quince jam shrimp and vegetable tempura posole huckleberry panna cotta

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so long, summer

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Recipe: honey sriracha japanese fried chicken karaage

I know most of you are groaning about summer’s end. The good news is that the majority of you summer lovers are still enjoying summer where you live. The even better news is that summer is fast becoming a faded memory here in the mountains! The overnight temperatures have brought frosts to the rooftops in my neighborhood and fresh dustings of snow to the high country. A crisp chill on the morning air rejuvenates me from the stupor of summer’s seemingly relentless heat. Long-sleeves are no longer optional at night. Fall is my favorite season – so spectacular and yet so fleeting in our mountains. And then comes the long winter, which is never really long enough for folks who like to glide on snow. Autumn is full of activity and colors and anticipation and acceptance.

neva and jeremy pause in front of mount neva

ducks diving for food – tails up!

the majestic moose

a leaping pika with forage for its winter hay pile

another pika with a flower in its mouth

so cute, i can’t even!

Cooler weather puts a spring in my step. I start checking my ski gear even though actual skiing may be more than two months away. The big camera lenses get shipped out for maintenance before the fall shoot. Maps are strewn about the living room for backpacking plans. And of course, recipes that have been put on hold over the summer (because it was too hot to think let alone cook) are perused with renewed interest. Shortly after our awesome trip to Steamboat Springs in January, I made a note to myself to reproduce the JFC we enjoyed at Yama. JFC – Japanese fried chicken or chicken karaage – is delicate, crunchy, juicy, and tender with Asian flavors. What I liked about Yama’s version was how the fried chicken was tossed in a honey sriracha sauce which turned the whole thing into a flavor bomb in my mouth.

make the chicken karaage: soy sauce, sake, potato starch, sugar, ginger, garlic, chicken thighs

It’s a quick marinade to make and the chicken marinates for an hour or more. While the restaurant version brines the chicken in buttermilk and miso, I opted for a recipe that was ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sake because that’s what I had in my cupboards. To make this gluten-free, substitute tamari for soy sauce. If you can’t find potato starch you can use corn starch, but it won’t result in the same crispness when fried. You will probably have better luck getting potato starch from an Asian market, but Bob’s Red Mill potato starch is available at stores like Whole Foods. (I use potato starch when making strawberry daifuku mochi.)

grate the ginger

mise en place

combine the ginger, garlic, sugar, sake, and soy sauce

add the chicken

marinate for at least an hour

**Jump for more butter**

wild about you

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Recipe: seared duck breast with huckleberry gastrique

I bet you think I think about winter all the time. Well, it’s true. When I’m running up a trail in summer, I imagine skiing back down if only it were winter (or even just running straight into a snowbank to cool off). But the converse is also true. I think about summer in winter. Just the other day I took Neva for a hike on the local trails when the snow was falling at a good clip, and pointed out places on the white ground where shinleaf, pasque flowers, and other flora bloom in the months of long daylight. For me, it’s all about the place and how it changes so dramatically from season to season, but still remains constant in my heart. I have noted where the best aspen stands reside. I have strong mental associations with those special locales that offer up chanterelles, porcini, wild strawberries, wild raspberries, and most of all – huckleberries. Even more so if I can ski there in winter!

neva digs this weather, and any weather for that matter

Perhaps I’m mistaking my obsession with huckleberries as “thinking about summer” despite the fact that they only make their entrance in the last half of the season. I forage for (and freeze most of) those blessed berries like crazy for a few weeks and research ways to prepare and share them for the rest of the year. This week I finally tested a seared duck and huckleberry gastrique (a sweet and sour sauce) recipe that has been on my brain for a long while and it just so happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary! Truth be told, our anniversary sneaks up on us each year. We rarely plan anything around it. On a whim, I picked Jeremy up from work and took him to The Kitchen for a light snack of oysters and sparkling rosé as a “celebration”. Once home, I realized we had some leftovers from my recipe testing, so I said, “How about that for dinner?” and Jeremy nodded enthusiastically.

happy 19th anniversary!

The biggest obstacle for me to make this recipe was not huckleberries, but duck. I’ve had a lot of trouble tracking down duck breasts in Boulder (go figure – locals, if you have a source, please share the information with me!). As luck would have it, my friends Erin and Jay gave me a couple of frozen wild duck breasts recently. They happen to have friends who like to hunt duck, but don’t care to eat them (what the!??!). While that was happening, I went ahead and ordered some frozen farmed duck breasts online. So now I had two kinds of duck breasts! The farmed duck is White Pekin and the flesh is much lighter in color and milder in flavor than the deep burgundy and more “gamey” wild duck. I was psyched to compare the two. The wild duck breasts didn’t come with skin, which is a bit of a shame because duck skin is the best thing ever.

duck breasts (farmed and wild), huckleberries, roast chicken stock, beef and chicken stock blend, zinfandel, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt (not pictured: black pepper)

Searing the duck is no big deal and pretty straightforward. Making the huckleberry gastrique is what takes up the bulk of the time and effort – mostly babysitting liquids as you reduce them to syrups. I used roast chicken stock instead of duck stock, because I happen to have that on hand at any given time. [I tend to save all roast chicken carcasses and bones in gallon freezer bags and make large batches of stock in my pressure cooker.] I couldn’t find veal stock anywhere and decided to substitute half beef broth and half roast chicken stock instead. The things you can learn from a Google search! If you have access to huckleberries, use them. If you don’t, consider ordering frozen hucks online. I don’t know how well blueberries will work in place of huckleberries – probably fine, but blueberries lack the nice acidity and floral notes that make the huckleberry so special. As for the zinfandel, the original recipe appears on the Dry Creek Vineyard website and calls for the Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel, obviously. We were really underwhelmed with the 2014, so I think you can perhaps save yourself some coin and buy a fruity, low-tannin zinfandel for the gastrique.

To start the gastrique, you essentially make a caramel syrup from the sugar and the red wine vinegar. This is what gives the gastrique its signature tart-sweet flavor which pairs so perfectly with huckleberries and duck. I reduced the vinegar-sugar mixture down to about a third of the initial volume until it was syrupy, but not too syrupy. It will thicken quite a bit when it cools.

combine the sugar and red wine vinegar

reduce until syrupy

it should be thick, but flowing when cooled

**Jump for more butter**

fido snacks

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Recipe: chicken sweet potato dog treats

Before we brought Neva home, I made a batch of pumpkin peanut butter dog treats and cut them into little squares for her to eat and train on. I guess I was still in Kaweah-mode because the first time I handed a treat to Neva, she mouthed it for ten minutes then eventually spat it out because she couldn’t bite into it. In fact, she was so little and silly, she’d munch on a puppy kibble for a good ten seconds which translated into long dinner times. I was sad because Kaweah loved those treats so much and Neva didn’t seem to care for them at all. Little did I know that she was just too baby to eat them. Eventually, after her big girl teeth came in, she went after them with gusto. It’s been nice to feed her homemade treats because it’s more economical and doesn’t contain additives or artificial junk.

waiting patiently for her release word

I thought Neva could use some variety in her snacks and began to research diffent flavors and recipes. Because she is a labrador retriever, I don’t have to worry about her being picky. She’ll eat anything. I do want to make the recipes simple and keep the ingredients wholesome – organic when possible. The first variation I tried was chicken and sweet potato. These came out a little denser than I wanted, so my second batch had shredded cheddar cheese added to the dough. The cheese has a nice effect of creating rough layers sort of the way butter does in pastry dough. So even though the cheese isn’t in any of the photos, I do recommend adding it to the dough for a better texture that is less likely to break your dog’s teeth. And of course, she loves the flavor. Here is a video I posted on Instagram of her latest trick using one of these treats.

all you need: baked sweet potato, an egg, whole wheat flour, cooked chicken (not pictured: shredded cheddar cheese)

peel the sweet potatoes

mash them up

**Jump for more butter**