chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce chocolate soufflé pretzel bites sweet and sour chinese mushrooms


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dinner for two… or three

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Recipe: chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce

I think Spring is trying to barge in on our Colorado winter. In fact, it’s practically sitting on our faces. I’ve been wearing shorts in the afternoons and leaving the deck door wide open to cool the house down. We’ve noticed the couple of feet of snowfall from the last storm start to dwindle under the sun and warm temperatures these past several days in the Front Range. If there is a trough sitting over the East Coast (meaning stormy or unsettled weather), there is typically a ridge over Colorado (sunshine and blah blah blah). We aren’t slated to get any storms for at least another week, so it’s skate skiing and backcountry touring for us. Up until now, we’ve taken Neva skiing on wide closed forest service roads which allow her plenty of room to run in front or alongside Jeremy. But this week Neva went on her first ski tour on a narrow trail (in sketchy conditions) and she managed not to pull Jeremy to injury or death (but she did pull – a lot). I’d call that a success!


neva is getting better about sitting when we stop

here’s how our girl does après ski on a bluebird day



To be honest, I don’t mind that the crazy winds have calmed down and that I don’t have to bundle up to the hilt when I go outside for exercise. Spring is a lovely time of year to ski, but… we’re not done with winter yet and if spring continues at this pace, we won’t have any snow to ski when it really is spring. Still, I’ll not stress about it too much just yet. Neva is loving the comfortable temperatures on the deck while I work, and we have been treated to some lovely displays in the evenings.

giant wave cloud at sunset (gold stage)

turning orange

fading to a rosy pink



So Valentine’s Day is coming up. I know people either love it or hate it. I personally think it is a stupid thing with a lot of unnecessary social and commercial pressure, but that’s just me. However, if you were to ask me for a recipe to make for someone special, I’m your girl. I have lots of great recipes to recommend, but this is one I recently tried for the first time and Jeremy made googly eyes at me… or at the steak? Chateaubriand was one of my sister’s favorite dishes to order at fancy restaurants if someone would order it with her – because it is typically served for two people. I may have taken a bite or two in my lifetime from mom’s plate (the other person who went in on it), but it was never something I ordered for myself. I’ve described it to Jeremy ever since we’ve been together, but it wasn’t until this week that he finally tasted it for himself.

Chateaubriand is a pan-seared and roasted center-cut whole beef tenderloin served with a sauce of some sort. It could be a mushroom red wine sauce or what I consider a more traditional pairing – Béarnaise sauce. I happened to have the fat end of a whole tenderloin leftover from the bourbon glazed beef tenderloin (also a fantastic recipe) in my freezer, and decided it was time to learn how to make this classic dish. First, start with the Béarnaise sauce which is rich, buttery, slightly tart, with hints of anise (from the tarragon), pepper, and wine.


butter, eggs (yolks), white wine, black pepper, whole white peppercorns, salt, white vinegar, lemon (juice), shallot, fresh tarragon



Make the Béarnaise sauce first because you want it ready to serve as soon as the steak is carved. I recall trying to make this sauce once in graduate school to accompany beef wellingtons for a dinner party, and it tanked in the most unforgivable way. So now, 15 years later, I think I’ve got the chops to do it right – or perhaps a better recipe. It is in essence an emulsion of acids (vinegar, wine, lemon juice), egg yolks, and melted butter. That’s pretty much it. Don’t let it get too cold – it will solidify. If it’s too warm, it will break (separate) and become oily and sad. In general, I didn’t encounter any problems with the sauce.

chop the tarragon

all of the ingredients measured and prepped

combine the vinegar, white wine, shallots, half of the tarragon, and peppercorns in a small saucepan

simmer down until you have about 2 tablespoons of liquid



**Jump for more butter**

the year of the monkey

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Recipe: chocolate soufflé

I wrote a short piece for Lands of Plenty on Chinese dumplings if you’d like to hop over and read it. The illustration was created by the talented Melanie Kwan.

Happy Chinese New Year! While everyone was getting ready for their big game parties on Sunday, we were busily cleaning the house and prepping food all weekend for our New Year’s Eve feast. It was just as well since the winds were horrible here, so we didn’t feel as if we were missing out on anything outside. I figured the lunar new year could mean something new for Neva, too! It’s her first Chinese New Year, after all.


a pretty new collar for her to encase in mud…

high winds can sometimes deliver dramatic cloudscapes



For some reason, this year’s cooking went more smoothly than previous years and I had the bulk of it done by Saturday night. I also think as I get older I’m okay with letting some things slide. For instance, I usually try to make stir-fried Chinese rice cakes, but instead of making yet another dish and having even more food to finish before it spoils, I just tossed a few of the rice cakes into the cellophane noodle soup and called it good. I’m slowly learning to let go of ridiculous expectations that are only in my mind and trying to focus more on reducing stress. Also? I have a terrible habit of making too much food, so I made a concerted effort to make the dishes in smaller quantities and I sent Jeremy with some of the scallion pancakes and potstickers to our favorite neighbors. It’s good all around.

fragrant pears, satsuma mandarin oranges, and a red envelope

lucky ten ingredient vegetable before mixing

making scallion pancakes

frying up some pork potstickers

our small feast

so good to finally sit down and enjoy



Now with Chinese New Year cleaning and cooking done, I can sit back and take a load off my feet… sort of. What’s that you say? Yes, Valentine’s Day is coming up. We don’t really do that around here. There are no gifts, no surprises, no unauthorized expenses, no nothing other than our typical hugs and giggles and I-love-yous. But for those of you who like to cook or bake for those people you love dearly, I can get behind that. This gluten-free chocolate soufflé has been sitting in my archives for several months and it seems appropriate right about now. We start with a chocolate pastry cream.

egg whites, egg yolks, vanilla extract, unsweetened chocolate, sugar (twice), butter (twice), powdered sugar, cornstarch, cream of tartar, cocoa powder, salt, and milk

whisk the yolks, milk, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt together over medium heat

stir the chocolate, butter, and vanilla into the mixture

chocolate pastry cream



**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**