barbecue rib baked beans double apple bundt cake grilled matsutake pheasant chanterelle pot pie


copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2017 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

archive for mushrooms

forest bathing

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Recipe: grilled matsutake

I read about “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku a few years ago and my immediate thought was, “What a great way to describe time in the mountain forests.” If you aren’t familiar with the concept, you might think it is rooted in some ancient Japanese practice of spending time in forests for improved health. It’s actually a campaign started in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan to promote a healthier lifestyle. But I really like the concept because I find my heart, head, and body feel better with time spent in the forests (and mountains – which are partly covered in forests). It’s how I coped with my sister’s death, my cancer treatments. It’s where I go when I need healing.

Last Monday we received our first substantial snowfall of the year in the mountains. Locally we got close to a foot of new snow and some of my favorite ski mountains in Colorado were reporting nearly two feet. There’s a feeling that comes over you when that first snow storm hits for the season. After all of the sunshine and glowing yellow aspen leaves and mild autumn days, the world suddenly turns cold and white and you want to curl up in a warm blanket. I get that feeling for all of two seconds and then I’m running downstairs to get my ski gear out of the basement. Jeremy would probably have been bundled in all of his warm clothes, sipping hot coffee, and working on his laptop for days if I hadn’t shoved him out the door with me. Every season he needs reminding that he loves winter – because he really does.


our first backcountry ski of the season



It was a short-lived storm and by mid-week we were back to sunshine and pleasant temperatures. This is the Colorado way. Every season the weather has these “surprise” swings and each time it happens, people on the flats flip out because they have unreasonable expectations and a poor understanding of statistics and physics. You learn to go with the flow in the mountains. One day you’re skiing fresh snow and the next you’re trail running through an amphitheater of gold.

my favorite local aspen stand



As the weekend approached, Jeremy and I made plans for a short backpacking trip with Neva. She had been doing so well with her training that we thought we should squeeze an overnight in before we would be on skis for six months. We originally planned to take her up to a local lake, but when the overnight wind forecast was for 50 mph gusts, snow, and temperatures below freezing, we postponed by a day. I have a love-hate relationship with the Front Range. Part of the reason I hate the Front Range is the wind. Oh wait, that IS the reason. We pulled out trail maps, looked up trail information, searched Google Maps, and read weather forecasts until we found a trip that could work. We had always wanted to explore the Gore Range, but never got around to it because wrangling Neva made backpacking a miserable experience. Now we were hoping for some improvement.

starting off near a stand of orange aspens

the ten mile range in the distance

copper mountain across the valley



Silly us, we didn’t make the connection that double digit snow totals at the ski resort across the valley would mean snow on the trails less than a week later. We should have known, but we’re out of practice. Despite snow and ice covering more than half the trail, we enjoyed clear skies, mild winds, beautiful views, and a good dog! Neva had a blast and I think this means we can look forward to more backcountry exploration with her next summer – something we all love to do.

first views of lost lake

neva went for a dip after this picture was taken

beautiful potholes with snowy mountains in the distance

neva supervises as we finish dinner



Of course, when you spend a good bit of the last six months walking the woods and looking for mushrooms and berries, it’s a hard habit to break. There were zero mushrooms, because it was too cold and late in the season at that elevation, but we DID find a section of huckleberry patches that were still loaded with huge berries. They were tired looking, having been through a freeze and thaw cycle several times already. Some were beginning to shrivel, almost all of them fell off the plant when you so much as looked at them, and they tasted so complex and sweet – like the grapes they use to make ice wine. We ate a handful and I picked some for Neva to taste, at which point she began to eat them off the plants.

On our drive home from the trailhead, Jeremy and I couldn’t help but note all of the lodgepole forests that looked like prime candidates for matsutake mushrooms next year. If you will recall, matsutake means “pine mushroom” in Japanese. If you can find them fresh, grilling is a super simple and delicious way to prepare them. If not, you could try a different fleshy fresh mushroom. But the special pine-cinnamon flavor of a grilled matsutake is probably the only way you can taste the embodiment of a camping trip in the pine forest.


fresh matsutake mushrooms, soy sauce, mirin

slice the mushrooms thick

combine the soy sauce and mirin



**Jump for more butter**

pot pie season

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Recipe: pheasant chanterelle pot pie

Colorado has been sitting under a trough (low pressure) of late that has delivered rain, fog, cold, and even snow in the higher elevations. I’ve been casually catching fall colors when I can, but mostly I made a point of enjoying them rather than trying to make photos. I mean, you can always take iPhone snaps, which is mostly what I do these days, but you can also dedicate time, energy, and effort in making some exceptional images. A pretty hectic summer left me burned out when the fall colors came around, such that I couldn’t see myself doing the fall shoot well and then diving into my first hunting season. So I gave myself some time off from the shoot to catch up on a lot of work, do some much-needed research, and take care of things at home.


flaming and gorgeous

i love to stand in the stands

jeremy and neva checking out the local aspens



Something Jeremy and I let slide this summer was Neva’s training. We spent a good bit of time training her to swim between our paddleboards or run alongside the bike, but we stopped working with the e-collar which our trainer had taught us to use back in March. There had been a bad episode in the spring that pretty much left me in tears (Neva seemed to be fine after 5 seconds). Neva had bolted out of sight on the soccer field and it was so windy we couldn’t hear anything as we ran after her. I used the collar, but couldn’t see or hear any feedback, so I boosted the stimulation and tapped it again until I was on the next field and saw her leaning up against Jeremy for comforting. Apparently, Jeremy saw her stop after one of the zaps and she turned to run back to him. As she ran to him, I was still coming around the other side of the field and couldn’t see her and did a boost and tap which made her cry out and jump. The whole thing made me want to throw the e-collar away forever. I silently wiped away tears the whole walk home because Jeremy said we should act as if everything is normal so as not to alarm her. I later consulted with Claire, got reassurances and advice for the future, and promptly stopped using the e-collar. I hated that I had hurt my baby dog.

But we decided to try it again this weekend with leash work and you know what? Neva was wonderful. We hardly needed to use the collar (and at very very low levels) and she was so responsive and happy on her hikes despite encountering lots of other hikers including children (little people are particularly exciting because they are at eye level), two moose, other dogs (who were not well-behaved at all), and runners. She trotted alongside Jeremy, looking up to him every few seconds, trail wagging, a slack leash, and slowing herself down when he said, “whoa” or “heel” or “no pull”. I don’t feel Neva ever needs to be off leash in our big wide wildernesses, but if she can be on leash and enjoy her time outside as a good girl, that’s all we ever really wanted. So that was huge progress.


another aspen stand with a good neva

look at that slack leash!



I’ve been in fall cleaning mode because somehow I am always six months late tackling spring cleaning. The chest freezer was in need of attention because it was packed to the gills with vodka infusions, freezer jams, meats, mushrooms, fruit, nuts, ice creams, butter, homemade broth, green chiles. Things get lost in there and don’t emerge until four years later when you are trying to find a place to store your 2017 huckleberries. It was time to start making room by eating stuff. One of my Crested Butte neighbors likes to hunt pheasant. I think he likes hunting them more than eating them, so when he learned that I LOVE pheasant, he pulled one out of their freezer this summer and gave it to me! I knew just the thing to make… a pot pie with some of my foraged wild mushrooms.

chanterelles from august

cleaned and sliced

sauté with some butter

ready to freeze or eat



There wasn’t time to make and shoot the recipe until last week when it coincidentally cooled off by a good 20 degrees. That’s why I butter sautéed my chanterelles in August and chucked them into the freezer for a month until I could get around to using them. My preference would have been to roast the pheasant and shred the meat for the pot pie filling, but 1) it didn’t have any skin and 2) there was buck shot scattered throughout. This is only my second pheasant I’ve prepared, but I feel more comfortable dicing the meat so I can remove any shot and feathers. I used all of the meat I could and then froze the carcass to make pheasant broth later because it’s delicious and because I hate wasting food. The pheasant broth in this pie is from the previous pheasant carcass.

the filling: potatoes, lima beans, salt, bay leaves, butter, pheasant, pepper, chanterelles, onion, flour, more butter, pheasant broth

diced and prepped

simmer the potatoes in the broth with the bay leaves

strain out the potatoes and reduce the broth



**Jump for more butter**

with intention

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Recipe: matsutake tempura

I’m delighted to finally flip my calendar to September! Even though it typically gets hotter over Labor Day weekend before the mountains give it up to the autumn chill (and this year was no exception), I welcome September with open arms. Here in the high country, we run late getting around to spring and summer, but are rather punctual when it comes to autumn, and even early on winter – thank goodness! That’s definitely why I feel my summers are crammed full of activities, because true summer is short in the mountains and it’s when everything seems to happen.


neva is more cuddly when she gets lots of exercise

a field of pearly everlasting as the sun drops



A few weeks ago I took a mountain biking class in Boulder, because I wanted to reduce my chances of crashing into things. Something the instructors said over and over was, “…with intention – as in life, as with everything.” They wanted our actions on the bike to be intentional – to ride the bike instead of letting the bike take us for a ride. But I really liked the non-bike part of that, too: WITH INTENTION. It really does apply to everything. Take mushrooms for example.

I’m not the type of person who feels a compulsion to put every single mushroom I find in my mouth. You may laugh, but so many new people on mycological forums seem hellbent on not doing their homework and getting themselves into the hospital or even the grave. I’m selective about the mushrooms I forage and I’m careful about the ones I drop in my bag. Jeremy and I have established a rule that unless you are 100% certain of the mushroom you are inspecting, it does not go into the bag (and potentially into someone’s gut). Just about every variety I forage has an imposter that could make you sick or kill you. I first learned to hunt porcini with an incredibly knowledgeable and careful forager. From there, I have happily stumbled across chanterelles and morels and oyster mushrooms on my many hours spent hiking the mountain forests. But for the first time ever, I set out to find a mushroom I had never seen before, did my homework, went straight to a place that seemed like the ideal environment, and found that mushroom. We found a lot of them. Right place. Right time. Right on. With intention.


hello, you shy beautiful mushroom

behold the matsutake



The name matsutake means pine mushroom (matsu = pine, take = mushroom) and yeah, the name is Japanese. This underground wonder smells strongly of spicy cinnamon (red hots candies, to be specific), with a helping of pine resin and funk, and is highly coveted in Japan. Theirs is a brown matsutake which grows in Asia. Ours is a white matsutake, also called American matsutake. They are delicious cousins. Matsutake differ from all of the other mushrooms I forage because they grow underground, only popping above the forest floor when they are relatively mature. But looking for subtle mounds in the forest duff (we call them shrumps = shroom + humps) can reveal matsutake or a whole host of other mushroom species, some toxic. You have to look at the identifying characteristics and give it a good whiff. Erin and I pulled an itty bitty mushroom that looked just like a matsutake, but had no odor. NOT a matsutake and hence, does not go into the bag. Rules.

it’s a party!

a girl gets her matsutake

as they get bigger, the veil breaks, revealing the gills



There’s a lot that happens in my brain the moment I find a new edible mushroom. There is pure joy over the “proof of existence” and that huge adrenaline rush at having found it. Then I start to wonder if there are more or if this was a sort of fluke single occurrence. You always want to find more, not simply because cooking a lonely single mushroom is a bit of a sad thing, but to see the different stages and forms that this specific mushroom takes as well as the varying environments it can inhabit. If there are a lot of them, you learn which ones are more desirable (clean and worm-free are desirable to me) and which ones to leave alone to do their mushroom jobs. And then there is the question of how to cook the mushrooms. Most of the others are no-brainers: mushroom meet butter and skillet. But the matsutake is not like most other mushrooms. The last thing you want to do is mask the delicate cinnamony-piney flavor. So I went with the other no-brainer for mushrooms: tempura. Japanese cooking technique with a Japanese mushroom? Sounds about right.

matsutake, ice water, flour, mirin, soy sauce, hondashi granules, baking soda, egg, sugar

wipe the tops clean with a damp cloth

gently peel the outer layer of the stipe

slice



**Jump for more butter**