Whether you’re shredding fresh-rolled corduroy or zig-zagging through trees, skiing builds up an appetite. And even as we adjust to shifting rules about lodge occupancy, ticket reservations, and exactly who can share that chair with you, one thing remains constant: the desire to kick back after the lifts close and enjoy some delicious food and drink while recounting the day’s best runs.
Since no one knows how to satisfy hungry skiers fresh off the mountain like Sean Blomgren, executive chef of Solstice at the Lodge at Spruce Peak, we asked him to share his top tips for whipping up a yummy meal during snow season.
Hosting dinner doesn’t mean you have to forfeit a day on the slopes with friends and family. The secret to cooking a fabulous meal while also getting your ski time in is to prep everything in advance. Sure, you might elect to skip the last chair so you can get home and start uncorking the wine, but as long as you’re organized, there’s no need to spend all day in the kitchen. Instead, Blomgren suggests embracing fare that you can either make the night before or pop in the slow cooker the morning of—like braises, stews or soups.
Take It Slow
Cold weather and comfort food go hand in hand because many dishes that simmer away all day are full of warm, toasty spices—chile powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg—that help combat chilly temps. “Filling meals like these also replenish the carbs, protein, and fat burned off while skiing to help you refuel for the next day,” Blomgren says. No wonder chili is a perennial favorite.
But for a fresh twist, think outside the chili pot and consider serving a main course less commonly seen on home cooks’ dinner tables. “Braised rabbit is a great option for a ski supper,” Blomgren says. “It’s sustainable, a fantastic source of lean protein, fairly inexpensive, and easy to cook in large quantities if you’re feeding a crowd.” (You may want to call your butcher to check availability, or order from dartagnan.com.) If you have a more traditional bunch seated around the table, braised short ribs are a winter-friendly crowd-pleaser. “Braising breaks down collagen into gelatin, which makes the meat tender and moist,” Blomgren says. “And braised dishes typically taste even better the next day, as the meat reabsorbs the cooking liquid.” Perfect for advance-prep meals—and leftovers.
Look to Citrus and the Sea
Some of the juiciest, most tropical fruits are in season right now, such as blood oranges and grapefruit. You can embrace zesty, brightly flavored citrus in a shellfish ceviche featuring Nantucket Bay scallops, which are in season from November through March. The colder the water, the crisper the flavor of the shellfish. “The same is true for oysters,” Blomgren says. “They’ve been eating all fall to get ready to hibernate during the winter, so you get your plumpest oyster when the water is at its coldest.” He recommends shucking oysters the day before (or morning of) skiing, then baking them with Chinese wine, soy sauce, and lap cheong, a sweet and salty Chinese sausage, or making a simple hollandaise sauce to serve with raw oysters.
Serve Seasonal Sides
Here in Vermont, winter farmers’ markets are bursting with a variety of root vegetables. Hardy, long-lasting, and often fairly unusual-looking species of squash, potatoes of all colors and sizes, celery root, turnips, parsnips, and cauliflowers are widely available—and begging you to try your hand at roasting, mashing, or ricing them into a side dish.
Celery root (or celeriac), with a texture like parsnip and a flavor like celery, can be roasted alongside potatoes and then blended together for a creamy new take on traditional mashed potatoes. Or try one of Blomgren’s personal favorites—squash roasted until it gets nice and crispy, then served family-style.
“I’ve been roasting all kinds of squash and eating it with salt and pepper and olive oil, or maybe some sage and butter,” he says. “You can also give it the twicebaked potato treatment by making something like a butternut custard soufflé, cooked right in the squash skin.” Good to know: The skin on many kinds of squash— including like honeynut, acorn, and delicata—is tender enough to eat.
Make it Easy on Yourself
If you’re arriving in Stowe the same day you’re hosting, do as much as possible in your home kitchen the night prior and set the table well ahead of time. Don’t feel the need to plate up everyone’s food; a buffet table where people can help themselves takes a lot of pressure off.
One final tip? “If you cooked, it’s someone else’s job to do the dishes,” Blomgren says. So make sure you have a tasty glass of wine ready to take to a cozy spot in front of the crackling hearth, because now it’s your turn to tell some ski stories around the fire.