venison with morel sauce herb and floral pasta confetti cookies cream of shiitake mushroom soup


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emergence

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Recipe: venison with morel sauce

We received our second shots the day before the anniversary of Kris’ passing. Based on reports from several friends as well as the CDC, I assumed I’d be feeling pretty miserable within 24 hours of my second dose. I bought some flowers earlier in the hopes they would still be bright and perky on May 1.


sunny ranunculus for kris



Because my parents were in town for the past month, our emergence from pandemic isolation has been hastened by their desire to see us. There’s being fully vaccinated and then there is being mentally prepared for the increase in activity and engagement and noise and personalities and driving. And I have to admit that while seeing my parents again has been good, the chaos and stress of stepping back into “normal” life feels anything but normal. It’s not being out of practice so much as questioning if being social is what I enjoy or what society wants me to enjoy. Perhaps Brood X is on to something.

a strawberry mother’s day cake i baked for mom



Per our usually scheduled atmospheric programming, it snowed on Mother’s Day and it snowed some more after that. Any precipitation is welcome in our mountains as we are practically guaranteed a terrible wildfire season in the American West again. The snows and rains made for a cooler, wetter, moodier May, but that hopefully means more mushrooms, more wildflowers, and healthier wildlife here on the Front Range. The western half of Colorado hasn’t been nearly so lucky, but I remain hopeful that the summer monsoons that evaporated the last few years will reappear now that La Niña has officially ended. I love a good Colorado mountain summer rainstorm.

colorado sun and snow in may

signs of life in the mountains: a pasqueflower

deck lounging season has commenced



After taking my parents to the airport last week to catch their morning flight back to Virginia, Jeremy and I stopped to check a morel spot on the plains. We hadn’t paid much attention to the season and we weren’t expecting anything other than a few spears of feral asparagus. But if you don’t look, you’ll never find them. Foraging on the flats is my least favorite kind of foraging because of the ticks and poison ivy and heat and sun and bugs and so many more people, which might explain why I’m so half-heartedly half-assed about the whole endeavor. And to our great surprise, we found a handful of large blonde morels – including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in the flesh!

growing out of the ground like no big deal

approaching child-sized status



My inclination upon finding the first morels of every season is to batter fry them, but that can get a little strange with a morel the size of a guinea pig. The other three weren’t small by our standards, either. Sure, you can cut the big ones up, but half the fun is eating them whole. I flipped through Hank Shaw’s Buck, Buck, Moose cookbook, unearthed a couple of venison backstraps from our freezer (courtesy of our wonderful neighbors), and decided the fate of these precious fungi. The dish is straightforward, quick, and special.

morel mushrooms, venison backstraps, salt, flour, canola oil, butter, beef stock, pepper, port wine, onion



Venison with morel mushroom sauce in the cookbook is slightly different from Hank’s updated web version. The cookbook recipe (this one) works and I’m certain Hank’s newer recipe is just as good if not better, but I didn’t see it until just now. I used fresh morels, but if morels aren’t in season and you have dried morels, Hank has instructions in both recipes for how to use those instead. I suspect you could go with frozen morels, too (I sauté extra morels in butter then freeze them for later use). And if you don’t have access to venison backstrap or tenderloin, beef is a decent alternative.

salt the venison

chopped onion and morels



I seared the venison backstraps rare, measuring the internal temperature at the thickest end to about 120°F (rare is 125°F), knowing it would continue to rise some as the meat rested on a plate. You can shoot for medium rare (final temperature 130°F), but cooking more than that will ruin this lean, tender cut.

sear the meat

resting



**Jump for more butter**

pack a warm hat

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Recipe: pork chops with chanterelle wine and cream sauce

Ever since the calendar flipped to September, we’ve been getting out for longer hikes with the pups. It seems so late, yet in all honesty, I really do loathe hiking during the height of summer. It’s just too damn hot and buggy and busy. Sure we rise at puke-thirty in the morning and hit the trail long before the sun does, but by the time we’re heading back down the sun is a Giant Death Ray in the sky intent on broiling us for supper. By September, waking pre-dawn feels more reasonable on the body and the midday sun – while still toasty – is not nearly as oppressive when paired with cool mountain air. Most of all, I love that morning starts now require a warm jacket, gloves, and a warm hat as we pass through a blue-hued world delicately fringed in short-lived feathery white ice crystals.


above treeline in september, when one doesn’t spontaneously combust

meadows of gold and red are taking over the alpine as autumn arrives



We no longer run the fans at night to expel hot air from the house and draw cooler nighttime air in. It’s enough to open the windows and allow the chill to settle overnight. Before you know it, snuggy flannel sheets will replace our cotton sheets. The pups have already taken to cuddling on the bed each morning. Best of all, it’s huckleberry season. This year hasn’t been kind to the huckleberries, many of which are either green (due to a very late snowpack) and will likely get slammed by a hard frost before they even think of blushing pink then purple, or have already died on the stem and turned ghost white. Most of our secret patches have fizzled, but a couple managed to produce decent purple berries. Erin and I only took a few and left the rest for the grouse and bears and squirrels and everyone else who knows about the best berry in the land.

snuggy pups enjoying morning amnesty on the human bed

an early morning picking huckleberries with erin and banjo



I’ve only been foraging chanterelles for as many years as Neva is old – four years. Some years these beautiful, fragrant fungi flush early and some years they flush late. This season my chanterelle patches began with a promising effort and then the lack of rain caused them to shrivel and die. Whatever we managed to forage early on was all we had to show for the summer. It was better than last year’s haul (which was nonexistent), but not big enough for me to be throwing chanterelles in every dish I made.

pushing up through the forest duff

young ones are just as tasty as big ones



I set aside two-thirds of our chanterelles for sautéeing in butter and freezing them. The other third I reserved for new recipes including this simple chanterelle wine and cream sauce over seared pork chops. Doesn’t that sound lovely? It’s so good. SO GOOD. The pork chops can be pan-seared however you like. If cooked in the traditional way, I prefer Kenji’s method which involves bone-in, dry brined pork chops. But more recently I’ve been cooking my pork chops using Kenji’s sous vide method – also bone-in. Both are excellent. Sous vide produces a more consistent and juicy result. No matter how you cook your pork chops, I do recommend bone-in, 1-inch thick, and finished with pan-searing. Here I cooked a half recipe (the full recipe is listed at the end of the post) because it was just the two of us for dinner, and I did my pork chops sous vide with a pan-seared finish.

pork chops, pepper, cream, white wine, garlic, parsley, butter, salt, chanterelles

season with salt and pepper on both sides

vacuum seal (or seal in ziplocs, pushing as much air out as possible)

sous vide bath for 1 hour at 140°f



**Jump for more butter**

frosé, two ways

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Recipe: frosé, two ways

It’s been too hot to cook. Normally in the mountains, we can cool down nicely in the evenings by opening up the house and running the fan (we don’t have air conditioning). But the heat and the height of pine pollen season have conspired to keep us holed up in the house while thick yellow plant sex covers the world around us. I am very allergic to the pine pollen, but this year it seems to be affecting those who haven’t experienced these allergies before. What we desire is a good rainstorm, because it washes away the pollen and cools everything down, but all we’ve been getting are teases and nary a drop of water from the sky reaching the ground.


storm clouds and virga with a rainbow in the bottom left at sunset

the winds kick up pollen storms in our valley

lovely clouds at sunset, but still no rain



I think we may have hit peak pollen yesterday, which means relief is on its way. Even so, it’s still hot as blazes and I couldn’t bring myself to blog about anything other than this frozen amazingness that I finally tried last week. If you are even remotely aware of food trends, you’ve heard of frosé and you know that it was all the rage two years ago. I’m always late to the food fad game, partly due to skepticism and partly because I just can’t get my act together soon enough to join the party. So for those of you who were completely unaware of the frosé revolution, I’m here to tell you to stock up on rosé this summer.

I’ve tried two variations that we (all of the lucky taste testers) like: classic and fruity. They have nearly identical ingredients, but one incorporates the fruit (fruity) and one merely uses the fruit to flavor the syrup (classic). I made a half batch of each “in case it didn’t taste good.” Silly me! Be sure to use a bold rosé – rosé of Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Malbec. And don’t break the bank on a super spendy bottle because you’re adding all sorts of ingredients and freezing the stuff – go for the cheaper bottles.


classic: strawberries, lemon, water, sugar, rosé

lemon juice, water, sugar, rosé, hulled and chopped strawberries

boil the water and sugar to make simple syrup

steep the strawberries in the syrup



**Jump for more butter**