of the starter to make your pizza dough. I’m not that kind of person, so I calculate the amount of levain I need and measure out how much to feed my starter. Just take care that you remember to reserve some starter that isn’t going into the pizza dough or else you, Sad Panda, won’t have any more sourdough starter. As for the flours, you can use all-purpose flour, bread flour, or a combination of the two (which I did here).

levain, bread flour, all-purpose flour, water, sea salt

weigh the levain

dissolve the levain in water

roughly stir in the salt and flours



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full of the best things

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Recipe: lobster morel agnolotti

It wasn’t long after finding my first blonde morel that I had collected enough to shoot a recipe. The temptation to simply flour and fry these morsels nags at me constantly because it’s easy and delicious and probably my favorite way to enjoy my favorite eating mushrooms (porcini remain my favorite “finding” mushrooms). However, the first freshly foraged morels are automatically designated for new recipes because one is never certain – but certainly hopeful – that there will be more.


two buddies emerging from the grass and leaf litter

mushrooms on mushrooms



I knew I wanted to involve lobster and then I threw asparagus in there because it’s spring and asparagus and morels typically appear on the plains around the same time. Why not stuff it all in some agnolotti, which is a pasta I was unaware of until a few months ago? Agnolotti is like an easier version of mini ravioli and I’m a little obsessed with it. The filling is dotted or piped in a line along a strip of pasta and then folded over and cut. Well, it’s more complicated than that, but you get the gist… or you will after you read the post!

Start by making the pasta dough. I don’t have any one definitive pasta dough recipe. They all seem to involve a combination of flour, eggs, and salt, and sometimes egg yolks and/or olive oil. It’s a mess of flour and flecks of dough that eventually come together into a nice ball if you are patient and stick with it. Don’t throw out that excess flour – sift out the chunky bits and use the rest for flouring your work surface.


the pasta dough: flour, eggs, salt, olive oil

stir the eggs, salt, and olive oil in a well in the flour

incorporate as much flour as the dough will absorb (you will have extra flour)

knead the dough

when the dough springs back from a poke, it’s ready to rest



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spring timing

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Recipe: seared duck breast with morels and asparagus

We are in the midst of a back and forth between snow and rain, cold and warm, clouds and sun. Our Rocky Mountain springtime is volatile and beautiful. It’s hard for me to decide which kind of weather I like best right now. But, I don’t have to choose because we get to sample all of it in a day or even in the span of a couple of hours. This year I feel I’m really embracing spring. Rather than finally getting around to our “spring cleaning” in September, we’ve been working on it since March.


sunny day in the high country

two days later we get a powder day

all this snow is good for mushrooms



If you know me, you know that what I’m really excited about is the start of mushroom season. Ellen hypothesized that mushroom foragers inhale a good bit of mushroom spores which take over our brains and make us obsess over mushroom hunting. [I dismissed her idea with a laugh while secretly relaying this information to the overlord of our fungal hive mind.] We are weeks away from the first mushrooms of the season in the Colorado high country, but that doesn’t keep me from monitoring mushroom activity around the country. It’s happening in Northern Georgia right now – morels. And soon it will be happening in more and more locations as we deep dive into spring. I made this dish last spring during my local morel season and cannot wait to make it again this year if I should be lucky enough to get my hands on more morels.

asparagus, snap peas, brandy, salt, butter, morels, vegetable oil, pepper, shallots, garlic, duck breasts



I have found the easiest way to clean fresh morels is to hold each one caged loosely in your hand, and swish it around in a bath of cold water to dislodge any sediment, bugs, and other things that aren’t morels. Then I lay them on paper towels to dry for an hour or so. And don’t pour that morel bath water down the drain! I recommend pouring it out in your yard or someplace where morel-friendly trees grow because that water is full of morel spores (they are teeny tiny, but they’re there). I can’t promise that morels will come up the following season, but it’s worth a try. Prep the duck breasts by scoring the skin, and chop the rest of the vegetables.

morels drying after a rinse

cut the skin in a 1-inch grid

mise en place



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