Reporting Jay Lloyd
You rented a slopeside ski house with a well-equipped kitchen. You stocked the bar, the fridge and the cupboard. Now, pick the chef from among your group and get ready for one of the most satisfying nights of this frosty winter. – Jay Lloyd
When they tell you the kitchen is fully-equipped, it’s fully-equipped. You’ll find a substantial refrigerator and freezer, a four-burner stove and oven and a microwave, coffeemaker, toaster and dishwasher. The cabinets will probably contain an assortment of pots and pans and a full set of dishware, usually for eight. Most ski condos like the Snow Ridge Village houses at Jack Frost Mountain accommodate four to eight people. There’ll be a complete set of utensils, serving spoons and forks, a salad bowl, even paper towels and dish cloths. There will be carving and chef’s knives, a can opener, a bottle opener and most likely, a corkscrew.
Ski house cookery should be easy comfort food that requires as little prep as possible. Two elements that make it a snap are a slow cooker or a clay pot. I prefer these for meals that you start when drinks are poured, tend themselves and are ready when cocktail time segues to dinner. Ski houses do not come with either of these things, so bring your own. The kitchen will have an assortment of knives, but sharpening them is not a priority — they can’t cut cottage cheese. I bring cutlery from home. The pots and pans are sized to serve about four. If you’re feeding more, bring a large skillet and an all-purpose pot. Oh, and that corkscrew will be very basic. Best bring your own.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
The trick here is to cobble together a great dinner that fits everyone’s taste while the cook still gets to ski and join the party instead of toiling in the kitchen. Go easy on salt, pepper and heat. Everyone can do that at the table. Stick to the familiar. For example, a clay pot chicken is usually a hit. Simply line the pot with a few onion slices, top them with a four pound chicken stuffed with a bit of onion, some celery and an orange or lemon slice. Add a moderate sprinkle of salt, pepper, paprika and a couple of butter pats. Throw in cut up celery and carrots. Cover the pot. Pop it in a cold oven, set for 400 degrees. Then go join the gang. Dinner is ready in an hour and 40 minutes. Don’t go overboard with side dishes — you don’t want to take home any leftovers.
Another easy, dynamite dinner in a clay pot is a pork loin with sauerkraut. It’s the same time frame. Or you can use a slow cooker set on low while you’re out hitting the slopes. The food will be ready when you ski back.
THE DESIGNATED COOK
Pick the one who has the most passion for cooking yet understands the “keep it simple” rule. It should be part of the fun, not a chore. The chef will then get to relax after dinner while everyone else does the cleanup.
THE GROCERY LIST
For a Pocono Mountain weekend, shop at home and use a list. Remember that most cuts of meat and chicken will hold up well in an ice chest for a two hour drive. Bring salt and pepper. They come packaged together in cardboard shakers. The most commonly forgotten items are coffee, milk, butter, cooking oil. Get them on the list. Break the list into sections covering meats, pasta/rice, veggies, bread/pastries, condiments and spices. It’s most efficient if one person does the list and the shopping. Make sure to include snacks like microwave popcorn.
This is when you’ll just want to get everybody out the door and on the snow early. Bathroom time is being juggled. Most rental condos have two. Everyone will not sit down at the same time. The simplest breakfast is juice, cold cereal with raisins or bananas and coffee. Ambitious is ham and scrambled eggs. Sadly, bacon requires too much cleanup.
A not-so-hidden-benefit of cooking your own food is the money you’ll save. You can almost bankroll an extra ski day or more. Ski town restaurants before drinks and wine can easily run $35 to $50 a head for dinner, often more. The clay pot chicken and pork is under $5 total.
A post-dinner drink by the fire calls for a nice single malt scotch, a rich port or a bracing cognac.
Ski well, eat well and enjoy!