roasted porcini with gremolata gluten-free chocolate chip cookies venison with morel sauce herb and floral pasta


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archive for February 2016

never gonna give you up

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Recipe: cornflake chocolate chip cookies

Remember what I said about everything being relative and how enduring terrible windstorms made the horrible windstorms seem not so bad after all? Right. The winds were only gusting to 55 mph the other day, so we packed up the pup and some gear for a little ski tour. It always feels worse in the parking lot because parking lots offer zero shelter, but once you are in the trees, it gets better. Except this time the couple of inches of fresh snow turned into a ground blizzard even in the trees. Still, we were happy to get outside and get the lungs pumping. Neva couldn’t care less about blowing snow or mature conifers dancing in the wind as if it were a rave. That pup is clearly happiest romping through the snow. None of us can give up snow.


a ground blizzard starting up



Sometimes we ski down with Neva on a leash, which requires that the skier maintain a steady speed and remain in complete control so that no puppies or people are harmed. Other times, Jeremy will ski down first while I hold Neva on leash. When he gets to a stopping point, he’ll call out and I’ll tell her to go find Jeremy and let her go. She tears off like a maniac and usually ends up wherever he is. A couple of times though, Neva has veered off into the woods. The last time she did it, she got stuck in a big snow drift and when I called to her, she ran back to me then ran to Jeremy upon my command. Treats don’t seem to have greater value than “sweet sweet freedom”, but we figured out what does (for now): her tennis ball. I tucked it into Jeremy’s pack before we left the house.

The whole way up, we worked on “heel” and “trail” to keep Neva from wandering in front of our skis or pulling orthogonally. It’s hard for her to control herself because the snow makes her SO EXCITED, but she is improving each time we ski with her. On the way back down, we ripped (climbing) skins and locked into ski mode. Neva did great running alongside Jeremy. For steeper sections, it’s more fun for all involved if we can take the hills unattached (no leash). I had Neva’s leash in my hand and before Jeremy took off down the hill, he produced the orange tennis ball. Suddenly, all of her world became that ball. He skied off and I told her to wait. She sat in the snow, but her front legs were trembling with eagerness and you could hear Neva whimpering over the howling wind. The moment Jeremy came to a stop, her front paw began to twitch. He waved to me and I said, “Go!” as Neva flew down the hill leaving cold smoke in her wake. I think I’m going to order 60 more of those orange balls (she likes the orange ones, the yellow ones aren’t as interesting for some reason).


now that’s a happy girl



Once home, Neva took a big drink of water, ate some snacks, and then sprawled out in a sunny spot on the floor for a well-deserved nap. As Jeremy reached for a chocolate chip cookie on the counter, I stopped him mid-reach. “Not that batch,” I pointed, “THAT batch.” I had been recipe testing cookies over the weekend because I hadn’t made chocolate chip cookies in years. It’s a wonderful feeling to have a recipe you can always count on. I used to bake a cornflake chocolate chip cookie recipe all the time when I lived at sea level. It’s a recipe I got from an ex-boyfriend’s mother that was a hit with all of my co-workers, graduate department, and colleagues for over a decade. Then I moved to Colorado and the cookies didn’t bake right anymore. I made several adjustments and tanked several batches for the first year. After a while, I gave up. You hear this from a lot of people who moved from sea level to high altitudes – they just stopped baking cookies.

With another decade of baking – this time at elevation – under my belt, and this great article on the science of chocolate chip cookies from The Food Lab (it’s Kenji week here at Butter headquarters), I decided to give it another shot. It’s not the ultimate chocolate chip cookie that I am after, I just want my cornflake chocolate chip cookies to not suck.


vanilla, cornflakes, flour, dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, baking soda, salt, dark brown sugar, butter



The first rule for high altitude baking is to stick with the original recipe. Sometimes they turn out with zero alterations, other times it’s just a small tweak, and then on rare occasion it requires a massive overhaul of the original recipe. I basically went with a mashup of Kenji’s recipe and my cornflake chocolate chip cookie recipe – which is a chocolate chip cookie with crushed cornflakes in the dough.

whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together

crush the cornflakes with a rolling pin

chop the chocolate



**Jump for more butter**

exploding eggplants

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Recipe: baba ganoush

Over the weekend, Neva spent a lot of time smooshing her little puppy body against the double-cell honeycomb blinds that insulate our glass deck door. This is her way of indicating that she’d like to go out on the deck very much please why don’t you just open the door and let me outside. Unfortunately, little Neva doesn’t understand that going out on the deck is risky business when snow is flying horizontally into the next county and the big Ponderosa pines are bending worriedly under the crush of 70 mph wind gusts. When it is this windy, there isn’t a lot of outside anything for her besides (very brief) potty breaks. But she is still a puppy – 10.5 months old and most definitely a puppy. Neva gets to play tug and chase her toys up and down the stairs when the weather is blowing like it is now. Our threshold for suck is usually wind gusts greater than 50 mph.


before the storm

throw the ball! throw the ball! for the love of god, throw the baaaaaaaaaall!!!!



After you experience windstorms like we experience on the Front Range, anything below 50 mph winds is fair game. It requires that you get out and take advantage while the weather isn’t impossibly shitty. Ever wake up to a gorgeous day and think, “I should get out for a run, but I’ll do it tomorrow,” and then tomorrow is a tornado? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all relative, you know. The old route I used to skate ski was so hard, but my new route REALLY kicks my butt which makes skating the old route feel not so bad at all. Snow conditions were pretty craptastic on our most recent ski tour, but… it was just great to be outside. If we waited to do things until everything was perfect, we’d never do anything. Ever.

snow cover getting sparse near tennessee mountain hut

cute little ski hut

jeremy patiently waits for me to finish taking pictures



We largely ignored Valentine’s Day – working, eating leftover pizza for dinner, playing with the puppy in the house, and watching behind the scenes reels for OK Go’s music videos. Hopefully we’ll catch a break in the weather soon (tomorrow, please) and get the pup and ourselves back out for some exercise. Sometimes the wind will rage all morning and then around noon it will settle down for a couple of hours as if on lunch break and resume again later in the afternoon. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what happened last week while I was making baba ganoush.

eggplant, tahini, kosher salt, garlic, lemon, parsley, olive oil



Whenever I have good baba ganoush (eggplant dip) in a restaurant, I fall in love with it. Then I go home and make a batch, and I fall out of love with it after three bites. What gives? I did a little research and decided to try The Food Lab’s version. Kenji does several things differently, all of which result in a creamy dreamy final baba ganoush. First, you need to roast the eggplant. You can do this either on the grill (preferred for the smoky flavor) or under a broiler. I opted for the broiler because it seemed easier. I’ve always scored my eggplants before roasting them in the oven because it’s supposed to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Kenji determined that more moisture evaporates from the eggplant when you DON’T score the skin because at some point the skin will bust open and bye bye water vapor! So that’s what I did. [I made a half recipe in the photos.]

the eggplant on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet

it exploded



**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**