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wild about you

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Recipe: seared duck breast with huckleberry gastrique

I bet you think I think about winter all the time. Well, it’s true. When I’m running up a trail in summer, I imagine skiing back down if only it were winter (or even just running straight into a snowbank to cool off). But the converse is also true. I think about summer in winter. Just the other day I took Neva for a hike on the local trails when the snow was falling at a good clip, and pointed out places on the white ground where shinleaf, pasque flowers, and other flora bloom in the months of long daylight. For me, it’s all about the place and how it changes so dramatically from season to season, but still remains constant in my heart. I have noted where the best aspen stands reside. I have strong mental associations with those special locales that offer up chanterelles, porcini, wild strawberries, wild raspberries, and most of all – huckleberries. Even more so if I can ski there in winter!


neva digs this weather, and any weather for that matter



Perhaps I’m mistaking my obsession with huckleberries as “thinking about summer” despite the fact that they only make their entrance in the last half of the season. I forage for (and freeze most of) those blessed berries like crazy for a few weeks and research ways to prepare and share them for the rest of the year. This week I finally tested a seared duck and huckleberry gastrique (a sweet and sour sauce) recipe that has been on my brain for a long while and it just so happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary! Truth be told, our anniversary sneaks up on us each year. We rarely plan anything around it. On a whim, I picked Jeremy up from work and took him to The Kitchen for a light snack of oysters and sparkling rosé as a “celebration”. Once home, I realized we had some leftovers from my recipe testing, so I said, “How about that for dinner?” and Jeremy nodded enthusiastically.

happy 19th anniversary!



The biggest obstacle for me to make this recipe was not huckleberries, but duck. I’ve had a lot of trouble tracking down duck breasts in Boulder (go figure – locals, if you have a source, please share the information with me!). As luck would have it, my friends Erin and Jay gave me a couple of frozen wild duck breasts recently. They happen to have friends who like to hunt duck, but don’t care to eat them (what the!??!). While that was happening, I went ahead and ordered some frozen farmed duck breasts online. So now I had two kinds of duck breasts! The farmed duck is White Pekin and the flesh is much lighter in color and milder in flavor than the deep burgundy and more “gamey” wild duck. I was psyched to compare the two. The wild duck breasts didn’t come with skin, which is a bit of a shame because duck skin is the best thing ever.

duck breasts (farmed and wild), huckleberries, roast chicken stock, beef and chicken stock blend, zinfandel, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt (not pictured: black pepper)



Searing the duck is no big deal and pretty straightforward. Making the huckleberry gastrique is what takes up the bulk of the time and effort – mostly babysitting liquids as you reduce them to syrups. I used roast chicken stock instead of duck stock, because I happen to have that on hand at any given time. [I tend to save all roast chicken carcasses and bones in gallon freezer bags and make large batches of stock in my pressure cooker.] I couldn’t find veal stock anywhere and decided to substitute half beef broth and half roast chicken stock instead. The things you can learn from a Google search! If you have access to huckleberries, use them. If you don’t, consider ordering frozen hucks online. I don’t know how well blueberries will work in place of huckleberries – probably fine, but blueberries lack the nice acidity and floral notes that make the huckleberry so special. As for the zinfandel, the original recipe appears on the Dry Creek Vineyard website and calls for the Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel, obviously. We were really underwhelmed with the 2014, so I think you can perhaps save yourself some coin and buy a fruity, low-tannin zinfandel for the gastrique.

To start the gastrique, you essentially make a caramel syrup from the sugar and the red wine vinegar. This is what gives the gastrique its signature tart-sweet flavor which pairs so perfectly with huckleberries and duck. I reduced the vinegar-sugar mixture down to about a third of the initial volume until it was syrupy, but not too syrupy. It will thicken quite a bit when it cools.


combine the sugar and red wine vinegar

reduce until syrupy

it should be thick, but flowing when cooled



**Jump for more butter**

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**

chowder time

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Recipe: chanterelle bacon corn chowder

I want to thank all of the folks who shared advice on puppy pukiness on car rides. We gave Neva a ginger chew 30 minutes before driving to Crested Butte last weekend and she puked about 20 minutes into the drive. I’ve become an expert at catching her puke in a plastic grocery bag, but sometimes she pulls away at the last minute and so I’ve also developed expertise at cleaning up puppy vomit. Our next step is to try dramamine per our vet’s instructions. On the drive back home, Neva kept it together until we neared Cottonwood Pass (the dirt road up is curvy and bumpy), but that time I caught it all in a bag! Once at the pass, we decided to take her out for a little hike, which made her VERY happy.


life with puppy is not all rainbows, but in crested butte it kinda *is* all rainbows

looking back at the collegiate peaks from cottonwood pass

fuzzy seeds

jeremy walks neva to the view east



Neva is about five and a half months old now and we suspect she’s entering that adolescent stage. She walks nicely on the leash when she feels like it, but when she wants to run around with Snickers (a little chihuahua-doberman mix) or anything else, she pulls like a maniac. So I got out Kaweah’s old Halti collar, also known as the gentle leader. It’s supposed to reduce pulling and render your dog obedient without hurting them, but most dogs I know really dislike it until they get used to the collar. Kaweah would melt when we put it on her. My in-laws’ dog merely sees the Halti in the room and he settles down. Kaweah’s Halti was big on Neva, so she was able to wriggle out of it a few times (Jeremy bought a smaller size after work today). We used to think Neva would surpass Kaweah’s weight and size, but now it’s looking that she will be the same size or smaller than Kaweah. Eventually, it appeared to work and we were able to walk peacefully, until Snickers came by…

at first she struggled

then there was demoralized acceptance

after much pawing and squirming, she managed this



This week marks the end of foraging for me. I’m done with the chanterelles and the huckleberries – or rather, they’re done. It feels good to be able to hike normally again without constantly scanning the ground and stumbling forward tripping over rocks and tree roots. My favorite part is the hunt. I love finding mushrooms and hucks. My next favorite part is the photography. I like shooting the pretty specimens I encounter. Then there is the actual collection which can be backbreaking and/or dirty work. My least favorite part of the whole process is cleaning the mushrooms (sorting hucks can be a lot of work, too). So when the season ends, I’m sad but I’m also glad.

more pretties off the trail



When September rolls around I find myself in the mood for some kind of corn chowder before the wonderfully sweet local corn is done for the year. Seeing as I had some chanterelles, it made sense to have the two ingredients share the stage. And then there’s bacon…

bacon, onion, garlic, chanterelles, chicken stock, pepper, wine, cream, potatoes, lemon, celery, corn, salt, thyme, dill

coarse chop the mushrooms

mise en place



**Jump for more butter**