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march is the cure

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Recipe: home-cured corned beef

Winter has been like a rude dinner guest, showing up three months late – but she’s that dinner guest that I forgive because I love her so much. Most of the Colorado mountains have been catching up on their share of snow in the last couple of weeks, as if winter were trying to make up for being such a slacker for most of the season. I love winter very much, but I’ll tell you what… I love winter in March because there are more daylight hours and the storms are bigger and everyone is jazzed because they know spring (skiing) is right around the corner.

even this guy (an abert’s squirrel) is in a good mood

Typically around this time of year, I’ll start to see corned beef briskets in the big refrigerator bins at the grocery store. You know what I’m referring to don’t you? It’s where they put the turkeys before Thanksgiving and Christmas, the hams before Easter, and giant racks of ribs before the Fourth of July. On occasion I’ve purchased a corned beef and boiled it at home, but this year I decided that it was high time I tried curing my own seeing as I had everything at home except for a brisket (easy enough to get) and pink curing salt.

my friends at savory spice shop had it (they have practically everything)

Pink curing salt isn’t necessary to enjoy corned beef and I debated omitting it altogether. However, it is responsible for that signature deep pink color as opposed to grey – which is the color of corned beef if you don’t use pink curing salt. It’s also supposed to help with the flavor. Don’t confuse pink curing salt with pink salt – one is edible (pink salt like Himalayan pink salt) and one is not (pink curing salt). The instructions on the package suggested 1 teaspoon of curing salt for 5 pounds of meat, but Elise’s recipe calls for 5 teaspoons for 4-5 pounds of meat. The spice shop staff and I discussed it at length while I consulted Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for a tie breaker. His version lists 4 teaspoons for 5 pounds of meat, so I thought Elise’s 5 teaspoons were legit. With my pink curing salt in hand, I was ready to cure some brisket. First up: make the pickling spice.

peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, bay leaves, allspice, cinnamon stick, ground ginger, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes

place the peppercorns, allspice, mustard, cardamom, red pepper, cloves, and coriander in a frying pan

heat until the mustard seeds pop and the spices become fragrant

**Jump for more butter**

what’s new

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Recipe: sichuan pork wontons

When the weekend started, I wasn’t sure how things were going to pan out. We always have a plan in place – usually a form of weather-dependent exercise, lofty goals to clean some part of the house, and work. Because it has been so disturbingly warm, my usual ski tour with Erin turned into a snirt (snow/dirt) hike. Making our way up the ice-slicked trail, we agreed that despite the suckage of the snow conditions, it was nice to get outside. Banjo agreed. Before we set off in the morning, he spun about in dizzying white fluffy circles on the mudroom floor, filled with giddy anticipation of the adventure to come. Happy dogs can’t lie.

my weekly date with erin and banjo

such a good boy

The dearth of snowfall this season didn’t deter me and Jeremy from nabbing some new fat skis on super sale recently. We took them into town for binding mounts and new ski prep. Picking the skis up from the mountaineering store, I signed the credit card receipt and smiled at the cashier, “Do your snow dance!” and stepped outside into 65°F and bright sun. The forecast was sunshine and warmth until Sunday, when we would get some snow. We weren’t sure how much. It could go either way.

my new (very fun) skis

the start of something beautiful

15 inches of fresh powder monday morning

But before the snow would come, we took a day – Valentine’s Day – to drive two and a half hours south onto the flats. You know it has to be something important to make us leave the mountains on a weekend. This was very important. We spent 30 minutes meeting several very sweet dogs. If all goes well, we’ll be filling that dog-shaped hole in our hearts with a puppy in early May.

On the return drive home, we passed through Denver where I stopped by the big Asian grocery store (HMart) to get ingredients for our traditional Chinese New Year feast. I try to stick to my grocery list, but as I walked the aisles packed to the hilt with all manner of sauces, vegetables, frozen foods, and pickled things, I started cobbling together our weekly menu as well. We hadn’t had wontons in a while, and there was a Sichuan wonton recipe waiting in the wings. The first step is to make the Sichuan red chile oil.

chiles de árbol, canola oil, soy sauce, salt, sichuan peppercorns, star anise, garlic, cinnamon, black cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, ginger

smashing things: cinnamon, garlic, ginger

combine the oil, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, cloves, anise, cardamom, and cinnamon

heat until the garlic is golden (mine was a little more than golden)

**Jump for more butter**

life on the front range

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Recipe: kimchi meatloaf

It was one of those weekends here on the Front Range, much like other winter weekends on the Front Range. For starters, we were treated to stunning sunrises.

fiery sunrise looking east toward boulder

sunlit snowy peaks

And then in true Front Range fashion, we bounced from a high of 11°F this past week to near 60°F tomorrow. You know what that means. Well, maybe you don’t know… but we do. It means wind. That kind of temperature shift around here brings the winds. I checked the forecast Friday night before going to bed and NOAA was predicting gusts up to 33 mph. That’s nothing for the Front Range – a breezy day. By morning, NOAA had “updated” the winds to 50 mph, which is considerably less pleasant for ski touring in the mountains. This happens so often that I have developed trust issues with NOAA. But as I said to Jeremy Saturday morning, “If I let the wind dictate when I go outside to ski, I’d never get to ski.”

putting climbing skins away and getting blasted by a ground blizzard

twila with the mountain we opted not to summit in the distance

The character of our winter winds is antagonistic, but also unpredictable. I know NOAA isn’t trying to intentionally lie to me, it just feels that way because they haven’t been great at predicting the wind around here. I don’t know that anyone is good at it. Living in the mountains, you learn to roll with what comes because moving away from the mountains isn’t an option. Mountain living is just that good. We worked Sunday until there was a lull in the winds in the late afternoon – our cue to grab the skis and drive to a trailhead. The trail starts at the local ski resort where throngs of families from the flats were up for their weekend fix. We left the commotion behind and quickly made our way up the trail. Once over the ridge, the hum of the ski lifts and the screams of happy (or terrified?) children gave way to the soft scratching of skis on snow. Tall conifers closed in around us as we moved deeper into the national forest.

it’s like a sunday stroll, but better

By the time we skied out to the top of the bunny hill, the resort had closed and three lonely cars remained in the parking lot below. There’s something fun about skiing down the bunny hill whether on my teles, my skate skis, or my touring skis. Once at the base, we high-fived, carried our skis to the car, and asked each other, “What do you want for dinner?” It’s always a good idea to have plans for feeding after skiing, otherwise we wind up eating out. This time, I had meatloaf already made – kimchi meatloaf.

ground beef, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, black pepper, kimchi, panko crumbs, milk, onion, egg, garlic, ginger

mince the garlic and chop the kimchi

grate half the onion

grate the ginger

**Jump for more butter**