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Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Recipe: porcini elk sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo

After the eclipse, Jeremy and I gathered Neva and her snacks and drove out to Crested Butte once more before the semester gets underway this week. It’s nice to travel lonely mountain roads again. Most of the summer vacationers are done exploring Colorado’s mountainous western half, leaving it to locals and retirees and full-time nomads. The town of Crested Butte has quieted down, too, such that there is parking along Elk Avenue (the main drag) and nary a hiker on the trails. But there is plenty going on with or without visitors. Lower elevation wildflowers are looking tired and haggard now – the result of showing off for so many weeks, but the high country still holds stunning pockets of wildflowers in late August thanks to regular summer rains. And our summer storms continue to flirt with the sun and create dramatic skies and stunning rainbows. Crested Butte is Rainbowtown.


jeremy and neva above copper lake

the array of wildflowers at 11,700 feet

full double rainbow next to crested butte mountain

a rainbow and sunset lit virga from our deck (where we were grilling dinner)



Handfuls of yellow and red aspen leaves litter the starts of our hikes as if some carefree party goer dropped their celebratory confetti on their tipsy walk home. I’m not posting any photos just yet (although I did shoot some) because I don’t want you summer lovers to start freaking out… But winter is totally coming! Despite the warm sunny days, our mountain evenings have grown nice and cool with morning frost on the neighbors’ rooftops and cars. I sleep with the window open at night and wake in the morning, pulling the covers up around my face and wrapping an arm around Neva as she snuggles cozily between me and Jeremy instead of petitioning for breakfast. I feel as if the ragged pace of summer is coming to an end.

And yet the mushrooms keep happening and I can’t help but look for them. I think Colorado is experiencing an epic king (porcini) season – a very long, widespread, and good flush. Other varieties are doing well, too. I mistakenly expected the chanterelles to go big this month, but I think my previous two seasons were anomalies (the first was very early and the second was really crappy except for one amazing location). They have been all around, but I’m starting to see them come up in earnest now.


hello, my pretties

still on the small side, but looking good

porcini going strong



Summer is my season to slack off from cooking, but all of these mushrooms make me want to get back into the kitchen to try some new recipes. Considering the quantity of porcini I’ve collected, I have loaded up on frozen sautéed slices and dried slices, and still had fresh ones to address. The worst thing you could do as a forager is pluck choice wild mushrooms and allow them to languish in the refrigerator. I fell asleep at night rolling recipe ideas over in my brain that infiltrated my dreams. That’s nothing new, I always dream about food. I had fresh porcini, dried porcini, and elk Italian sausage (a gift from two of my favorite neighbors in Crested Butte, one of whom hunts!) – that screamed pasta to me. Tortellini. Porcini elk Italian sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo (broth) to be precise. I mean, if you’re going to incorporate some hard-to-come-by ingredients, why not make a pasta you’ve never made before? I’ll tell you now, so you don’t have to wonder, it was a complete hit and I served it to my mom for her home-cooked birthday dinner.

When you cook food from scratch, there is an enormous amount of flexibility in the ingredients and flavors you can incorporate. You also have the option of taking shortcuts if you simply don’t have the time or ability to make every component yourself. I say it is all good. The first step is to make the beef stock. It takes a little effort to prep and roast the ingredients, and a lot of time to cook the stock – about 6 hours at barely a simmer. If you cook your own beef stock, start the day before. I was tempted to speed up the process by chucking everything into my pressure cooker, but I wanted to try and make a clear stock this time for aesthetics. Boiling, which is what the pressure cooker does at higher pressure, turns it cloudy. Maybe in the future I’ll go the pressure cooker way, and it is also completely okay to simply purchase beef stock, just get a good quality one.


olive oil, beef chuck, beef marrow bones, carrot, celery tops, onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf

prepped

toss the carrots, onions, and beef with olive oil

roast the bones, meat, carrots, and onions



**Jump for more butter**

the wamp invasion

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Recipe: morel asparagus prosciutto lemon pasta

Colorado is undergoing a bout of Seasonal Confusion. It’s technically shoulder season for our two ski mountains as they both closed today until next Fall 2017. By the good graces of the atmosphere, we managed to nab a couple of powder days this past week at Eldora (thank you, upslope!) before closing day. It’s been a toggle from a snowy day to a sunny day to more snow to sun to snow. One day I’m trail running and the next I’m stepping into my powder skis. Makes my head spin.


jeremy gets first tracks in nearly a foot of powder

and it was the fluffy stuff

a half foot in the morning melted to an inch, then by day’s end it began to snow again

seeking fresh pockets the next morning



As the days get warmer, my mountain buddies and I are itching for mushroom season to start around here. Of course, if you want to speed the season up by a month or so, you merely have to drive 3000 feet down to the plains. So that’s what we did. I mean, lots of flatlanders come up to the mountains to hunt for mushrooms, so why shouldn’t the WAMPs (weird ass mountain people – that’s us) reciprocate? It’s early yet, but we were on a scouting run. There’s a reason we generally prefer to stick to our home turf in the mountains. We don’t have to worry about ticks, poison ivy, rattlesnakes, garbage, and a constant stream of people while we forage. And it’s hot on the flats. Oh man, I nearly lost my marbles when the morning sun emerged above the cloud bank to the east. My skin is still in winter mode. But the mushrooms beckon.

hello pretties! a little nursery of baby oyster mushrooms

my pal harvests some old oyster mushrooms to smear on a log at his house

these are western poison ivy stalks (pre-leaf) – don’t touch!

western poison ivy stalks with berries (again, don’t touch)



Since the Colorado high country will be among the handful of locations with the last morel flushes of the season, I’ve decided to share a recipe that I shot the previous spring for those of you with fresh morels in hand right now (or soon). It would seem that the sickness sets in earlier each year, but I like to think of it as diversifying my portfolio… of mushrooms.

there is much joy to be had in the hunt (from 2016)



Mushrooms and pasta are a no-brainer combination. Use your favorite kind of pasta. Mine is pappardelle. Because morels are the epitome of spring, I thought it appropriate to pair them with asparagus, which also sprout forth from the ground in the early season. Morels, more than the other wild mushrooms I forage, have that slight funk in flavor shared with the likes of stinky cheeses, well-aged full-bodied red wines, and cured meats. Therefore, prosciutto is a lovely companion to these delightful fungi, and hints of lemon zest brighten the whole ensemble.

pasta, morels, asparagus, cream, pepper, parmesan, prosciutto, butter, chicken stock, lemon, salt, garlic, olive oil

halve the morels

rinse and dry the mushrooms



**Jump for more butter**

the best part of summer

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Recipe: chanterelle ravioli with sage brown butter

School is starting and summer is winding down even though we have a good month of it left before we can officially declare autumn’s arrival. We spent the beginning of last week getting outside with Neva to explore and play and continue “training” her – whatever that means. Our neighborhood lake in Crested Butte had some strange water biochemistry going on, so we took little Neva to a nicer lake with cleaner water. This required a much longer drive on bumpy backcountry roads, but instead of puking or drooling or crying, Neva had her nose out the window and she was quite excited about our destination. Our little girl may have finally (finally!!) turned the corner on the car ride! I don’t know what we’re going to do come winter when we can’t open the window if it is -20°F outside, but I’ll take what I can get.


sometimes neva’s life jacket looks like a superhero cape from the front

the happiest, dorkiest dog



Jeremy and I also spent our final morning in Crested Butte hunting for chanterelles as they were starting to flush. Normally I would wait to forage after more time had passed so they would be larger, but we were leaving and I wanted to bring some chanterelles home to make a special birthday dinner for my mom. I only took the biggest ones and left the littles to grow and spore and do their happy mushroom thing. If you’re wondering how I prepared them, I sautéed the chanterelles and fresh local sweet corn in butter and served them alongside a small hash browned potato with two seared scallops on top (drizzled with pan sauce, natch). That was the second course of four.

neva likes to sniff chanterelles

a perfectly mossy home

clean and beautiful

toasting mom’s birthday with some bubbles



I hadn’t planned on trying a new recipe with the chanterelles, but we managed to forage enough that I could make some chanterelle ravioli. I’ve always wanted to make ravioli from scratch and by hand. My mother-in-law gave me some ravioli stamps and a ravioli pasta cutter last year, so I really had zero excuse to not try this. Start with the ravioli pasta dough.

flour, eggs, olive oil, salt



Most pasta I’ve made from scratch involves flour and eggs, but this one had a little salt and olive oil added to the dough. The flour doubled as an ingredient and a bowl because all of the wet ingredients went into a well in the flour. I thought that would be terribly messy, but it was actually rather tidy as long as you didn’t breach the well wall. The recipe called for four cups of flour, but you don’t use all of that flour in the pasta dough. I incorporated as much as needed and then sifted the remaining unused flour and kept it around for working the pasta.

make a well in the flour and add the rest of the ingredients

stir flour into the eggs until the mixture is too thick to stir

then work more flour in with your hands

when the dough won’t take on any more flour, knead it

it’s ready when you poke it and the dough bounces back



**Jump for more butter**