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archive for poultry

spring timing

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Recipe: seared duck breast with morels and asparagus

We are in the midst of a back and forth between snow and rain, cold and warm, clouds and sun. Our Rocky Mountain springtime is volatile and beautiful. It’s hard for me to decide which kind of weather I like best right now. But, I don’t have to choose because we get to sample all of it in a day or even in the span of a couple of hours. This year I feel I’m really embracing spring. Rather than finally getting around to our “spring cleaning” in September, we’ve been working on it since March.


sunny day in the high country

two days later we get a powder day

all this snow is good for mushrooms



If you know me, you know that what I’m really excited about is the start of mushroom season. Ellen hypothesized that mushroom foragers inhale a good bit of mushroom spores which take over our brains and make us obsess over mushroom hunting. [I dismissed her idea with a laugh while secretly relaying this information to the overlord of our fungal hive mind.] We are weeks away from the first mushrooms of the season in the Colorado high country, but that doesn’t keep me from monitoring mushroom activity around the country. It’s happening in Northern Georgia right now – morels. And soon it will be happening in more and more locations as we deep dive into spring. I made this dish last spring during my local morel season and cannot wait to make it again this year if I should be lucky enough to get my hands on more morels.

asparagus, snap peas, brandy, salt, butter, morels, vegetable oil, pepper, shallots, garlic, duck breasts



I have found the easiest way to clean fresh morels is to hold each one caged loosely in your hand, and swish it around in a bath of cold water to dislodge any sediment, bugs, and other things that aren’t morels. Then I lay them on paper towels to dry for an hour or so. And don’t pour that morel bath water down the drain! I recommend pouring it out in your yard or someplace where morel-friendly trees grow because that water is full of morel spores (they are teeny tiny, but they’re there). I can’t promise that morels will come up the following season, but it’s worth a try. Prep the duck breasts by scoring the skin, and chop the rest of the vegetables.

morels drying after a rinse

cut the skin in a 1-inch grid

mise en place



**Jump for more butter**

gifts and giving

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Recipe: pheasant and morel vol au vent

It seems that everyone is checking out for the summer. People are on vacation and no one is reading blog posts. I get it. I get that. If I didn’t feel the compulsion to document my summer activities and my summer recipes (because OCD), I’d go dark over here until Octoberish. I’ll admit I often wonder if I stopped blogging throughout the summer, would I ever pick it up again in the fall? But hey, I probably use my recipe archives more than anyone, so I keep growing it for me and hence, for you. Besides, how else could you experience Neva’s progression from a crazy bad dog to a crazy good dog?


neva enjoying her first paddle of the season (and staying on the board)

a storm cell lets loose over fourteeners in the distance



After spending the past several weeks witnessing reports of spring morel flushes starting in the southern US and spreading north along the East Coast and into the Midwest, and the West Coast reports chiming in throughout, we in the Rocky Mountains have begun to see our flushes. Of course, our morels are going gangbusters after the harvest is nothing more than a memory for the rest of the country, but our time is NOW. I only started foraging black morels (the kind that grow in the Colorado high country) last spring when I found them near Crested Butte by accident. Searching similar environments back home on the Colorado Front Range yielded two very separate and very lonely specimens in 2016.

When you are just starting out on your own, it’s hard to know if you aren’t finding mushrooms because it’s a bad year or they don’t grow there or you’re looking in the wrong environment or because you suck at foraging that kind of mushroom. But now I am into my second season, so I can add the dimension of time to my morel data. Yes, they came up again in Crested Butte, but better than that – Jeremy and I found a motherlode on the Front Range based on what we know about morel environments and what we scoped out last fall. Countless hours and miles of reconnaissance, tracking snowpack and precipitation history, studying satellite imagery and topographic maps have paid off because SCIENCE WORKS!


a little party of morels (4 in the picture, but 12 total)

a pretty nice haul



My foraging buddy, Erin, has also been on the prowl for black morels on the Front Range since last spring with an even worse record than my two mushrooms. She found one. We email one another about mushroom hunting in the dead of winter, contemplating places to check when the snows finally recede. We research, document, study, archive, search for, and have lengthy discussions about mushrooms. Erin and I had a foraging date set for the morning after Jeremy and I found the motherlode, but we hadn’t decided on where to go because we didn’t know where the morels were at the time. I don’t give away my mushroom spots to anyone except for Jeremy (natch) and Erin. Erin is my partner in foraging crime. We are both afflicted with this extremely nerdy obsession/sickness and we happen to be damn good hawkeye foragers. It was time for a Righteous and Proper Mountain Girls’ Foray, so I took her to the magical kingdom of morels. Biggest haul ever! [We left our pups at home because the environment would have made Banjo unhappy and I’m pretty sure high-energy Neva would have crushed every single morel underfoot, twice over, before we could even get eyes on them.]

erin harvests a morel

twofer!

and that’s just her share – what a happy girl



When you spend seven hours crawling through the woods giving yourselves eyestrain headaches and experiencing highs and lows (finding and not finding morels) like a drug addict, it’s inevitable to talk about a whole host of topics, including your plans for the morels. My early haul morels are almost always slated for recipes that I want to test and shoot for the blog. Once I meet that quota, the rest will be sautéed in butter and stored in the freezer for winter or dried for various projects. Today’s recipe came about because my neighbors’ teenage son gave me two whole pheasant breasts from a hunting trip last fall as a thank you for a career brainstorming session with me and Jeremy. Game birds pair nicely with wild mushrooms, and now I had both!

morels, bacon, salt, pepper, brandy, egg, puff pastry, shallots, water, cream, butter, pheasant breasts



I decided the recipe would have to involve diced pheasant meat because all but one of the breasts had been torn through with pellets. Pheasant and morels served in puff pastry? Yes! How about some bacon? Yes! And some cream and a splash of brandy? Aw, hell yes! After several hours of walking cross country through the mountains in a Tai Chi-esque semi-lunge looking for morels, I don’t feel like making puff pastry from scratch when I get home. These morels don’t clean themselves and these recipes most certainly don’t make and photograph themselves. It’s okay to use store-bought puff pastry, as long as it is good puff pastry. Vols au vent are basically little baskets of buttery, flaky puff pastry deliciousness with space to hold even more deliciousness of your choice. It’s like an edible cup with all the calories you’ll need for the week.

cut out the bases and rings of the vols au vent

dock the bases

brush with egg wash

layer the rings and brush the tops with egg wash



**Jump for more butter**

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**