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forever a noodle girl

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Recipe: stir-fried fresh rice noodles with beef

I’m always on the lookout for a good Chinese cookbook, and I tend to make tiny mental notes when my cooking friends rave about the same book. Last month, I got an email asking if I wanted a review copy of Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou. I usually decline book reviews – it’s not worth my time unless it is something I am personally interested in checking out – but recalled a couple of pals had sung its praises.


chinese soul food by hsiao-ching chou



The good news is that the book is full of accessible and delicious home-style Chinese recipes and good information on ingredients, equipment, and techniques that are commonly utilized in Chinese cooking. The bad news (for me) is that I’ve already made and blogged some version of most of the recipes in the book. Happily, I was able to find a handful of recipes that I haven’t blogged before, and settled on a noodle dish. I will choose noodles over rice any day, but this stir-fried noodles with beef uses fresh rice noodles. A delightful compromise.

you can find fresh rice noodles in the refrigerated section of better stocked asian markets

mung bean sprouts, gai lan (chinese broccoli), water, hoisin sauce, kosher salt, cornstarch, flank steak, soy sauce, vegetable oil, fresh rice noodles



In her notes, Chou says if you cannot find gai lan, you can substitute other leafy greens including Chinese broccoli. Gai lan IS Chinese broccoli, so I think that may have been an editorial oversight. It’s true that you can use other leafy greens, but gai lan has great flavor and texture that pairs well with the chewy, delicate rice noodles. I increased the amounts of greens and sprouts and omitted the carrots because they do absolutely nothing for me. When the rice noodles are cold (they are usually refrigerated at my market), they are quite brittle. Allow them to come to room temperature or gently warm them in the microwave so they are pliable and easily separated. If you try to cook the noodles unseparated, you will have a giant blob of rice noodles with an uncooked center.

washed and chopped chinese broccoli, separated noodles, sliced beef, washed sprouts

mix the beef with soy sauce and cornstarch

stir-fry the beef



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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



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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



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