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pot pie season

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Recipe: pheasant chanterelle pot pie

Colorado has been sitting under a trough (low pressure) of late that has delivered rain, fog, cold, and even snow in the higher elevations. I’ve been casually catching fall colors when I can, but mostly I made a point of enjoying them rather than trying to make photos. I mean, you can always take iPhone snaps, which is mostly what I do these days, but you can also dedicate time, energy, and effort in making some exceptional images. A pretty hectic summer left me burned out when the fall colors came around, such that I couldn’t see myself doing the fall shoot well and then diving into my first hunting season. So I gave myself some time off from the shoot to catch up on a lot of work, do some much-needed research, and take care of things at home.


flaming and gorgeous

i love to stand in the stands

jeremy and neva checking out the local aspens



Something Jeremy and I let slide this summer was Neva’s training. We spent a good bit of time training her to swim between our paddleboards or run alongside the bike, but we stopped working with the e-collar which our trainer had taught us to use back in March. There had been a bad episode in the spring that pretty much left me in tears (Neva seemed to be fine after 5 seconds). Neva had bolted out of sight on the soccer field and it was so windy we couldn’t hear anything as we ran after her. I used the collar, but couldn’t see or hear any feedback, so I boosted the stimulation and tapped it again until I was on the next field and saw her leaning up against Jeremy for comforting. Apparently, Jeremy saw her stop after one of the zaps and she turned to run back to him. As she ran to him, I was still coming around the other side of the field and couldn’t see her and did a boost and tap which made her cry out and jump. The whole thing made me want to throw the e-collar away forever. I silently wiped away tears the whole walk home because Jeremy said we should act as if everything is normal so as not to alarm her. I later consulted with Claire, got reassurances and advice for the future, and promptly stopped using the e-collar. I hated that I had hurt my baby dog.

But we decided to try it again this weekend with leash work and you know what? Neva was wonderful. We hardly needed to use the collar (and at very very low levels) and she was so responsive and happy on her hikes despite encountering lots of other hikers including children (little people are particularly exciting because they are at eye level), two moose, other dogs (who were not well-behaved at all), and runners. She trotted alongside Jeremy, looking up to him every few seconds, trail wagging, a slack leash, and slowing herself down when he said, “whoa” or “heel” or “no pull”. I don’t feel Neva ever needs to be off leash in our big wide wildernesses, but if she can be on leash and enjoy her time outside as a good girl, that’s all we ever really wanted. So that was huge progress.


another aspen stand with a good neva

look at that slack leash!



I’ve been in fall cleaning mode because somehow I am always six months late tackling spring cleaning. The chest freezer was in need of attention because it was packed to the gills with vodka infusions, freezer jams, meats, mushrooms, fruit, nuts, ice creams, butter, homemade broth, green chiles. Things get lost in there and don’t emerge until four years later when you are trying to find a place to store your 2017 huckleberries. It was time to start making room by eating stuff. One of my Crested Butte neighbors likes to hunt pheasant. I think he likes hunting them more than eating them, so when he learned that I LOVE pheasant, he pulled one out of their freezer this summer and gave it to me! I knew just the thing to make… a pot pie with some of my foraged wild mushrooms.

chanterelles from august

cleaned and sliced

sauté with some butter

ready to freeze or eat



There wasn’t time to make and shoot the recipe until last week when it coincidentally cooled off by a good 20 degrees. That’s why I butter sautéed my chanterelles in August and chucked them into the freezer for a month until I could get around to using them. My preference would have been to roast the pheasant and shred the meat for the pot pie filling, but 1) it didn’t have any skin and 2) there was buck shot scattered throughout. This is only my second pheasant I’ve prepared, but I feel more comfortable dicing the meat so I can remove any shot and feathers. I used all of the meat I could and then froze the carcass to make pheasant broth later because it’s delicious and because I hate wasting food. The pheasant broth in this pie is from the previous pheasant carcass.

the filling: potatoes, lima beans, salt, bay leaves, butter, pheasant, pepper, chanterelles, onion, flour, more butter, pheasant broth

diced and prepped

simmer the potatoes in the broth with the bay leaves

strain out the potatoes and reduce the broth



**Jump for more butter**

i’m just getting started

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**

all mushrooms all the time

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Recipe: porcini tacos

It’s getting to be ridiculous – all of these mushrooms popping up in the mountains! What I mean is that this summer’s mushroom flush is simultaneously wonderful and crazy. As a resident of the mountains, a good mushroom flush means we’ve been getting a nice helping of summer rains. Summer rains keep the wildfires at bay and instead of hearing “crunch crunch crackle” when you walk through the woods, it’s a softer sound underfoot indicative of the previous day’s afternoon showers. We are seeing so many varieties of mushrooms popping up that it’s hard not to marvel at the diversity of life. Diversity in a natural setting makes for a healthier whole. Diversity is important and holds greater value than our short-sighted human brains can possibly imagine. I don’t want just ONE kind of mushroom growing in my mountains. I don’t want ONE kind of corn to be grown on our farms. I don’t want ONE kind of dog to be raised in our society. And I definitely don’t think one race or gender or sexuality or religion should reign supreme in my country. As my favorite guy commented, “…a monoculture in any setting is weak, boring, sad, and lonely.” Diversity matters.


my favorite guy finding some chanterelles

a beautifully squat and solid porcini

a party of amanitas (bezerkers) which are gorgeous and poisonous



So far, it’s been a banner year for porcini and chanterelles and the season isn’t even close to being done! Last year was so dry and depressing that I was happy to observe any kind of mushroom popping out of the ground this summer. Sure, I am always snapping trophy shots of those mushrooms we covet (those choice edibles), but they are ALL beautiful and fascinating to me. I know a dozen edible mushrooms and a handful of poisonous or deadly mushrooms and then a few more species that fall somewhere in between (sort of tasty, not so tasty, taste terrible, can make you sick), but it’s quite amazing to happen upon a small patch of forest floor that is erupting in mushrooms, no matter the type. It’s good to see life flourish and thrive. Everybody plays a part, whether they (or we) know it or not.

not bad for a morning’s effort

teensy delicate fairy inkcaps growing out of the moss on a boulder

our ruddy rocky mountain porcini are boletus rubriceps

i named this one arturo

neva inspects a perfect little bouchon



Summer is the season I recommend most of our friends come to visit us, because it’s the “nicest” weather and easiest passage in the mountains. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I should modify “summer” with “summer, except when the mushrooms flush”. I know most people think mushroom season means you go for a leisurely hike, find some perfect mushrooms, skip back home, and cook up a gourmet feast to eat. I think that’s the dilettante’s way of mushroom foraging. No, we are a little more serious than that. We watch rain history, check old patches, recon on and off trail – and that’s all BEFORE the flush. Once the mushrooms go, it’s a bit of frenzy to cover a lot of terrain, collect responsibly, field dress (clean and cut out any wormy bits and worms), process the mushrooms at home (true cleaning and dealing with all the worms you didn’t get in the field), preserve (dry or cook/freeze), and in my case – test and shoot recipes. It feels like my life for the past three weeks has been all mushrooms, all the time. But it’s worth it when I pull a bag of chanterelles out of the freezer in February.

But today’s recipe is best made with fresh mushrooms. I’m using fresh porcini here. You can use any mushroom you fancy. We’re going to beer-batter thick slices of porcini, deep fry them, and serve the slices in a taco. You could use milk instead of beer, but I really prefer beer in the batter – it makes for a tastier fry. Ready?


beer (or use milk, but really… beer), flour, salt, baking powder, and a mushroom

slicing the mushroom and removing the yellow pores from the cap (a little wormy and can be bitter)

whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together



**Jump for more butter**