Colorado is known for its highs, with the country’s largest land area above 10,000 feet, the highest suspension bridge and the highest elevation where a patriotic song was written — “America the Beautiful” was originally a poem titled “Pikes Peak,” and if you’ve been to the top, you know exactly what inspired Katharine Lee Bates. It’s quite a view. A view worthy of an anthem.
Had Ms. Bates tasted Rocky Mountain oysters by that time, one of our country’s most popular patriotic songs may have been very different.
While known as calf fries, prairie oysters, mountain oysters, cowboy caviar, dusted nuts, meat balls, swinging beef or huevos de toro in other parts of the world, fried bull testicles are one of Colorado’s claims to culinary fame, likely because of the popularity and name recognition of Rocky Mountain National Park.
While eaten in some rancher families as semi-standard fare, Rocky Mountain oysters are often offered alongside similarly deep-fried delicacies on bar menus, at testicle festivals throughout the Midwest and as pranks to unknowing folks expecting something deep fried and delicious.
Rocky Mountain oysters likely fill the bill, although I’m ashamed to admit that when asked to judge at a nearby testicle festival cooking contest last year, I declined. I just can’t.
The Denver omelet, common on many a diner menu, has an interesting origin story. The ingredients are generally the same menu to menu: eggs, ham, onion, bell pepper and cheese.
Why is it named after Colorado’s capital city? Historians believe it was originally a sandwich created by 19th century cattle drivers to the West or by Chinese railroad cooks as a transportable egg foo yung. Eventually, the bread was ditched, and the omelet stuck. It’s become a diner standard I can count on nationwide.
Where there are highs, there are lows, and those valleys are where Colorado’s “fruit basket” is home to orchards of grapes, apricots, peaches, cherries and apples. Palisade peaches are perhaps the most famous of these valley fruits, where warm winds off the mesas create a microclimate of fruit-growing perfection. These chin-dripping peaches are ripe mid-June through September if you’re lucky, and they're worthy of a road trip.
Colorado is also known as ground zero for the artisan microbrewery boom. The state is a beer-lover’s dream vacation destination and is home to breweries that started small and hit the big time. They didn’t invent the concept of craft beer, but they do get credit for perfecting the art. The Great American Beer Festival takes place in Denver each year, where attendees taste beers from 800 of the top craft brewers in the nation.
Get a taste for Colorado with these recipes.
Spicy peach pork tenderloin
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
3 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pork tenderloin
1 fresh peach, pitted and thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix honey, olive oil, lime juice, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and garlic together in a bowl.
Place tenderloin in a baking dish; top with peach slices. Pour honey sauce over tenderloin. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake in the preheated oven until meat is no longer pink in the center, 30 to 45 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 145 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes; cut into very thin slices. Serve topped with the cooked peaches and pan juices.
Recipe source: www.palisadepeachfest.com.
Baked Denver omelet
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped ham
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and cook bell peppers until softened. Stir in ham and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Stir in cheddar cheese, peppers and ham. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased 10-inch baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, until eggs are browned and puffy. Serve warm.
Recipe adapted from www.lilluna.com.
Braised Brussels sprouts with bacon and beer
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
6 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
1 (12-ounce) bottle pale ale
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper
Trim the ends of each Brussels sprout, removing excess leaves. Cut the sprouts in half, leaving the smallest sprouts whole.
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and sauté until crisp. Add the sliced shallot. Sauté another 2 to 3 minutes to soften, then add the Brussels sprouts. Stir and sear the sides of the sprouts for 4 to 5 minutes.
Pour the bottle of pale ale into the skillet. Add the salt and peppers. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat a little. Stir and simmer until the beer has reduced to a glaze and the sprouts are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.
Recipe source: www.craftbeer.com.