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here come the holidays

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Recipe: fried mochi rice (nuo mi fan)

I walked to the back of the store where just a week prior, the aisles had been loaded with bags upon bags of Halloween candy. Nerds. Snickers. Twix. Life Savers. But instead of witches and skeletons, white Christmas trees strewn in sparkly silver tinsel and metallic red and green baubles now loomed high overhead as I approached. There was a sad, lone island of discounted Halloween candy for sale – a paltry remnant of the once Super Sugar Coma Mega Center. I grabbed a couple of bags and continued on my way, careful not to linger long under the impending holidays.

I am a terrible holiday person. Holidays = Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wasn’t always this way, but over the years I have scrutinized the holidays (and most other things in my life) through the lenses of practicality and sanity. The holidays are neither practical nor sane. Jeremy and I have determined that our favorite way to pass the holidays is to be outside on the snow – preferably with a dog.

and now we have the snow and the dog

she has no idea how cold it is going to get in crested butte

The one person I did travel for over the holidays was my Grandma when she was alive. As she got older, it became more burdensome for her to fly to visit her daughters, who are scattered across the country (also, the airlines suck). If she was going to be alone in California over Thanksgiving or Christmas, I’d book a flight to see her and Jeremy would occasionally join me. I’d do what I always do – take her out to run errands, try different restaurants, and just spend time listening to her, holding her hand, and being with her. I loved that woman so much. So so much.

One year, Jeremy and I accompanied Grandma to my second cousin’s gigantic annual Christmas party where tray after tray of delectable Chinese food was lined up on buffet tables as the festivities got under way (my second cousin is head of catering at a restaurant). There was a rice dish I sampled and really liked, but never got around to asking what it was called because my brain was busy switching back and forth between Chinese and English while conversing with the elders as well as the kids. These things can and do slip from your mind. It was a few more years before I was reminded of that lovely rice – because my pal, Lisa, posted a recipe for it for her 2009 Thanksgiving. But my memory was fuzzy and I wasn’t sure if that was the dish I had eaten at the party. Was it a stuffing? Was it just a rice dish? And then something clicked in my brain last month. I finally did some research and got around to making it myself!

Of course, the first thing my mom said when I told her I made it was that I used the wrong ingredients and then she said I cooked it wrong (mom stir-fries and then steams). Turns out, as with most things, there are different ways to make nuo mi fan or lo mi fan or fried mochi rice or fried sticky rice. Apparently there are just as many names as recipes. The key is the sticky rice, which is also called sweet rice or glutinous rice. Gluten-free folks should not shy away from glutinous rice as it has no gluten, it’s just called that because it’s so damn sticky. That said, if you are gluten-free, you should be aware of things like soy sauce and the char siu pork which may or may not contain gluten.

This recipe will require a trip to an Asian grocery store unless you have a crazy awesome well-stocked ethnic aisle in your typical supermarket. Chinese sausage (lap cheong) can be found in the refrigerated section at your Asian grocer. At least, that’s where I found mine after scouring the aisles ten times over. These sweet and savory sausages will need to be steamed before chopping them up for the rice. The glutinous rice will most likely be called sweet rice. The grains resemble little oblong pearls and the brand I like most is Koda Farms. As for the scallops, the only place I ever see them is at the Chinese medicine counter. You might be able to find them packaged with all of the other dried sea creatures in a dedicated aisle, but do look for a separate counter with large glass jars filled with dried scallops (refer to the photos in the xo sauce post). For this recipe, you can get away with broken pieces which are more affordable than whole dried scallops.

lap cheong

sweet rice

dried scallops

**Jump for more butter**

get jjigae with it

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Recipe: korean beef short rib kimchi stew (jjigae)

We got a proper snow last Thursday. Usually the first inch of snow marks the first snow of the season, but we got four inches! At the start it was a light snow that covered the deck. When I let Neva out into it, she hugged the edge of the house, remaining under the eaves – almost afraid to step on the snow. I was concerned. Had she forgotten all of the snow she played in as a wee puppy back in May and June? She had never seen it fall from the sky before and she stood there, watching it intently. By the time she went back out onto the deck for her second visit, she was already trying to eat the snow. Neva shoved her nose into it and put paw prints all over the white canvas. She asked to go back outside another 20 times that morning – just so she could play in the snow. Looks like Neva IS our puppy after all! I didn’t take any photos of Neva’s discovery phase because I was busy playing with the video and slo-mo on my iPhone. So if you want to see those videos and other shenanigans pertaining to Neva, find me on instagram at @jenyuphoto.

Over the weekend, we took Neva into the high country for a little walkie walk. She had a blast. Jeremy and I kept trying to gauge how she’ll do when we’re on skis, but the best way to know is to take her out on a ski tour. And the only way to do that is to wait for more snow. I will say that we were pleasantly surprised at how much more snow there was in the high country – about a half foot on average. Jeremy worried that Neva would get too cold in the snow (she has yet to grow her winter coat and her belly is still barely covered in baby fuzz). When we stopped to check on how she was, her hind legs were trembling – not from cold, but because she was SO EXCITED to keep going up the trail. Crazy little dog. [And she is quite little. I looked up Kaweah’s old records and found she weighed in at 51 pounds at 6 months of age. Neva was 31 pounds at 6 months.]

alpine lakes are good for your soul

four of my favorite things: jeremy, neva, mountains, and snow

Snow is a game changer. It turns the backcountry into a different kind of playground. I no longer feel as if I have to beat the sun when I get outside and I don’t dread the heat of midday (or day, for that matter). Oh, and I can cook again! We don’t have air conditioning in the mountains, so we try to keep the exothermic kitchen activities to a minimum in summer. Once the temperature turns, cooking is a great way to feed our pie holes AND warm up the house. Thermodynamics always wins in the end, so don’t be fightin’ it. Months ago, someone posted a photo of their dinner at a Korean restaurant – something steaming, spicy and stew-like. At the time I couldn’t even wrap my mind around eating stew in the dead of summer while a feral little puppy was running my life. But now… now I’ve had the time to research some recipes, the puppy is more dog than puppy, and it’s finally cold enough to justify making jjigae – a Korean short rib kimchi stew. You know I’m all over that one.

rice cakes (tteok) can be found at good asian grocers in the frozen or refrigerated sections

rice cakes, kimchi, onions, hondashi, pepper, short ribs, butter, garlic, salt, vegetable oil, mirin, sesame oil

The first thing to do is caramelize two pounds of onions. Don’t be in a rush when you caramelize onions, because you won’t get caramelized onions, but burnt onions. Caramelization takes time, so give yourself at least 45 minutes. If you live in my neck of the woods 8500 feet above sea-level, give it more like 90 minutes. The key is to give it time, keep the heat just low enough so that the onions cook, but don’t burn, and stir occasionally.

melt the butter and vegetable oil

sauté the onions

when the onions turn translucent, reduce the heat

stir and cook and stir and cook until the onions are a rich golden color

**Jump for more butter**

dinner party fare

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Recipe: bourbon-glazed beef tenderloin

Fall is shaping up to be something good. Except that it’s still sunny and warm. Once the weather turns the corner, I’ll be a truly happy camper. But we are making progress on so many fronts now. Neva is no longer a fountain of drool when she gets in the car (although she makes a few quiet whimpers if we drive for more than 20 minutes). She has also started to curl up at my feet for a nap when I am working on the computer, which is a huge improvement over what she used to do (she used to go under my desk and attack the cardboard recycling). Best of all, we’ve discovered when she makes her little “mmmmm” noises at 5:30 am each day, I can reach over in the dark to open her crate door and she’ll jump up on the bed and cuddle between us for another 30 minutes. That extra 30 minutes makes all the difference to the humans.

With doggy day care once a week, Neva gets lots of playtime and socialization and then the following day is “downtime” for her, a.k.a. a really long nappy loungy day. That’s two days in a row allowing me large blocks of time to get work done, and maybe a trail run, and lunch with friends. I like the dog Neva is becoming. Do I miss the adorable little puppy she was just a few months ago? Yes and no. I miss how cute and itty bitty she was. I don’t miss the feral, high-energy, in-need-of-constant-supervision, sharp-puppy-toothed ball of destruction.

no-stress neva chilling in the back of the car

still a few torch-like aspens on my trail run

i got to have lunch with my friend’s adorable little girl

A few weeks ago when I was in Crested Butte, our good friend and neighbor, Eileen, pulled up next to me while I was walking Neva. We chatted and when she learned Jeremy would be coming out for the weekend before we headed back to Nederland, she said, “How about dinner at my house? We’ll grill steaks.” The last time we had dinner at James’ and Eileen’s house, Jeremy and I took turns running back down the street to check on Neva, who was crying and barking in her crate as she suffered from major FOMO (fear of missing out). This time, months later, she was quiet – alternating between dozing off and chewing quietly on her toys. Good girl.

Dinner was a team effort as I supplied a few appetizers, Eileen took care of the main and sides, and Wendy and Denise brought desserts. And there is always exceptional wine with these good folk. As I loaded my plate and crossed the room, Wyatt, Denise’s giant fur baby, tracked me – or rather the steak – to my seat.

wyatt wants to know if we could maybe share that steak

Wyatt had good reason. That steak was off the hook. James and Eileen often entertain large groups, so they will usually grill at least one hunk of protein to feed the masses. When last they served this steak over the fourth of July, the carving board was picked clean by the time I got back from checking on Neva. Over dinner, Eileen asked for my gougères recipe and I in turn requested the recipe for her steak. It was one of those “oh I just throw together x, y, and z” recipes, which I promptly forgot when Jeremy and I walked home under the sparkling night sky. The next day, Eileen was sweet enough to email me a recipe and I am sharing it with you – because it is TOO GOOD not to share.

One ingredient Eileen mentioned was Montreal steak seasoning, which she said you can find in any grocery store’s spice section. She uses that with salt and pepper as part of the dry rub. I had never heard of it, but I was pretty sure I could make it from scratch. The recipes online vary somewhat, but overall they have many of the same components. I chose the one that uses dill seed because I have a ton of it to use up.

black pepper, paprika, granulated onion, sea salt, dill seed, cayenne, granulated garlic, ground coriander

whisk everything together

now you have montreal steak seasoning

**Jump for more butter**