It’s May 1. Again. I actually love this time of year when we start to see the faintest hints of green in the mountains and the pasque flowers are adding splashes of lavender where there were only the browns of a winter-ravaged landscape before. Down on the flats, the flowering trees are in the second act of their show and everyone has a bounce in their step because it FEELS like real spring. But May 1 is also the day I lost my sister, so it’s a bittersweet time. I started out buying flowers in remembrance on this day over a decade ago. They were for her, but over the years I have come to understand that they are for her and for me – a gentle balm for this sorrow deep in my chest.
for kris… and for me
Jeremy was on travel for the first half of last week, so it was just the girls – me and my little Neva. I made sure to take her out for her training and fetch sessions before it started snowing mid-week, and on our walk home Monday evening, she was attacked by another dog on our neighborhood trail. It was one of those situations where both dogs were pulling to greet each other and then the other dog (who was twice her size) suddenly jumped on Neva and bit her twice before I could beat it off and its owner wrestled it to the ground. Ugh. I was so upset with myself and that idiot dog owner (because he knew his dog was aggressive). Luckily, Neva didn’t have any open wounds and only lost a few tufts of her hair. The look she gave me when she cried out broke my heart. I held her and comforted her as I checked her over, but she was over it within a couple of minutes and back to her happy-go-lucky self. I don’t drink, but I could have used one.
my snuggle buddy
It was also the week of Erins. Over a decade of living in the mountains has turned this former social butterfly into a bit of a recluse. I used to put up with a lot of drama and crap from people who sucked the energy out of me, but I’ve stopped engaging with toxic individuals and life is infinitely better without the bullshit. I like my time alone, or with my dog, or with my guy, or in the mountains away from other people. And I like my one-on-one time with good friends I love and trust – like Erin and Erin.
meeting up with denver erin at t|aco for a hosted lunch
hunting and scoring giant, gorgeous oyster mushrooms with mountain erin
To cap off the week, we got snow, and quite a nice bit of it! It seems that the only people who are never surprised and/or upset by mid-spring snowfall are the folks who backcountry ski and ride the stuff. It is not uncommon, it just works against conventional thinking which is based on some unrealistic expectation from other geographical locations. No, we are WAITING for it. It feeds our souls. Saturday brought a good 18 inches to our local backcountry, so Jeremy and I skinned up to get some turns in the very fluffy, very mid winter blower powder. If you had told me it was February, I would not have have questioned it.
so so so so so happy!
jeremy hoofs it up for another lap
jeremy can’t get enough of the pow pow
Saturday was our fun day, and Sunday was Neva’s fun day. The storm cleared out overnight and Sunday morning was blue skies and sunshine. We took Neva out early before the snow slopped up with rising daytime temperatures. Our expectations were low, because it’s Neva, and she had been cooped up in the house for a couple of days. But you know what? She was the best she has EVER been in the backcountry. She wasn’t perfect (far from it), but she didn’t pull nearly as much and she looked up at Jeremy every few steps. She encountered lots of other skiers, snowshoers, dogs, and distractions and she was a pretty good girl. We still work with her daily on basic training and focus, and I think it is finally translating to the backcountry. The best part? She had a great time. Yay Neva!
looking to jeremy
putting her best paw forward
Going back to that great big beautiful perfect oyster mushroom that mountain Erin was holding in the photo… we foraged that and several other equally perfect oyster mushrooms standing in cold-ass water above our knees, carefully dodging poison ivy stalks, random thorns, and barbs on barbed wire fences. It was cold enough that we brushed ice off of the mushrooms before dropping them into our bags. I’ve always considered oyster mushrooms to be second class citizens to the likes of porcini, chanterelles, and morels. However, the more I find them, the more I love them. Sure, they don’t have superstar status, but they are beautiful, and fun to forage, and delicious. The night before I met with Erin to go foraging, I thought – wouldn’t it be great to make something with oyster mushrooms and oysters? Yes, it would be so great.
oyster mushrooms, thyme, oysters, lemon, egg, butter, bacon ends, salt, shallot, garlic, olive oil, black pepper (not pictured: dijon mustard)
The recipe has three components: raw oysters on the half shell, an oyster mushroom ragout, and an aioli. I had to replace the aioli from the original recipe with a different version because it turned into a watery mess. That might be because I halved the recipe, but the second version worked perfectly. For the ragout, you can use any edible mushroom, but I do suggest a mushroom with good flavor (not white button mushrooms). And you don’t have to buy bacon ends, you can use thick-sliced bacon instead since it all gets diced up. As for the oysters, there are places that will shuck them for you, but I prefer to shuck my own oysters. Both the aioli and the ragout can be made ahead of time.
smash salt and garlic into a rough paste
whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, and dijon mustard together
whisk in a thin drizzle of olive oil until thick
stir in the garlic mash
Honestly, I don’t know why the ragout is called a ragout. I’ve always learned that a ragout is like a stew. This is less like a stew and more like a dry sauce of sautéed umami. My shallots were a little on the burned side because I was multi-tasking when I shouldn’t have been. It still ended up being ridiculously delicious.
crisp the bacon
add the mushrooms and shallots
stir in the garlic
finish with butter, thyme, salt, and pepper
When you have all of the components ready, arrange the oysters in a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. To keep them level and from spilling their liquor (the liquid in the oyster), I found crumpling up a small nest of foil to be quite effective. Spoon a little ragout over each oyster, then top them off with a dollop of aioli. Broil these lovelies for a couple of minutes or until the aioli bubbles and turns golden.
a spoonful or ragout
some aioli on top
broiled to golden perfection
Do serve these immediately, because they are sublime when still warm. They pair beautifully with bubbles, which is what Jeremy had with them. I imagine a rosé would be nice, too. I like oysters, but I am not crazy about oysters. Jeremy and I are both crazy about these oysters. And because oyster mushrooms are widely available at markets, you don’t have to (but you can if you know what you are doing) forage oyster mushrooms to make this show-stopper of a dish! I already promised my mom I’d make her some this summer.
these will last all of two seconds
24 raw oysters, shucked and on the half shell
1 cup oyster mushroom ragout
1/2 cup garlic aioli
oyster mushroom ragout
1 cup thick sliced hickory bacon or hickory bacon ends, diced
1-2 shallots, minced
1 cup oyster mushrooms (or any wild mushroom), cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves of
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
generous pinch of salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 large egg yolk
2 tsps fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make the oyster mushroom ragout: Heat a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the bacon and cook until crisped. Add the shallots and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, allowing the mushrooms to brown a little (about 5 minutes). Stir in the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the butter and thyme, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Makes 1 cup.
Make the garlic aioli: On a cutting board, sprinkle salt over the chopped garlic cloves and with the flat side of your knife, smash the salt into the garlic to make a rough paste. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard together. While whisking, pour a thin, steady drizzle of olive oil into the bowl. The mixture should thicken. Whisk in more olive oil as needed (to taste). Stir in the garlic mash. Set aside. Makes 1/2 cup.
Assemble and broil the oysters: Set the oven to high broil with a rack at the very top level of the oven (about 4 inches from the broiler). On a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish, crumple little cups of aluminum foil to hold each oyster upright. Arrange each oyster in its half shell on a foil nest. Drop a teaspoon (or more, depending on size of oyster) of mushroom ragout on each oyster. Top each oyster with a dollop of aioli. Broil the oysters for 2 minutes or until the aioli begins to bubble and turn golden (it shouldn’t take very long at all). Remove from oven and serve immediately. Makes 24 oysters.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
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