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i dream of mushrooms

Sunday, July 25th, 2021

Recipe: roasted porcini with gremolata

I keep my summer expectations low to minimize any disappointment. It’s a strategy I apply to life in general, but it serves me particularly well when dealing with the realities of mushroom season here in the Colorado Rockies. Some years it’s great. Some years it’s terrible. Some years it’s okay. This year, it’s been strangely, weirdly, amazingly phenomenal. I have been logging many miles and many many pounds of beautiful porcini this season. Foraging all day, cleaning and processing (drying, freezing raw, sautéeing and freezing) all night, closing my eyes and seeing mushrooms in my dreams. Repeat.


still make time to see my folks who made chinese lobster noodles for us

and looking up to appreciate the stellar wildflower displays

everywhere we went, porcini

tucked among the huckleberries

our red-capped rocky mountain rubies (porcini)



My last post bumped meatless meatballs for chocolate chip cookies and I’m bumping those meatballs again, this time for a simple roasted porcini recipe that I promised my friend and foraging pal because fresh porcini wait for no one.

The original recipe specifies a mix of wild and cremini mushrooms, but my refrigerator was FULL of fresh porcini and it made perfect sense to use up some of the firm, perfect bouchons. Also, I think the gremolata – while tasty – is not necessary at all. Roasting the mushrooms with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a couple of smashed garlic cloves is heaven enough.


fresh porcini bouchons, flat-leaf parsley, pepper, olive oil, parmesan, garlic, bread crumbs, salt, lemon



For this preparation, I don’t recommend washing your mushrooms (I never wash my mushrooms except for morels). I brush the mushrooms of debris from top to bottom and wipe any remaining particles with a damp paper towel. Slice the mushrooms to 1/2-inch thickness and quarter or halve any really small bouchons. Since the oil is easily absorbed, I drizzle half of the olive oil over the mushrooms/smashed garlic and toss, then drizzle another tablespoon and toss, then one more tablespoon for a more even distribution. Season with salt and pepper and toss once more. Arrange the slices and pieces in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. I line my sheet with parchment paper because I like how it allows the food to crisp without sticking.

drizzle some of the olive oil over the mushrooms

toss with salt and pepper

roast in a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer



**Jump for more butter**

no whammies

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Recipe: gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

June went from lovely to horrid and (thankfully) back to lovely. I’m sure we have several swings of the pendulum ahead, but right now I’m truly grateful for the current cool and rainy pattern that is sitting on our faces and keeping smoke from the wildfires at bay.


the pups love hiking season

spring was late, but glorious nonetheless

wildfire smoke from the west made for dramatic evenings

the heat wave melted yuki and everyone else



My cousin moved to Colorado during the pandemic, but we haven’t had a chance to see one another since becoming fully vaccinated. However, two of my aunts (my mom’s younger sisters) were visiting my cousin recently and we met up for a short hike in Boulder. I can only hope to be as physically and mentally fit as these lovely ladies in 20+ years!

mom’s family has good genes

the wildflowers are having a good show this year



Originally, I was planning to post another recipe that wasn’t gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, but our neighbors did us a favor a while back and I wanted to thank them with some cookies. Except a 2-week heat wave crushed our souls and I couldn’t even *think* of baking. So when this cold front blew in from the north and brought our overnight temperatures into the 40s this weekend, I began testing these gluten-free cookies. My neighbor is gluten-free and I figured she was tired of the two or three recipes I kept sending over. Besides, it’s always good to expand your repertoire of baked goods. Jeremy, my neighbor, her husband (who can eat gluten), Canyon Erin (celiac) and her husband (eats gluten) all gave the recipe the thumbs up. And my neighbor asked if it was on the blog. That’s why you’re not getting meatless meatballs today.

bittersweet chocolate, vanilla extract, almond flour, sugar, brown butter, light brown sugar, vanilla bean, egg, baking soda, flake sea salt, kosher salt



Recipe testing baked goods at elevation sucks, because it doesn’t take much for things to go sideways at 8500 feet. The first rule of recipe testing is to try the recipe as is. Despite a few minor discrepancies between the volumes and weights (I follow weights), this one is pretty stable. I tweaked about with chilling the dough and cooking times and some other flavor enhancers, but all in all I feel this is a solid recipe with some of the best results in flavor and texture. Now, I do recommend chopping the chocolate over using chocolate chips. Even if you use chocolate chips, chop them up because the shards of chocolate mixed into the dough promote a creamier interior. And unsalted butter works just fine, but… use brown butter if you want it to be a little *extra*. If you make your own brown butter for this recipe, start with a half pound of unsalted butter which will yield enough brown butter for your needs. And let it cool to room temperature before using it.

start with 16 tablespoons of butter

melt it over medium heat and stir *constantly* until the milk solids turn golden (5-8 minutes)

immediately empty the brown butter into a bowl to cool before using



**Jump for more butter**

emergence

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Recipe: venison with morel sauce

We received our second shots the day before the anniversary of Kris’ passing. Based on reports from several friends as well as the CDC, I assumed I’d be feeling pretty miserable within 24 hours of my second dose. I bought some flowers earlier in the hopes they would still be bright and perky on May 1.


sunny ranunculus for kris



Because my parents were in town for the past month, our emergence from pandemic isolation has been hastened by their desire to see us. There’s being fully vaccinated and then there is being mentally prepared for the increase in activity and engagement and noise and personalities and driving. And I have to admit that while seeing my parents again has been good, the chaos and stress of stepping back into “normal” life feels anything but normal. It’s not being out of practice so much as questioning if being social is what I enjoy or what society wants me to enjoy. Perhaps Brood X is on to something.

a strawberry mother’s day cake i baked for mom



Per our usually scheduled atmospheric programming, it snowed on Mother’s Day and it snowed some more after that. Any precipitation is welcome in our mountains as we are practically guaranteed a terrible wildfire season in the American West again. The snows and rains made for a cooler, wetter, moodier May, but that hopefully means more mushrooms, more wildflowers, and healthier wildlife here on the Front Range. The western half of Colorado hasn’t been nearly so lucky, but I remain hopeful that the summer monsoons that evaporated the last few years will reappear now that La Niña has officially ended. I love a good Colorado mountain summer rainstorm.

colorado sun and snow in may

signs of life in the mountains: a pasqueflower

deck lounging season has commenced



After taking my parents to the airport last week to catch their morning flight back to Virginia, Jeremy and I stopped to check a morel spot on the plains. We hadn’t paid much attention to the season and we weren’t expecting anything other than a few spears of feral asparagus. But if you don’t look, you’ll never find them. Foraging on the flats is my least favorite kind of foraging because of the ticks and poison ivy and heat and sun and bugs and so many more people, which might explain why I’m so half-heartedly half-assed about the whole endeavor. And to our great surprise, we found a handful of large blonde morels – including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in the flesh!

growing out of the ground like no big deal

approaching child-sized status



My inclination upon finding the first morels of every season is to batter fry them, but that can get a little strange with a morel the size of a guinea pig. The other three weren’t small by our standards, either. Sure, you can cut the big ones up, but half the fun is eating them whole. I flipped through Hank Shaw’s Buck, Buck, Moose cookbook, unearthed a couple of venison backstraps from our freezer (courtesy of our wonderful neighbors), and decided the fate of these precious fungi. The dish is straightforward, quick, and special.

morel mushrooms, venison backstraps, salt, flour, canola oil, butter, beef stock, pepper, port wine, onion



Venison with morel mushroom sauce in the cookbook is slightly different from Hank’s updated web version. The cookbook recipe (this one) works and I’m certain Hank’s newer recipe is just as good if not better, but I didn’t see it until just now. I used fresh morels, but if morels aren’t in season and you have dried morels, Hank has instructions in both recipes for how to use those instead. I suspect you could go with frozen morels, too (I sauté extra morels in butter then freeze them for later use). And if you don’t have access to venison backstrap or tenderloin, beef is a decent alternative.

salt the venison

chopped onion and morels



I seared the venison backstraps rare, measuring the internal temperature at the thickest end to about 120°F (rare is 125°F), knowing it would continue to rise some as the meat rested on a plate. You can shoot for medium rare (final temperature 130°F), but cooking more than that will ruin this lean, tender cut.

sear the meat

resting



**Jump for more butter**