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at last the april showers

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Recipe: chinese shrimp and sizzling rice

When I hear a weather forecast on the radio for “a beautiful day”, I already know they mean sunshine and warm temperatures, because our society has got something against rain and snow and cold. But I have lots of good reasons for loving precipitation! The most obvious is the skiing, but recreation aside, our snow pack and rainstorms provide much-needed insurance against out-of-control wildfires in the mountains as well as water for all of the flat-landers downstream. Other bonuses include mushrooms (oh, the mushrooms!), wild berries, and wildlife that rely on moisture to survive and thrive. Don’t forget those stunning wildflower displays at the height of summer, or refreshing waterfalls and alpine lakes that are a joy to hike. Besides, rainy days make sunny days all the more delicious.

So yes, we are getting some belated April showers, at last! Sometimes it falls as snow, sometimes it falls as rain. At this point, I am happy with either one. Sure, I’d love a few more backcountry ski days, but I’m already four weeks into my trail running season. I could go either way and it’s all good. The longer days also mean more time for outdoor puppy play and training!


rain can give you rainbows

those clouds can create magic

neva wanted to show me her new favorite toy

i met an adorable 3 1/2 month old golden retriever, penny



I’ll be honest. My main desire for rain right now is so the mushrooms flush instead of petering out in another drought. Despite hitting the jackpot a couple of times, last summer was a crap season for mushrooms overall in Colorado. It was simply too dry. So you can imagine my delight when it rained for two days last week. Erin and I met shortly after sunrise to wade through freezing cold streams, carefully picking our way through mazes of branches while spotting and avoiding poison ivy. The conversation meandered from topic to topic, much like our path which wasn’t a path, but a series of points of interest that led us further into the woods and tall grasses.

plum blossoms – these will be good for plums come end of summer/early fall

picking wild catnip for the kitties (and dodging lurking leafless poison ivy stalks)

a pretty cluster of perfect oyster mushrooms

harvesting some more good finds



Despite her protests, I made Erin take all of the oyster mushrooms home. Part of the reason was because I know Jay, her husband (and also my friend), is crazy about wild mushrooms. The other part was because I had accumulated so much psychological freak out over poison ivy contamination with each hour we were foraging that my brain was about to explode. I’m just a little OCD… When we got to the cars, I told her I wanted her to keep the mushrooms as I began shedding my outer layers, turning them inside out, and stuffing them into plastic bags (to take home to wash). I wouldn’t have the time to clean and cook the mushrooms anyway.

I had plenty to get done at home like baking a batch of cookies to mail to my dad. Mom had pneumonia for the past couple of weeks and Dad took great care of her, so I felt he deserved a treat. Plus, he gave me this “recipe” for Chinese shrimp and sizzling rice. I put recipe in quotes because it was conveyed to me via phone conversation with a lot of shouting and hand-wavy quantities. A little bit of this. Some of that. Maybe some peas. I don’t want peas. Okay, no peas. I can only imagine if my parents had a food blog.


rice cakes



After some research, I did find a couple of recipes for homemade sizzling rice which involve steaming rice, then baking it low and slow, then deep frying it. I took the easy way out this time and bought Chinese sizzling rice cakes at an Asian supermarket. I’m showing you the packaging because that is the only way I can find it. It’s usually tucked somewhere among the dried noodles, but one time they moved them and I spent a half hour scouring the aisles before I located the rice cakes.

straw mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby bok choy, shaoxing wine, vegetable oil, chicken stock, white pepper, shrimp, rice cakes, egg white, salt, cornstarch, water, green onions, fresh ginger



The shrimp should first be mixed with Shaoxing wine, a half teaspoon of salt, and a little bit of egg white. Don’t use too much egg white or else you’ll wind up with a lot of cooked egg in the pan. You just want enough to coat the shrimp. The cornstarch should be mixed in last. I let the shrimp marinate for ten minutes on the counter, then I pop them in the freezer for another ten or fifteen minutes per my dad’s instructions. The freezing is just to get the shrimp cold and not to actually freeze them through. This probably keeps the shrimp from overcooking.

shaoxing wine, egg white, salt, cornstarch, shrimp (peeled, deveined, and butterflied)

add the shaoxing wine

toss with egg white

mix in the cornstarch



**Jump for more butter**

octoberings

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Recipe: shrimp and vegetable tempura

I’m trying to make the most of shoulder season – that period between summer season activities and winter season activities. Autumn is glorious, but it can also be a little frustrating with the back and forth between hot weather and snow. It’s far too sketchy for any skiing that won’t result in massive gouges on the bottoms of our skis. Hiking and trail running up high is a bit sloppy with the diurnal melt and freeze. We’re making due with whatever exercise we can get right now, all in the hopes that we won’t be sucking wind when we finally slap those skis on. Plus, Neva doesn’t care WHAT the season is nor WHAT the weather is doing, she just loves to be outside.


squiggly aspens

jeremy and neva after an icy hike up to the lake



My parents are back in Colorado for a couple of weeks to sample a season other than summer. They are not fans of winter and snow, and I’ve warned them that crazy (i.e. snowy) weather can happen any time between October and May, but they took the chance. Luckily, the snow has stayed up here in the mountains. It happened to be Dad’s birthday last week and the plan was to have my folks up to our house for a celebratory dinner. But Dad’s back was acting up and I didn’t want him driving the canyon, so we prepped as much as we could and then brought dinner down to cook at my parents’ place in Boulder. When I entertain, I typically plan the menu and let Jeremy pick the wines to pair. But whenever I cook for my parents, Dad picks the wines he wants to serve and I create the menu around the wines.

happy birthday, dad!



As darkness encroaches on both ends of the day, we find Neva requesting dinner earlier and earlier in the evenings. The orbit of the Earth around the Sun is messing with her internal doggy clock pea-brain. I have no idea how she’s going to deal with Daylight Saving ending in November. It’s a bit of an adjustment for me, too. More so for Jeremy. It seems we also cue on the daylight for dinnertime – eating as late as 10 pm in the summer, which I don’t really like. One of the positives of the winter months is that I feel good about eating dinner at 7 pm and having a few hours after dinner to digest. We also find ourselves dining out less in the darker months. I think that’s partly because we’re getting older and partly because I can cook some meals better at home for less than it costs to go out to eat. Jeremy and I still love to go out for sushi since it’s hard to source that much variety in fresh sushi-grade fish at home, but I have given up on ordering tempura because I find it far easier to make my own using my favorite ingredients for the dish.

kabocha squash, enoki mushrooms, broccolini, lotus root, shrimp

ice water, baking soda, egg, flour, mirin, hondashi, sugar, soy sauce



**Jump for more butter**

racing the sun

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Recipe: hamachi yellowtail crudo

We’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado for eleven years now. When we first arrived, a week of truly hot weather was about all one could expect of the summer months. Over the years, those temperatures are trending hotter and sticking around longer in summer. I should note that we are particularly observant of hot weather because WE HATE IT. So it was with great joy that we welcomed the return of the monsoon last week. That stupid high pressure cell that was sitting on top of us (and fanning the flames of that wildfire) shifted east so that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico (south of us) could deliver the goods in the form of rain and thunderstorms.


composite lightning strikes

lightning at sunset

rainbows, the marriage of sun and rain



Oddly, after a few good soaking rains, the clouds have been building up and then fizzling out. We can see rain over neighboring canyons and ridges, but there seems to be a giant sucker hole (blue hole in a sky of clouds) over our neighborhood at any given time. We don’t have air conditioning at our house, so we work hard to cool it at night and keep it as cool as possible during the sun’s march across the sky. Just today, Jeremy and I discussed the logistics of getting an evaporative cooler installed before next summer. It is most efficient in arid climates and it’s much cheaper to run than air conditioning.

For now, we are sucking it up and continuing with our summer schedule of trail runs, hikes, and paddles. The higher you climb, the cooler it is – at least if the atmosphere is adiabatic, which it kind of is (Jeremy says to disregard water vapor). The high country is beautiful right now. Lush, green carpets splattered with colorful wildflowers and lingering snowfields paint these rocky mountains above the dark mantles of conifer forests. We are running farther and climbing higher, racing against the season and racing ourselves. Actually, that’s only half true. Jeremy is racing against himself. I’m not racing anyone. I’m noodling along and stopping to look for mushrooms or checking on the progress of the huckleberries, snapping selfies and photos along the way, shouting hello to Mr. Rabbit so I don’t go startling Ms. Moose. This is why we run separately. But it’s nice when our two routes overlap and we can say hi.


after a steep climb, i wait for jeremy to arrive from the other side of the ridge

off days are meant for hikes with neva

jeremy refuels on the trail during his 17-miler

hiking with erin and banjo

paintbrush come in so many beautiful colors

lunch with a view at king lake



We still have two months of summer remaining, and yet it’s already impossible to do all the things we had hoped to accomplish before the next season moves in. I suppose you could say that just leaves more for next summer. Something I did manage to check off my list was making hamachi (yellowtail) crudo with finger lime pearls. I’ve been waiting until I could order some from Shanley Farms when the season started at the end of June and I finally got some!

radishes, orange oil, togarashi, vegetable oil, orange, flake sea salt, finger limes, hamachi (not pictured: ponzu sauce)



I first heard of finger limes when a friend in Australia asked if I had seen them here in the States. I hadn’t. These were originally discovered growing wild in Australia and have since slowly made their way to the U.S. To open the finger lime, I scored the rind around the middle and broke it open. Rolling the end of one half between my finger tips, the little pearls tumble out of their tight-packed quarters. It’s incredible, really. Each little pearl bursts with the tart juice of a lime when bitten. I figured these would be great with hamachi crudo because I wanted the acidity of the lime without the raw fish cooking on contact as it would with lime juice. Obviously, finger limes aren’t everywhere available (yet), so if you don’t have any, then just use a regular squeeze of lime juice just before serving.

score the rind around the middle and break the finger lime open

roll one end between your fingertips and watch the caviar fall out

completely empty!

pink pearls (sometimes they are other colors like green or yellow)



**Jump for more butter**