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archive for roasting

dinner for two… or three

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Recipe: chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce

I think Spring is trying to barge in on our Colorado winter. In fact, it’s practically sitting on our faces. I’ve been wearing shorts in the afternoons and leaving the deck door wide open to cool the house down. We’ve noticed the couple of feet of snowfall from the last storm start to dwindle under the sun and warm temperatures these past several days in the Front Range. If there is a trough sitting over the East Coast (meaning stormy or unsettled weather), there is typically a ridge over Colorado (sunshine and blah blah blah). We aren’t slated to get any storms for at least another week, so it’s skate skiing and backcountry touring for us. Up until now, we’ve taken Neva skiing on wide closed forest service roads which allow her plenty of room to run in front or alongside Jeremy. But this week Neva went on her first ski tour on a narrow trail (in sketchy conditions) and she managed not to pull Jeremy to injury or death (but she did pull – a lot). I’d call that a success!


neva is getting better about sitting when we stop

here’s how our girl does après ski on a bluebird day



To be honest, I don’t mind that the crazy winds have calmed down and that I don’t have to bundle up to the hilt when I go outside for exercise. Spring is a lovely time of year to ski, but… we’re not done with winter yet and if spring continues at this pace, we won’t have any snow to ski when it really is spring. Still, I’ll not stress about it too much just yet. Neva is loving the comfortable temperatures on the deck while I work, and we have been treated to some lovely displays in the evenings.

giant wave cloud at sunset (gold stage)

turning orange

fading to a rosy pink



So Valentine’s Day is coming up. I know people either love it or hate it. I personally think it is a stupid thing with a lot of unnecessary social and commercial pressure, but that’s just me. However, if you were to ask me for a recipe to make for someone special, I’m your girl. I have lots of great recipes to recommend, but this is one I recently tried for the first time and Jeremy made googly eyes at me… or at the steak? Chateaubriand was one of my sister’s favorite dishes to order at fancy restaurants if someone would order it with her – because it is typically served for two people. I may have taken a bite or two in my lifetime from mom’s plate (the other person who went in on it), but it was never something I ordered for myself. I’ve described it to Jeremy ever since we’ve been together, but it wasn’t until this week that he finally tasted it for himself.

Chateaubriand is a pan-seared and roasted center-cut whole beef tenderloin served with a sauce of some sort. It could be a mushroom red wine sauce or what I consider a more traditional pairing – Béarnaise sauce. I happened to have the fat end of a whole tenderloin leftover from the bourbon glazed beef tenderloin (also a fantastic recipe) in my freezer, and decided it was time to learn how to make this classic dish. First, start with the Béarnaise sauce which is rich, buttery, slightly tart, with hints of anise (from the tarragon), pepper, and wine.


butter, eggs (yolks), white wine, black pepper, whole white peppercorns, salt, white vinegar, lemon (juice), shallot, fresh tarragon



Make the Béarnaise sauce first because you want it ready to serve as soon as the steak is carved. I recall trying to make this sauce once in graduate school to accompany beef wellingtons for a dinner party, and it tanked in the most unforgivable way. So now, 15 years later, I think I’ve got the chops to do it right – or perhaps a better recipe. It is in essence an emulsion of acids (vinegar, wine, lemon juice), egg yolks, and melted butter. That’s pretty much it. Don’t let it get too cold – it will solidify. If it’s too warm, it will break (separate) and become oily and sad. In general, I didn’t encounter any problems with the sauce.

chop the tarragon

all of the ingredients measured and prepped

combine the vinegar, white wine, shallots, half of the tarragon, and peppercorns in a small saucepan

simmer down until you have about 2 tablespoons of liquid



**Jump for more butter**

ready for snow

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Recipe: roast lemon chicken with chanterelles

You can learn so much from your neighbors. At least, I have this past week. While I tried to restrain Neva from jumping on two friends and apologized for the “craziness”, one of them said her dog used to do it too, but ever since she sent her to doggy day care, she is much better behaved. Now that Neva is 6 months old and spayed, we can start giving her a few days a month at a day care more for socialization than anything else. And another friend recommended letting Neva hang out in the car without driving anywhere to get her over the fear of the car. Each day I’d spend 30 minutes with Neva in the back of the car – back hatch wide open – and we’d watch the world go about its business around us. I gave her a treat (either a greenie or part of a scoop dog treat) to make happy associations. The first day I had to lift her into the car as she struggled to run away. She drooled and foamed at the mouth for the first 15 minutes, letting out sad little cries and wails. By the sixth day, she was leaping into the back on her own, asking politely for the goodies, and feeling pretty darn happy.

The real test was driving her someplace. I waited until after 5 days of car therapy had passed. She hopped in on her own and didn’t drool or foam once! She did let out a few quiet whimpers when she realized what was happening, but then we were at the trailhead and she was able to focus on the hike instead. She did great. At 4 am this morning, we drove home to Nederland and Neva (on dramamine) did pretty well for 5 hours over mountain passes and windy roads – no puke, but a little bit of drooling. We’re working on it and at least she is making progress.


happily chewing her greenie in the back of the subaru



Neva and I were both happy to see Jeremy pull into the driveway Friday evening. He offered to take care of Neva so I could spend the weekend shooting the fall colors, but I said no. Strong winds on Friday stripped many of the leaves off the aspens around town, and I felt the time would be better spent getting some exercise and simply enjoying the last of the fall colors together rather than trying to get those money shots. Besides, I was able to grab a few decent snaps.

getting neva back on the trails saturday (plus a happy swim at the end)

a hike to a view on beckwith pass, sunday

jeremy and i got some time on the stand up paddleboards, too

thursday’s sunset before the winds picked up

even though some stands are past peak, it is still pretty gorgeous



There was a dusting of snow on the high peaks (probably above 13,000 feet) Saturday morning, but the sun made quick work of returning the snow to the atmosphere (I’m pretty sure that snow sublimated off the summits). As Jeremy and I hiked with Neva through carpets of fallen aspen leaves, we caught each other up on news of the week, angry letters we want to write to elected officials, and mushrooms. It’s hard for me to hike a trail and not point out where there was a good flush of chanterelles or porcini from the summer, or where there ought to be a good flush of chanterelles or porcini if *I* were one of those mushrooms and had a say about where I were to fruit. Friends of mine in other parts of the world have to deal with foraging chanterelles while golden leaves are falling on the ground, which makes for far more challenging visual conditions. We have it nice here in Colorado – our beautiful yellow chanties come up when most of the vegetation is green (as do our porcini).

well, how beautiful are you, little chanterelle?

frilly and delicate



Now that I’ve had my fix of fall colors (they’re still going and I still enjoy them, but now I don’t feel compelled to photograph them once peak is over) and it has snowed a few times in the high elevations, I am ready for ski season to start. No really, I am. Sooooo, any day now, Nature! In the meantime, I’ll get some trail running in since Neva no longer requires constant supervision and I’ll start roasting things like chicken and oh hey – chanterelles. Roasting is an easy way to make a dinner packed with flavor. Use any (edible) mushroom, but I happened to have fresh chanterelles when I shot this recipe last month. I don’t have fresh chanties now, but I did sauté several pounds of chanterelles in butter for freezing. If you have frozen cooked chanterelles, they will work just fine in this recipe.

chicken, carrots, parsley, thyme, pepper, olive oil, chanterelles, potatoes, onion, lemon, salt, garlic, bacon

mise en place



**Jump for more butter**

better than good enough

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Recipe: fried polenta and porcini on roasted carrot purée

We had a busier than usual schedule last week because Jeremy was hosting his astrophysics retreat. This was his third one, but it seemed more harried than usual because of the additional puppy-wrangling. Without going into too much detail, the retreat is an “unconference” that eschews the traditional scientific conference format. It is a small gathering of select (young) experts in astrophysics who come together for 4 days of intense, high-powered brainstorming for the love of science. Running any sort of workshop or conference is exhausting, but for someone like Jeremy – my dearest introvert – it is doubly so. Once he had caught up on sleep and other work, I suggested we spend a relaxing evening under the stars together… with Neva… in a tent.


neva tries out the sleeping bags as the sun goes down



Actually, this was just a continuation of puppy training. The plan is to go backpacking this fall with the pup, but first we need her to get used to being in a tent. When our neighbor’s kids were little, they used to camp in a tent on their deck because the youngest would always get scared before 9 pm and run back into the house. I thought this could work for Neva, too. We could camp on the deck and if she got unruly or upset, we would bail and go inside. But there was no need to abandon ship because she was very sweet and cuddly throughout the night. She probably slept better than either of the humans. I think this backpacking thing just might work.

it’s a loungy puppy life

if we’re going to camp out, we may as well eat outside, too

blue moon rising

ready for zip up and lights out



Jeremy’s astrophysics retreat takes place in Boulder with the exception of one day held at our house in the mountains. My minor contribution is to help host the participants which includes a sit down dinner. Living outside of Boulder, we are accustomed to accommodating the restricted diets of our friends, but I got a stumper in this group: gluten-free vegetarian. In my opinion, gluten-free is pretty easy and vegetarian isn’t terrible, but the combination really whittled down my options. There were two ideals I had to balance: 1) that not serving meat to your guests is rude (per Chinese tradition) and 2) it is unacceptable to serve sub-par food to vegetarians. But I was up for the challenge, particularly because the one guest who was gluten-free vegetarian happens to be a genuinely nice and good person. Luckily, porcini are in season NOW.

here’s a pretty specimen (plus one in the background)

two buddies chilling out off trail



The idea was to serve something that everyone could enjoy and then the omnivores could have some kind of animal added to their dish. I decided to go with fried polenta cakes and pan-seared porcini. It was easy enough to hike up into the mountains to nab some choice mushrooms only because I knew they were flushing and I knew exactly where to look. For some extra color, I thought a nice roasted carrot purée would brighten the plate and lend some sweetness to the dish.

white wine, olive oil, vegetable oil, carrots, polenta, butter, thyme, salt, porcini



I started the day before, as I didn’t want to heat up the house cooking all day before dinner. I made the polenta and then pressed it into a baking dish to cool and solidify. A loaf pan works too if you want to slice your polenta that way. Once the polenta had set (about an hour or so), I popped it into the refrigerator to chill.

stir the polenta into the boiling water

when the polenta is done, stir in a pat of butter

pressed into a baking dish to cool



**Jump for more butter**