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Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Recipe: porcini elk sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo

After the eclipse, Jeremy and I gathered Neva and her snacks and drove out to Crested Butte once more before the semester gets underway this week. It’s nice to travel lonely mountain roads again. Most of the summer vacationers are done exploring Colorado’s mountainous western half, leaving it to locals and retirees and full-time nomads. The town of Crested Butte has quieted down, too, such that there is parking along Elk Avenue (the main drag) and nary a hiker on the trails. But there is plenty going on with or without visitors. Lower elevation wildflowers are looking tired and haggard now – the result of showing off for so many weeks, but the high country still holds stunning pockets of wildflowers in late August thanks to regular summer rains. And our summer storms continue to flirt with the sun and create dramatic skies and stunning rainbows. Crested Butte is Rainbowtown.


jeremy and neva above copper lake

the array of wildflowers at 11,700 feet

full double rainbow next to crested butte mountain

a rainbow and sunset lit virga from our deck (where we were grilling dinner)



Handfuls of yellow and red aspen leaves litter the starts of our hikes as if some carefree party goer dropped their celebratory confetti on their tipsy walk home. I’m not posting any photos just yet (although I did shoot some) because I don’t want you summer lovers to start freaking out… But winter is totally coming! Despite the warm sunny days, our mountain evenings have grown nice and cool with morning frost on the neighbors’ rooftops and cars. I sleep with the window open at night and wake in the morning, pulling the covers up around my face and wrapping an arm around Neva as she snuggles cozily between me and Jeremy instead of petitioning for breakfast. I feel as if the ragged pace of summer is coming to an end.

And yet the mushrooms keep happening and I can’t help but look for them. I think Colorado is experiencing an epic king (porcini) season – a very long, widespread, and good flush. Other varieties are doing well, too. I mistakenly expected the chanterelles to go big this month, but I think my previous two seasons were anomalies (the first was very early and the second was really crappy except for one amazing location). They have been all around, but I’m starting to see them come up in earnest now.


hello, my pretties

still on the small side, but looking good

porcini going strong



Summer is my season to slack off from cooking, but all of these mushrooms make me want to get back into the kitchen to try some new recipes. Considering the quantity of porcini I’ve collected, I have loaded up on frozen sautéed slices and dried slices, and still had fresh ones to address. The worst thing you could do as a forager is pluck choice wild mushrooms and allow them to languish in the refrigerator. I fell asleep at night rolling recipe ideas over in my brain that infiltrated my dreams. That’s nothing new, I always dream about food. I had fresh porcini, dried porcini, and elk Italian sausage (a gift from two of my favorite neighbors in Crested Butte, one of whom hunts!) – that screamed pasta to me. Tortellini. Porcini elk Italian sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo (broth) to be precise. I mean, if you’re going to incorporate some hard-to-come-by ingredients, why not make a pasta you’ve never made before? I’ll tell you now, so you don’t have to wonder, it was a complete hit and I served it to my mom for her home-cooked birthday dinner.

When you cook food from scratch, there is an enormous amount of flexibility in the ingredients and flavors you can incorporate. You also have the option of taking shortcuts if you simply don’t have the time or ability to make every component yourself. I say it is all good. The first step is to make the beef stock. It takes a little effort to prep and roast the ingredients, and a lot of time to cook the stock – about 6 hours at barely a simmer. If you cook your own beef stock, start the day before. I was tempted to speed up the process by chucking everything into my pressure cooker, but I wanted to try and make a clear stock this time for aesthetics. Boiling, which is what the pressure cooker does at higher pressure, turns it cloudy. Maybe in the future I’ll go the pressure cooker way, and it is also completely okay to simply purchase beef stock, just get a good quality one.


olive oil, beef chuck, beef marrow bones, carrot, celery tops, onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf

prepped

toss the carrots, onions, and beef with olive oil

roast the bones, meat, carrots, and onions



**Jump for more butter**

the spicy side of life

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Recipe: posole

Autumn in the mountains is a love affair with Indian Summer and early season winter snow storms. The trajectory of the sun across the sky incorporates a more horizontal component in the fall rather than shooting straight up high by 6 am in summer, which makes for cool morning trail runs that don’t require sunblock. Chilly nights mean we welcome Neva snuggling between us on the bed, but daytime temperatures remain pleasant enough that windows and deck doors let mountain air flow gently through the house. If we’re lucky, precipitation comes in frozen form. We were lucky this week.


we measured three inches at home

it got up to 6 inches in the backcountry



On our hike, Neva bounded and pounced in the snow for quite some time. I wonder what that little puppy brain remembers from last winter. She loves the snow so much, but does she understand that this happens each year or is every day a surprise for her? I suspect the latter. We saw a moose at one of the lakes, running away from us or the crazy windy horizontal snow, or both. Neva lost her mind, but she was leashed (this is why we keep her on a leash!), so she lost her mind in a 6 foot radius around Jeremy. She gets really excited when she sees horses, moose, elk, deer, cattle, people, grass blowing in the wind… pretty much anything. You can see the short video on my Instagram and hear Neva crying like a nut at the end.

But within 24 hours, the sun was back and the snow in town had melted away. Our local trails are crunchy underfoot with brown and yellow leaves that used to adorn the aspen trees above. The smell of autumn hangs on the air – musty and a little sweet. It smells wise to me, like it knows something that we don’t. Now is a good time to process photos from the fall shoot, because the majesty of autumn in the mountains is so fleeting that I sometimes forget what I saw.


sunset on the beckwith mountains

aspen leaves light up in the sun



I recently went through our chest freezer to take inventory of what has been lurking deep in the corners all year. I didn’t roast any green chiles at the end of this summer because I knew I had several bags adrift in the freezer sea as well as a new shipment of several pounds of gorgeous roasted red and green chiles from The Hatch Chile Store in New Mexico. Well, let’s just say we are going to be having a lot of green chile dishes this winter, which is perfect because one of my favorites is posole.

a pound of diced green chiles (skinned and seeded)

hominy, limes, garlic, green chiles, pork shoulder, dried new mexico red chiles, salt, oregano



This recipe, which I believe my mother-in-law gave me years ago, was posted way back in the day such that I felt it needed an update – especially since I now use my pressure cooker! I’ve doubled the recipe in the photos here, but the written recipe below is for a single batch. If you love posole, you’ll want to double it, for sure. I list instructions for both conventional stove top cooking and pressure cooker (you can also use a crock pot/slow cooker). If you don’t concern yourself with steps like de-fatting the broth or starting with dried hominy, this is relatively quick and easy to make. I include those steps, too – but they are all optional. While I had planned (and prefer) to make posole from dried hominy, I couldn’t find it in the three grocery stores I checked in Boulder – so ultimately I had to go with canned.

There are several bags of dried New Mexico red chiles in my pantry. Much like the state of my chest freezer, the chiles have not been properly labeled or organized. I grabbed the best looking whole chiles and discovered later that these were from the bag of HOT chiles. Use what heat level suits your tastes. I typically work with medium chiles because hot can be a bit too spicy for Jeremy and I find mild to be boring. A quick rinse with water renders the chile pods pliable so that you can lop off the stems and scrape out the seeds.


scraping the seeds from the chile pods

mincing garlic



**Jump for more butter**

people

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Recipe: lobster miso ramen

As last week wound down, we took advantage of our proximity to decent trails and got Neva out on the snow again. Even if the snow isn’t ideal, it’s good for her to get regular training and exercise on and in the snow. Eventually, we’d like to get her on some of the dog-friendly nordic trails in Crested Butte this season. On Friday, she had doggy day care so I could run errands on the flats. While in line at a store, I witnessed an argument break out among three people in the next line over. Each party behaved badly. Each party escalated the conflict. Eventually there was a gesture, profanities, a shove, a retaliatory shove. These three adults – well into their 60s and all of them strangers to one another – were no better than squabbling children. As soon as the shoving began, I stepped forward and broke it up. “What the hell is wrong with people?” I asked Jeremy as we drove up the canyon.


a fine day for a ski with the pup

someone needed a bath after a good day at doggy daycare



After giving Neva a bath outside, we found ourselves asking that question again the moment we turned on our public radio station and heard the news headlines. My social networks had exploded with expressions of grief, horror, anger, fear, blame, hope, sympathy, self-righteousness, ignorance… I closed my laptop and exhaled my frustrations, “What is WRONG with people?!” In the morning, we opted to remove ourselves to the high country where we could scout out the snow conditions. Neva stayed home to rest as she was still exhausted from her daycare exertions. It didn’t matter that the snow was thin and covered in rocks in places. It didn’t matter that there was windslab on some slopes and that it was warm enough for the snow to stick to and clump on our skis. I just wanted to get outside and sort through my feelings, my thoughts. Jeremy is the only person I can count on to speak rationally, thoughtfully, and sensibly most of the time. We both benefited from the exercise, getting outside and having the backcountry to ourselves, and being able to share our thoughts quietly with one another.

putting away the climbing skins

a slabby, sticky, sloppy snowpack



We spent the rest of the weekend working and giving wide berth to frothing-at-the-mouth Facebook comment fights. It was a good time for comfort food. A couple of years ago, I had received a lobster ramen recipe from the PR machine of a local chef. Lobster ramen sounds divine, right? I mean, there is lobster – and then there is ramen. Boom! But after reading through the recipe, it wasn’t what I was craving. I think my Asianness demanded more Asian-y flavors, and this recipe was not only heavy on European interpretation, but it was also ridiculously involved. So I sat on the idea of lobster ramen until I found something more in tune with my tastes. Lobster miso ramen delivers on the flavors, textures, and it can be quite simple and quick to make.

toasted nori, white beech mushrooms, cooked ramen, green onions, hondashi granules, white miso paste, butter, lobster



You can probably find most of the ingredients at a typical grocery store that has a well-stocked Asian food aisle. For dashi (bonito fish soup stock), I use hondashi instant granules because they store so easily in my refrigerator. That’s something you probably need to get from an Asian grocer. As for the ramen, I had some leftover dried ramen to move from my pantry since my search for fresh ramen noodles at the Asian grocery store came up empty. I also read that curly ramen is better for miso broths because the miso tends to cling to those crooks in the noodles.

simmer the dashi and add the mushrooms and cooked lobster meat



**Jump for more butter**