huckleberry cheesecake ice cream coconut shrimp spruce tip syrup and the muir cocktail cherry (ice cream) bombes


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Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Recipe: morel prosciutto asparagus pizza

No matter how hard I try to prepare myself for the onslaught of summer temperatures, it always takes my body by surprise. Our overnight lows dip less each night and the midday sun now feels as if my face and skin are ready to burn right off. It makes me wonder how I ever survived growing up in Virginia and living in Southern California for ten years. If there is one drawback to living in the mountains, it’s that I’ve become a wimp when the mercury rises above 65°F. Give me single digits and snow ANY day, thanks! Heat aside, watching the mountains spring to life in all their glory is something magical to behold. I could spend the rest of my days marveling at these brief but productive mountain summers and never get enough.


false hellebore

phlox blossoms and lupine leaves

neva enjoying the lupine flowers

gold banner and shooting stars (pink) and a happy bumblebee



For the past couple of months, we have been following the journey of two friends who live up the road from us in Nederland. They started at the U.S. border with Mexico and hiked north on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) through New Mexico, then made the first ski crossing this season of the formidable San Juan mountains in Southern Colorado and are continuing north through the state. A few days before they crossed Colorado State Highway 114, Elaine and I coordinated via very short messages to meet where the trail intersects that lonely stretch of road. It was an 80 minute drive from Crested Butte, but it was the easiest way to meet up logistically. Jeremy and I brought food and water, and we took their skis, boots, and skins because the snow pack has been withering under the warm and intensely sunny days. What’s cool is that they will be hiking the CDT into our local mountains on the Front Range and they will hike home for a few days before resuming their trek northward into Canada. Dan and Elaine are not only amazing endurance athletes, they are two genuinely thoughtful and wonderful individuals. If you’d like to follow their progress and cheer them on, they post when they can on Instagram as @elainevardamis and @nomadwolf360.

elaine and dan



We returned to the Front Range at the end of last week right about when Nature decided to turn the dial up to BROIL. En route from Crested Butte to Nederland, we made a pit stop at Copper Mountain. All of the mountain streams are flowing fast and high due to the runoff from the melting snow pack. Because it was so warm, we walked Neva down a little path to a small protected eddy on the edge of the nearby creek. She walked in and seemed to enjoy cooling her paws when she took one step out of the eddy into the heavy flow and got swept downstream in a split second. Luckily, Neva was on her halti (gentle leader) and leash and I was holding the other end, but the current was so strong that I worried the halti would slip off or break or that she would drown. I waded in and tried to carefully reel her back to me, calling her to swim to me. She tried, but the stream was clearly so much stronger than her legs could paddle. In less than a minute, I grabbed her and had her back on the bank – Jeremy was already slightly downstream in anticipation of having to catch Neva if the leash or leader broke. We toweled her off and kissed her wet head. She was back to her usual self after showing a little affection by rubbing herself against our legs. She’s used to her alpine lakes that are safe and calm, but we’ll see to it that she sticks to low-flow streams from here on out.

This past weekend was apparently our farewell to spring. Jeremy and I went for a quick backcountry ski to escape the heat, only to discover the heat had been hanging out in the high country for a while. Winter and spring ski travel through the trees is easier in part because you are navigating some twenty feet above ground where the conifer branches are smaller and there is more space between trees. A week before summer and you find yourself clambering over deadfall (fallen trees), bare muddy patches, rocks, and bushwhacking through dense branches that you had gleefully skied a month earlier and twelve feet higher before the snow began to melt. Then Erin and I made one more foraging trip and found a good number of morels considering we were expecting to go home empty-handed. To be honest, I am a little relieved to stop thinking, dreaming, researching, obsessing, and hunting morels. It will be nice to have a break before the other mushroom seasons kick into high gear. This year I come away with a jar of dried morels thanks to my friend, Jay (Erin’s husband), and a happy stash of butter-sautéed morels in my freezer. It was a great season.


one last backcountry ski for the season

wave cloud over the reservoir

erin still finding morels

such a beautiful and weird mushroom



It seems fitting to post one more morel recipe for those still finding them to our north and west, or buying them in markets, or those who have their own stash to draw upon. We love our pizza year round, but it is especially lovely come summertime because we grill them on a pizza stone on the deck while the house remains cool. For mushroom foragers, there are some standard recipes you can always count on for enjoying mushrooms: pasta, steak, sautéed in butter, quiche, pot pies or pastries, toast, batter-fried, and pizza.

morels, mozzarella, salt, butter, prosciutto, garlic, asparagus, more butter, eggs, black pepper, pizza dough



Though official summer is a few days away, morels are very much a spring mushroom. That’s why I really enjoy serving them with a spring vegetable like asparagus and creamy, mild flavors like eggs and mozzarella. I’m sure a red sauce would be great with any mushroom, but garlic butter complements morels without masking their deliciousness.

mash the garlic and salt into a paste

stir the garlic paste into softened butter

dry fry the morels in a hot pan

add a pat of butter and sauté

you can chop or slice the asparagus (i like ribbons here)



**Jump for more butter**

my trip to crazytown

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Recipe: sous vide carnitas

The end of last week was complete Crazytown. As the trial headed toward closing arguments, a winter storm warning materialized into a Big Ass Storm in the mountains. We were supposed to get 3 to 7 inches of snow overnight, which I thought would be fine for me to get down the canyon to report for jury duty. Instead, we woke to 10 inches of snow, and by the time I left the house, another 4 inches had fallen in two hours and was coming down heavily. I gave myself an extra hour, but it turned out that I probably should have stayed at home. Spring and fall snow storms can be particularly tricky because there is that added component of water due to moderate temperatures.


2 feet of snow in 19 hours



Once I reached the narrows (a narrow and steep section of the canyon, notoriously dangerous when conditions are slick) I passed two trucks that had spun out on their way up. Visibility and traction were poor so that no one was traveling faster than 15 mph. There was nowhere to turn around safely, so I continued. Then I passed another truck that had gotten stuck in the snow. That’s when my Subaru began to slide where the road is canted and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It was a slow, but unnerving lateral movement toward the guard rail which keeps drivers from plunging into the rushing creek below. Subie came to a gentle stop against the two feet of snow between the car and the rail, but I was stuck. The young woman in the stuck truck ran over to help dig me out and after thirty minutes of failed attempts, I was finally able to get unstuck thanks to her pushing the car out. [If that young woman ever reads this, I owe you a bottle of wine, a cake, a fancy home-cooked meal, and my deepest gratitude.] All the while it was nuking snow, cars were slip-sliding everywhere, and I knew it would be impossible to drive home in those conditions. Heading down to Boulder was my safest option as there is no cell reception in the canyon.

I was 20 minutes late getting to court, and I knew I was holding up the trial. I ran through security in tears – a little traumatized, a lot upset – but I made it and we got underway. We lost power a half dozen times in court while the storm wreaked havoc all around. At the end of closing arguments, I found out that I was one of the two alternate jurors and that I could go home. A big part of me felt great relief, but I also felt sad that I wasn’t going to finish this journey with my fellow jurors (it was a terrific group of people), and then I felt annoyance that I drove through that shit show in the canyon to find out that I didn’t have to be in court. By the time I left the courthouse, it was snowing lightly in Boulder and Jeremy texted that the snow had let up at home. Aha! A window in the storm! But the canyon was closed because of a jack-knifed semi in the narrows. So I waited with a handful of others for 30 minutes next to the police car at the closure point until the road was cleared for travel. Despite the additional 12-18 inches of snow that had fallen since I drove down that morning, the roads were in far better shape with plows actively working the canyon. Once I got home, I just wanted to lie still and let Neva lick my ears and hair.


the morning after the storm

jeremy clears the deck while neva is neva



We are now in Crested Butte, de-winterizing the house and cleaning up all of the broken branches and repairing drip system components that were hammered by this winter’s 325 inches of snow. It’s quiet here. That’s shoulder season in a resort town. Folks flock to the desert to mountain bike while the trails slowly thaw out around town. Restaurants are either closed or operating on reduced hours. I like the quiet. I like the quiet.

the view east from monarch pass

glacier lilies starting to bloom

neva being an extra good and sweet girl on her hike



After a stressful day or event like my ride down the canyon, most folks could use a drink. I certainly felt like I could have used a drink – except I don’t drink. But you know what relaxes and soothes me better than a glass of whiskey? Tacos. Specifically, carnitas tacos. Some of us seek comfort in food rather than drink, and I happen to be one of those who prefers savory over sweet comfort food. I always order the carnitas tacos at a taco joint as my litmus test. It’s not that I know anything about how carnitas ought to be, I just know what I like.

pork shoulder, onion, orange, bay leaves, garlic, cinnamon, kosher salt

slice the pork into 2-inch thick slabs

prepped ingredients



Imagine my excitement when I happened upon a reference to sous vide carnitas and followed the link to The Food Lab. You bet I wanted to try it. I wanted to see if sous vide could give me flavorful carnitas that were also tender and moist.

squeeze the orange quarters over the pork

sprinkle with kosher salt

toss it all together



**Jump for more butter**

oysters on oysters

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Recipe: broiled oysters with oyster mushroom ragout

It’s May 1. Again. I actually love this time of year when we start to see the faintest hints of green in the mountains and the pasque flowers are adding splashes of lavender where there were only the browns of a winter-ravaged landscape before. Down on the flats, the flowering trees are in the second act of their show and everyone has a bounce in their step because it FEELS like real spring. But May 1 is also the day I lost my sister, so it’s a bittersweet time. I started out buying flowers in remembrance on this day over a decade ago. They were for her, but over the years I have come to understand that they are for her and for me – a gentle balm for this sorrow deep in my chest.


for kris… and for me



Jeremy was on travel for the first half of last week, so it was just the girls – me and my little Neva. I made sure to take her out for her training and fetch sessions before it started snowing mid-week, and on our walk home Monday evening, she was attacked by another dog on our neighborhood trail. It was one of those situations where both dogs were pulling to greet each other and then the other dog (who was twice her size) suddenly jumped on Neva and bit her twice before I could beat it off and its owner wrestled it to the ground. Ugh. I was so upset with myself and that idiot dog owner (because he knew his dog was aggressive). Luckily, Neva didn’t have any open wounds and only lost a few tufts of her hair. The look she gave me when she cried out broke my heart. I held her and comforted her as I checked her over, but she was over it within a couple of minutes and back to her happy-go-lucky self. I don’t drink, but I could have used one.

my snuggle buddy



It was also the week of Erins. Over a decade of living in the mountains has turned this former social butterfly into a bit of a recluse. I used to put up with a lot of drama and crap from people who sucked the energy out of me, but I’ve stopped engaging with toxic individuals and life is infinitely better without the bullshit. I like my time alone, or with my dog, or with my guy, or in the mountains away from other people. And I like my one-on-one time with good friends I love and trust – like Erin and Erin.

meeting up with denver erin at t|aco for a hosted lunch

hunting and scoring giant, gorgeous oyster mushrooms with mountain erin



To cap off the week, we got snow, and quite a nice bit of it! It seems that the only people who are never surprised and/or upset by mid-spring snowfall are the folks who backcountry ski and ride the stuff. It is not uncommon, it just works against conventional thinking which is based on some unrealistic expectation from other geographical locations. No, we are WAITING for it. It feeds our souls. Saturday brought a good 18 inches to our local backcountry, so Jeremy and I skinned up to get some turns in the very fluffy, very mid winter blower powder. If you had told me it was February, I would not have have questioned it.

so so so so so happy!

jeremy hoofs it up for another lap

jeremy can’t get enough of the pow pow



Saturday was our fun day, and Sunday was Neva’s fun day. The storm cleared out overnight and Sunday morning was blue skies and sunshine. We took Neva out early before the snow slopped up with rising daytime temperatures. Our expectations were low, because it’s Neva, and she had been cooped up in the house for a couple of days. But you know what? She was the best she has EVER been in the backcountry. She wasn’t perfect (far from it), but she didn’t pull nearly as much and she looked up at Jeremy every few steps. She encountered lots of other skiers, snowshoers, dogs, and distractions and she was a pretty good girl. We still work with her daily on basic training and focus, and I think it is finally translating to the backcountry. The best part? She had a great time. Yay Neva!

looking to jeremy

putting her best paw forward



Going back to that great big beautiful perfect oyster mushroom that mountain Erin was holding in the photo… we foraged that and several other equally perfect oyster mushrooms standing in cold-ass water above our knees, carefully dodging poison ivy stalks, random thorns, and barbs on barbed wire fences. It was cold enough that we brushed ice off of the mushrooms before dropping them into our bags. I’ve always considered oyster mushrooms to be second class citizens to the likes of porcini, chanterelles, and morels. However, the more I find them, the more I love them. Sure, they don’t have superstar status, but they are beautiful, and fun to forage, and delicious. The night before I met with Erin to go foraging, I thought – wouldn’t it be great to make something with oyster mushrooms and oysters? Yes, it would be so great.

oyster mushrooms, thyme, oysters, lemon, egg, butter, bacon ends, salt, shallot, garlic, olive oil, black pepper (not pictured: dijon mustard)

prepped



The recipe has three components: raw oysters on the half shell, an oyster mushroom ragout, and an aioli. I had to replace the aioli from the original recipe with a different version because it turned into a watery mess. That might be because I halved the recipe, but the second version worked perfectly. For the ragout, you can use any edible mushroom, but I do suggest a mushroom with good flavor (not white button mushrooms). And you don’t have to buy bacon ends, you can use thick-sliced bacon instead since it all gets diced up. As for the oysters, there are places that will shuck them for you, but I prefer to shuck my own oysters. Both the aioli and the ragout can be made ahead of time.

smash salt and garlic into a rough paste

whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, and dijon mustard together

whisk in a thin drizzle of olive oil until thick

stir in the garlic mash



**Jump for more butter**