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something to distract us

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Recipe: sous vide ribs

We are into our second week without Neva while she is studying hard at doggy training camp. We miss her terribly. I catch myself scrolling through puppy pictures on Instagram because I’m not sure how to deal with life without a dog, even though I know she’s coming home soon. Oh, but the truth is we are keeping ourselves entertained while Neva is at school. We figured a weekend trip to Crested Butte would be much simpler with just the humans. It’s sort of a casual drawn out celebration of our 20th anniversary. Dad instructed me to go to their place in Boulder and select any bottle of wine in his collection for us to enjoy, with the promise that they would celebrate with us this summer with “an even better bottle of wine!” I don’t really drink wine, so it’s actually a bottle of wine for jeremy. But I find it funny and sweet, because my parents are so very fond of him.


he chose this one because dad had seven more bottles of it



It was an oddly easy and strange weekend in Crested Butte. There was no new snow, but we didn’t feel like skiing groomers. Erin told me that we have become totally Coloradofied. We skated and uphill skied, worked, and celebrated a friend’s birthday. And we both found ourselves muttering “I miss little Neva,” at random times throughout the days. Of course, with the Daylight Saving time shift, we lost an hour Sunday morning. That would have been fine except 1) we wanted to wake up early to uphill ski before hitting the road to go home and 2) we stayed up late watching an episode of The Great British Baking Show. So we both felt particularly awful when my alarm went off at 5 am, but catching sunrise on the mountain was worth every bit of mental pukiness.

preparing to skin up the mountain

gorgeous views from the nordic trails

roasty toasty enough to warrant short sleeves

the fleeting surprise sunrise colors on an early morning uphill climb



I’ve been playing around with the sous vide when the mood strikes me and I have to say I just love this thing more and more. One of the first recipes I tried back in November was barbecue ribs. Kenji has a lot of great tutorials on Serious Eats, with plenty of clear explanations and options. The ribs turned out so beautifully, we had a dinner party just to serve the ribs to our friends (who also gave them the thumbs up). It’s quite simple as long as you have at least 12 hours to sous vide the ribs. I haven’t tried this on baby back ribs as I tend to prefer St. Louis-cut ribs because they’re meatier. You merely need a rack or two of ribs, a dry rub, liquid smoke, and barbecue sauce. I list my favorite dry rub and barbecue sauce recipes below, but you can substitute your favorite versions – or if you’re short on time, you can purchase them. Kenji does have a way to achieve the pink smoke ring, but I find it completely unnecessary since it’s mostly aesthetic, so I skip that step. Regardless of whether or not you want a pink smoke ring, I think it’s worth giving his entire tutorial a once over if you’re serious about your sous vide ribs. Plus, it’s always good to learn things!

start with a dry rub, liquid smoke, and a rack of ribs

peel off the papery membrane on the back of the rack

cut into 3- or 4-rib sections

coat with dry rub



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yes i am home

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Recipe: chinese red-cooked pork

Each day last week listed snow in the weather forecast for Crested Butte. That was mostly a good thing. Mostly. It was time for us to head back home for stuff like work and sanity, although we are only able to be in Crested Butte because of the internet (and the ability to work online). At first we thought we might be able to get home Thursday, then it looked more like Saturday. Well, I’m glad we didn’t plan to leave Thursday because that was (yet another) powder day. Remember how Crested Butte got four feet of snow the first week of January? They received another five feet in the second week of January. Do the math. Four feet plus five feet equals some of the best powder skiing ever.


jeremy drops into one of our stashes

how the snow piled up in our front yard



The plan was to ski Friday morning if the mountain received 6 inches or more overnight or to skin up the mountain if it was less. I awoke at 5 am when Neva kicked me in her sleep (she starts off in her bed, but always winds up on ours in the middle of the night). The mountain reported a few inches. I checked the pow cam, then three different weather forecasts. Our window of least snow had moved up a day. I woke Jeremy and we discussed our options in the dark as Neva began to petition for dinner (breakfast). If we wanted to leave that day, there was much to do in order to button up the place – wash towels and linens, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub the kitchen, dishes, empty the refrigerator, clean bathrooms, dust, take trash and recycling to the dump, pack up, unplug, clear snow off the middle eaves. Six hours later, we were on the road. Five hours after that, we were home.

We spent a glorious month in Crested Butte, which is the longest we’ve been there in one go. Jeremy didn’t think I could do it because I usually start to lose my marbles after 2+ weeks, but I managed. Barely. As much as I love Crested Butte – and I really do love it – I get more done in Nederland. Thankfully, we were greeted with fresh snow and a calm atmosphere. Positively the best weather the Front Range can offer between November and April. Living in Gale Force Wind Central, you learn not to take days like that for granted. So we got out to enjoy this otherworldly (some might call it the Upside Down) version of home.


sunrise skate ski through the hall of trees

backcountry skiing with neva

hoar frost

close up of the crystals



The first order of business was to ski, because exercise keeps us all nice nice. The second order of business was to cook. Chinese New Year’s Eve is Friday, January 27th. I perused my list of “want to make” Chinese recipes and settled on red-cooked pork (hong shao rou). When I was little, my grandma and parents made it with a bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder cooked super tender and infused with the flavors of the heady, savory braising liquid. If you search online recipes, you will discover that most people are cooking with pork belly these days, which is far more luxurious than a humble pedestrian pork shoulder (but let’s all agree that pork shoulder is a truly wonderful cut). It’s best to get pork belly with the skin on, which my local Whole Foods doesn’t have. As my mom complained this summer, “They trim the skin off the pork belly – that’s the best part!” If your local Asian grocer has a butcher’s counter, then you can probably score skin-on (maybe even bone-in) pork belly. That’s what you want.

Other ingredients you should pick up while you’re at the Asian market are: Shaoxing cooking wine, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Shaoxing is also known as huang jiu (yellow wine), but you can substitute dry sherry in its place. If you can’t find light soy sauce, using your regular soy sauce should work. The dark soy sauce is different though – it’s less salty, has a sweet finish, and adds a deep, rich color to the dish.


green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar, star anise, pork belly, shoaxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce

close up of the bottle labels



While researching recipes, I decided to go with the one that was the most straightforward. But it didn’t include ginger, which was in another recipe I liked. In these instances, the only solution is to consult with Mom. We exchanged a few texts and I was off to the races. Earlier this evening, after I had finished cooking, my dad called me.

“Mommy says you asked her about how to make hong shao rou. You should have asked me. Okay, tell me how you cooked it.” Before I could even describe the process, he interjected, “Now, first you have to cook the pork belly in cold water.” See, my dad gets SO excited about cooking and he is SO certain that his way is the right way, but it’s quite the ordeal to squeeze a reliable recipe out of the guy.

“I did that, Dad.”

“But did you scoop the scum away? You have to boil the yucky stuff off first.”

“DAD! THIS IS WHY I ASKED MOM AND NOT YOU!”


cover the pork belly with cold water

remove the scum from the surface of the liquid

slice the pork belly into 1.5-inch pieces



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keep giving

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Recipe: bourbon vanilla bean paste

I’m slurping on a spicy, hot bowl of posole right now while snow goes hurtling past our house on some pretty enthusiastic winds. It is my hope that the soup will do battle with this cold that has settled into my throat and chest. I guess my logic is to burn the heck out of the cold before it progresses. Our Thanksgiving week was free of turkey and pumpkin, but full of long walks and fetch sessions with Neva. Our Crested Butte neighborhood was quiet as many people were traveling for the holiday, which further allowed us to pursue our plans for introversion. Of course, I had to run out to meet my friends’ new puppies – a brother and sister – 15 week old Australian shepherds.


neva waits to indulge in her thanksgiving plate of beef and bacon

meet little abbey exploring the snow (sorry, i didn’t get a photo of blue boy – but he’s cute!)



Snow did arrive mid-week and we were able to get out and reacquaint ourselves with our various skis. That gliding motion is akin to flying – it’s addictive. But timing is everything and sometimes you have to hit the trail or the mountain before the snow gets skied up and/or melted away. We managed to skin uphill on the mountain, skate on the nordic trails, and get a nice ski tour at Lily Lake. A decent jumpstart to our ski season.

after skinning up, jeremy skied out ahead of the first chair on opening day

getting our skate legs (and arms and everything) back into the groove

ski touring the beautiful backcountry

no tinsel here – our icicles are the real deal



Now that Thanksgiving has passed, everything pumpkin is now becoming everything peppermint. Christmas trees are going up and gift shopping has kicked into high gear. If you are looking for a simple, but extra awesome homemade gift for a baker in your life, might I suggest some bourbon vanilla bean paste? I first laid eyes on a bottle of this luxurious wonderfulness at the King Arthur Flour store in Vermont over three years ago while on a press junket but opted to leave it on the shelf when I wondered if the TSA would confiscate it. Then my mother-in-law gave me a bottle during a visit last New Year. She loves the stuff and wanted to spread the gospel. I used it for special recipes and found the vanilla bean paste to be easier than a vanilla bean and a bigger flavor boost than vanilla extract. When I (sadly) ran out last month, I went online looking for more and even contemplated purchasing a gallon of it to get a better price per unit volume.

this stuff… the stuff of vanilla dreams

my last spoonful



But you know me… the wheels turned another 360 degrees and I wondered how hard could it possibly be to make your own? Turns out, it’s not hard at all. This magical potion consists of three ingredients: vanilla beans, sugar (in some form), and booze (optional, but good). That’s it. And there isn’t any waiting around or crazy kitchen ninja stuff going on with the recipe. It’s quite straightforward, which is why it makes such a great gift for the bakers in your life, and for yourself as well!

bourbon, agave nectar, vanilla beans



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