sourdough baguettes japanese potato salad seared duck breast with morels and asparagus braised rhubarb


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i’ve been doing it wrong

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Recipe: carnitas nachos

I’ve been watching reports of The South receiving snow and frigid temperatures for the past week while the good people of Colorado have been enduring daytime highs nearing 70°F in parts of the state. This kind of slight from Mother Nature hits me squarely in the heart. But she had not forsaken us, the patient (but somewhat depressed) skiers and lovers of mountain snow. On Saturday night, our temperatures dropped into the teens, and beautiful fluffy white snow graced our mountains and forests and trails by daybreak Sunday.


our top priority is that neva is plenty snuggy and warm

skinning up in 10°f and falling snow – perfect

jeremy was equally delighted with the fluffy fluff



As of Monday morning, the storm has (sadly) moved on and we are back to sunshine and wind. It’s always like that here in the Front Range: snow and blow. What used to be a beautiful blanket of snow on my deck has been sculpted into an art installation of sastrugi. At this point in our terribly underperforming winter, we will take any snow we can get. I recently realized that the Super Bowl is on the horizon and checked the date. That’s the day I want to ski, when sportsball fans will empty the slopes to indulge in pre-game festivities, rabid fan chest-thumping, screaming at television screens, and massive consumption of alcohol and appetizers. I am a huge fan of appetizers, the ever-tempting noncommittal meal. But for the longest time, I made nachos the wrong way. I thought they were simply tortilla chips with stuff piled on top. While not technically incorrect, it isn’t exactly right.

corn tortilla chips, shredded carnitas, cilantro, cheddar and jack cheeses, red onions, black beans, pickled jalapeño slices



I was made aware of the discrepancy between my nachos and restaurant nachos when we ordered some at happy hour a few years back. My version was akin to a cold nacho salad – more vegetable matter than anything else. No wonder the restaurant nachos were so addictive! They arrived hot and greasy, dripping with cheese, and with fatty bits of pork piled on top. Things were never the same after that and I figured out how to make my own mountain of crunchy, salty, spicy, cheesy addiction.

Start with a good tortilla chip. Thick and sturdy chips give you the structural advantage of loading each bite with as much stuff as you can fit, but I have to say that I like the delicate snap of a thinner chip (my current favorite is Trader Joe’s organic corn tortilla chips). It’s a matter of personal preference. You can choose whatever protein you like: chicken, beef, ground beef, pork, shrimp, tofu. Shredded, seasoned, grilled, fried. There is enormous flexibility, so customize away! I love shredded carnitas (sous vide carnitas), but you can skip the protein altogether to make it vegetarian friendly. Probably the most essential component of nachos, aside from the chips, is the cheese. I should say cheeses. First off, you need to use more cheese than you might assume, as it serves to bind everything together. Second, while cheddar brings great flavor to the nachos, jack cheese produces the creamy meltiness that I find so desirable. A combination of the two is the ticket.


shredding sharp white cheddar

cheddar and jack



**Jump for more butter**

the in between

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Recipe: shabu shabu (japanese hot pot)

I hope all of my friends who celebrate Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday last week. The university combines Fall Break and Thanksgiving to give a week off from classes, which means Jeremy can work from home. But which home? Well, it always depends on who has better snow come early season – the Front Range or Crested Butte? Both resorts and Nordic centers were looking pretty bleak, so we opted for Crested Butte in the hopes that the backcountry would have some cover.

We were able to ski tour and uphill ski, but we didn’t bother skate skiing as the snow was rather thin in town. For the most part we skied, worked, did some house maintenance, and kept our holiday low key. Crested Butte was especially quiet with more than half of the restaurants closed or on reduced hours for shoulder season until December. With so many locals off to visit families over the week, I stepped in to help someone with meals and dog care. I mean, that’s part of Thanksgiving – the giving.


enjoying lovely trails right after crested butte nordic had groomed

top of the climb on donation day

a 3 month old puppy runs up to say hi

feeling much gratitude for this life with this guy



Instead of turkey, I made sous vide pork chops (an hour in the sous vide and four minutes finished with a pan sear). The only thing that resembled a turkey was Neva’s Thanksgiving meal, which was made of raw beef, cheese, carrot, a strip of ham for the wattle, and two nonpareils sprinkles for the eyes.

neva’s thanksgiving “turkey”

eyes on jeremy as she waits for her release word



You can watch Neva eat her Thanksgiving plate on Instagram, because who doesn’t love to watch a dog eat an animal made of other foods?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the clock is ticking ever louder as The Holidays approach. I basically have three weeks to figure out how I will turn butter, chocolate, flour, eggs, and sugar into a mess of gifts for Jeremy’s administrative staff, our local service folk, my oncology department, and friends. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do think the start of winter is a fine time to let people know how much they are appreciated. The trick is to get that and everything else on my to do list done!

While I would prefer more consistently cold weather and some (actually, a lot) of snow, it’s cool enough that we have been enjoying hot soups, stews, multi-hour simmered sauces, and hot pot. I grew up eating Chinese hot pot on chilly evenings, but it wasn’t until I went out with a girlfriend to a shabu shabu restaurant that I realized shabu shabu was another form of hot pot – Japanese hot pot. There are a lot of similarities in the ingredients, although I must admit the Japanese version is so much cuter. I wasn’t able to source all of the ingredients in the original recipe, but hot pot is more like a set of guidelines, so I went with what I could find and what I had on hand.


tofu, flank steak, enoki and matsutake mushrooms, scallions, napa cabbage, carrot, kombu (dried kelp)

soak the kombu in water



The broth starts with a piece of kombu soaking in water in your hot pot vessel (I use an electric wok here). It needs to soak for at least 30 minutes, so you may as well do that first and then make your sauce and prep your ingredients. There are actually two dipping sauces you can serve with your shabu shabu: a sesame sauce and ponzu. I made the sesame sauce, and it’s as simple as measuring out the ingredients, grating a clove of garlic, and stirring everything together. Nice.

mirin, rice vinegar, sake, sesame oil, canola oil, ponzu, tahini, miso, sugar, garlic

grate the garlic

stir everything together

smooth sesame sauce



**Jump for more butter**

cheeseboarding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Recipe: build your own cheeseboard

My parents did a lot of entertaining when I was growing up. It was something I was vaguely aware of as a little kid. Kris and I would belly flop onto my parents’ bed and watch television until we heard the adults move to the dining room for dinner. At that point, Kris would nudge me and say, “Come on, let’s go downstairs.” We’d sneak into the kitchen unseen by the guests (but always seen by Dad, who would flash us one of his goofy smiles as we tiptoed down the stairs) and nosh on whatever was left of the appetizers: smoked oysters, cheese, crackers, olives, caviar. Party food.

Mom and Dad still entertain to this day, so I found it amusing when Dad texted me last year asking what goes on a cheeseboard. He wanted ideas since I had plated a few during various dinner parties they had attended. I grabbed some photos from my archives as well as a handful off of Pinterest to give him some inspiration. When I threw Dad’s belated birthday party at our place last weekend, I made sure to kick it off with a nice cheeseboard because I know my Dad loves a cheeseboard packed with ALL of the goodies.

The holidays are upon us and that means party season is in full swing. Cheeseboards are a lovely way to get a dinner party started or to act as the workhorse for a cocktail party or to keep family and friends occupied as you rush to cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you are looking for ideas to spark your own cheeseboard artistry, I list and show some of my favorites here. There is enormous flexibility in cheeseboards, including not having any cheese!


neva wants to become an olympic cheeseboarder [note: grapes are toxic for dogs]



Let’s start with the actual board. The board can be a plate (porcelain, glass, etc.), slate, wood, whatever you like! Plates are the easiest to clean – especially if you serve things that are oily or messy directly on the board. And slate is great for writing the names of cheeses with chalk. I am partial to wood boards because of the beautiful natural colors and grain, which is why I have a lot of them. Some are gifts from my friend, Jamie, who is an incredibly talented woodworking artist. Occasionally, I use my largest Boos cutting blocks (24×18-inch walnut and 20×15-inch maple) because they give me the greatest surface area.

If you do have something oily like hot smoked salmon, and you don’t want the oils to soak into your nice wood boards (because let’s face it, once the board is out, it doesn’t get cleaned up until after the last guest leaves), you can slap a small plate underneath it to keep the fishy smells out of the wood. And remember, cheeseboards don’t have to be these gigantic cornucopias that can feed the whole neighborhood. Small cheeseboards for two are romantic. Medium cheeseboards for a cozy gathering of close friends work very well without being overwhelming. So don’t go crazy, but… you can go a little crazy.


you can serve on plates or slate

wood boards: an array of shapes, sizes, and designs



The fun part of cheeseboarding is picking out what to serve on your cheeseboard. It’s whatever you want it to be. I personally like the cheeseboards that don’t have much if any cheese because I don’t dig on eating cheese straight up. But I know the majority of my guests love cheese, so there is always at least one soft, one semi-soft, and one hard cheese. I also have friends who have Celiac disease, so I can either omit all gluten items (mostly crackers and breads) or plate those separately to avoid contamination of the gluten-free items.

Another nice thing about cheeseboards is that they can be as labor intensive as you like – or not! Just about everything can be purchased, but sometimes it’s nice to add your own personal touch. I always make my own crostini and I usually make those prohibitively expensive fruit, nut, and seed crisps unless I am slammed for time. Grissini happen to be quite easy to make at home, too.

I find fruit and fruity things pair well with various cheeses or act as a nice palate cleanser between nibbles. I don’t make my own fruit, but I do make my own fig and brandy jam every summer to serve with brie throughout the year. I have made membrillo, a delectable quince paste in the past to pair with manchego, but it requires a lot of work at my elevation, so I have resorted to purchasing it now that more stores carry it. In late summer, I love it when I can find good fresh figs. Lots of folks like figs with blue cheese and honey, but I tend eat them straight or with a little slice of prosciutto. Another crowd pleaser is baked brie with fresh cranberry sauce or fig jam or tomato jam. Goat cheese and jam is also a hit.


cheeses: aged cheddar, smoked gouda, brie, boursin, manchego

some gluten options: croccantini, brioche toasts, grissini, crostini, fruit and nut crisps, sliced baguette

fruity things: pomegranate, fig brandy jam, grapes, apple, membrillo



**Jump for more butter**