Hungry as a bear after a long day on the slopes? No worries, we've got you covered.
I'm one of six kids, and love spending time with my siblings (and our growing families). So I'm very comfortable with the "gathering of the clan" concept, whether it includes family or friends. Or both. A big après ski get-together is almost – almost – as much fun as first tracks after a big powder dump. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.
"To me, opening up a bottle of wine or cracking open a local craft beer and relaxing with a meal ready to go is the way to go when venturing to the mountains," said Paul Tenhope, an avid skier who works for Timothy S. Hopkins Catering in Massachusetts. "A great ski meal is typically one that can be prepared ahead of traveling to your destination, and then thrown together quickly, or thrown in a crock pot and let it go all day low and slow."
"Nobody wants to come back from skiing or boarding and be stuck in the kitchen all night," he said.
That's why my wife, Lauri, and I are so busy the days before a weekend (or week long) trek north. That extra effort makes for a much more relaxed, and fun, stay at the mountain. A few of our "can't miss" meals include lasagna, macaroni & cheese, Shepherd's Pie, or any type of hearty casserole (like Lauri's tasty enchilada casserole or chicken Tetrazzini). Meals made in a crock pot, or slow cooker, are also a hit because they're ideal for any stew or chili-type meal.
The following are a few favorites. A big, robust red wine or full body, oaky chardonnay would work with any of these dishes. Don't forget these great Après cocktail options.
Vermont Onion Soup
For an appetizer, you can always go the fondue route, but I like Yankee Magazine's wonderful spin on the classic French onion soup. It replaces melted Gruyere with a sharp Cheddar, and features a medium-body Marquette wine – made from a North American grape varietal that thrives in cold climates – produced by Vermont's Lincoln Peak Vineyards (though any red wine will do).
5 tablespoons salted butter
8 medium-size (6 large) red onions, cut crosswise into ½ -inch-thick slices
5 medium-size cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups medium-bodied red wine, such as Marquette, Merlot, or Syrah (Shiraz)
2 quarts (8 cups) beef stock
20-24 slices crusty white bread
1 pound aged Cheddar, shredded
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover the pot and cook until the onions are wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally. Remove the lid and cook the onions uncovered for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally throughout.
Add the sugar and cook until the onions are very soft and golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and beef stock. Stir to combine, then increase the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook 10 more minutes to let the flavors combine. Taste and add 1 to 2 teaspoons more salt as needed.
While the soup is simmering, preheat oven broiler and set a rack 3 to 4 inches from the heating element. Arrange the bread slices on an ungreased baking sheet and set under the broiler until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the bread slices, and top them with the shredded cheese. Return to the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted and golden, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Spoon the soup out into serving bowls and top each with a piece of cheese toast; then give everyone an extra toast on the side. Serve hot.
Our next three dishes come compliments of Tenhope, who was raised on the icy slopes of upstate New York. After graduating from Babson College near Boston, he spent six years in Colorado, skiing the back bowls of Vail by day and working for the Sonnenalp Resort at night.
"I have three children who all love to ski and snowboard," said Tenhope, who moved back to Massachusetts 18 years ago. "Although I love the slopes of New England, I try to make at least one trip per year out west to enjoy the champagne powder."
Having worked in the catering business for almost two decades, he is well versed in the art of après ski dining.
"One of my favorites chefs for these types of meals is Paul Prudhomme, God rest his soul," said Tenhope. "He has some recipes that require some work prior to departure, but they are great post-adventure eats.
"One meal that has made many trips to the slopes with us is Hoppin' John," he said. "It's designed as a side dish, but has been modified to become a meal. It is a rice and black-eyed pea dish with Kielbasa. I typically triple the Kielbasa to make it a hearty meal. Add some sour cream and shredded cheddar and you have a New Orleans-style chili dish."
Paul Prudhomme's Hoppin' John
Based on the recipe in "Seasoned America." Note that although the recipe uses dried peas, they are not presoaked or precooked.
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
2½ teaspoons black pepper
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 slices bacon, diced small
3 cups chopped onions, divided
2 cups chopped bell peppers, divided
1½ cups hopped celery divided
3 bay leaves
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over, divided
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
11 cups chicken stock, divided
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
2 cups converted rice, uncooked
Combined seasoning mix in a small bowl and set aside. Place bacon in a large over-proof pot, cook over high heat until bacon begins to brown (about six minutes). Stir in 2 cps onions, 1 cup peppers, 1 cup celery, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon seasoning mix, bay leaves and half the peas. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
Stir in garlic and 2 cups of stock. Scrape bottom of pot. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add 1 cup stock and scrape of pot. Add sausage, 6 cups stock, remaining onions, peppers, celery, peas and seasoning mix. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until peas are tender, about 1¼ hours. Preheat oven to 350. Stir in rice and remaining stock, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pot and bake in oven 15 minutes. Serve with a hearty bread.
A second Prudhomme creation is Chicken Big Mamou, said Tenhope. "This is a spicy chicken pasta dish, but be forewarned," he said. "This is not for the spice-adverse palette."
Chicken Big Mamou
This is a very easy dish for big gatherings if you cook the sauce a day ahead and reheat it.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup very finely chopped onions
¾ cup very finely chopped bell pepper
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic®
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
¾ teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
¾ pound (one stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
2 cups tomato sauce
¾ cup finely chopped green onions
¼ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1½ pounds chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
Hot cooked rice (preferably converted), pasta or egg noodles
Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat until hot. Add the garlic cloves and cook until well browned (about two minutes). Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and discard.
In the same oil, sauté the onions over high heat until browned (about five minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the bell peppers, bay leaf, 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons of the Poultry Magic, the minced garlic and red pepper, and stir well. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the tomato sauce, stirring well. Cook about three minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1½ cups of the stock, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer 40 minutes, stirring fairly often. Add the remaining half cup of stock, simmer and stir until sauce reduces to 2¾ cups, about 30 minutes more. Remove from heat. If not being used immediately, cool and refrigerate.
Melt the remaining one stick of butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons Poultry Magic, stirring well. Add the green onions, parsley and chicken. Sauté about two minutes, stirring frequently. Add the reserve sauce, and cook about five minutes, stirring constantly. Discard bay leaf, and serve immediately over rice, pasta, or egg noodles.
"Colorado Collage is a great cookbook that has traveled with me the last 15 years, since my return from Colorado," said Tenhope. "One recipe that I love to make prior to a weekend away is the Chicken Enchilada Suizas. Again, they may be made in advance and thrown in the oven after your return from the slopes."
Chicken Enchiladas Suizas
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 ½ pounds total)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
1 4-ounce can, diced green chiles
1 cup of purchased green chili salsa (salsa verde)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12-15 7-inch flour tortillas
10 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 cup whipping cream
½ cup chicken broth
Chopped fresh cilantro
Place chicken in a pan of rapidly boiling water to cover, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, cool, and shred chicken. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onions and bell peppers until just soft, five to eight minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Add chicken, cheddar cheese, green chiles, salsa, cilantro, cumin, and chipotle chiles, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Grease 10x15x2-inch baking pan (or two smaller pans). Place one lour tortilla on flat surface, and place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture along one edge. Roll up from filling side, and place seam-side down in prepared pan. Repeat process with remaining chicken mixture. Sprinkle Monterey Jack cheese over enchiladas (may be prepared to this point up to one day in advance). Cover and chill.
Combine cream and chicken broth, and pour over enchiladas. Cover pan with foil, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 10 minutes, o until thoroughly heated. Place one or two enchiladas on individual serving plates, and garnish with avocado, tomato, and additional cilantro if desired.
This last entrée is one of my wife Lauri's favorite "toss-together" recipes. All you need is a Crock Pot, and some notion of portions, and an early start before you hit the hill. People can use whatever vegetables they like in whatever quantity they want, based on their desired results.
Lauri's Slow Cooker Beef Stew
This recipe is intentionally vague, because tastes vary, but here are the basics:
2 16-ounce cans of beef stock
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup dry red wine
½ can of tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco
1½ teaspoons pepper
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon, oregano
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 carrots, thickly sliced
1 cup frozen peas
3-4 medium size potatoes, cut into cubes
1½ to 2 pound of stew beef
½ cup flour
Salt and pepper
In a shallow dish, coat stew beef with flour, salt and pepper to taste. In a skillet, over medium/high heat, brown beef until lightly browned on all sides (roughly 3 to 4 minutes). Remove from heat. In crock pot, combine first 10 ingredients, stir well. Add all vegetables except potatoes and stew beef. Stir well. Cook on high for three hours. Reduce to low for three hours.
Add potatoes last hour of cooking time. To thicken, add mixture of 1 teaspoon corn starch and 3 tablespoons water with the potatoes. Serve in bowls with thickly sliced sourdough bread (or other hearty bread) and bold red wine. Add Tabasco sauce to taste.
Finally, a simple dessert that can be prepared ahead of time is S'mores.
"If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, all the better," said Tenhope. "But if not, this simple recipe still works in an oven or over a stove top.
"Just take your graham cracker, a piece of chocolate or Reese's peanut butter cup and a marshmallow and wrap in foil. No sticks required. Just throw near your heating source for a few minutes and you have a no-mess S'more."
Still looking to make use of that fondue pot? Try dipping a variety of fresh fruits – strawberries and pineapple are my favorite – into a pot of melted milk chocolate. Heaven.
Photo Credit: Brian Nevins
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