This winter has us like meeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh. I’m not necessarily complaining, and I’m not trying to jinx us into 100 inches of snow, but we’re New Englanders. We need snow, and we need sweatpant-wearing snow days by the roaring fire. Part of why we live here is because we enjoy having four seasons, even if part of the joy is bitching endlessly about one or more of them! The lack of snow has me, at least, feeling very blah.
Hoping to supercharge our winter fun, this past weekend we went to the Stratton Mountain area with some friends. We decided not to ski given the grim reports from the mountain, but were able to go on a pretty epic snowshoe adventure at the Grafton Pond Outdoor Center (it involved sleeping Fisher Cats and frozen bear prints). Our weekend also involved lots of fires, bourbon, wine, and home-cooked meals.
We try to eat at dinner at home on ski weekends. The kids are always wiped out and we’re always wanting to get cozy with some Manhattans and a good bottle of wine (or two). But cooking at a rental house is a crap shoot. Sometimes you luck out with a well-appointed kitchen, but most often you’re scrambling to find a pot big enough to boil spaghetti. We always try to rent houses with a grill, so we can fire up some steaks and serve them with a big salad one night (grab some juicy Cabs – an obvious, but perfect, pairing!). Often I’ll make my favorite spaghetti sauce at home and bring it with us for an easy but delicious meal. There’s almost always a great pizza place in a ski town, and there’s no shame in ordering a few pies (grab some beer and call it a night!). And if you feel like dragging your crock pot with you, a slow-cooking beef stew is always nice to come home to after a day of skiing (we wrote about a really nice ski weekend pairing last week).
This weekend, however, I changed up my normal meal routine and made two recipes that I haven’t served in a long time – a flavorful white chicken chili, served with the best ever corn muffins.
The secret to the chili is building a base of flavor by using three different types of peppers (I actually used four, more on that in a bit), and thickening the chili by pureeing white beans into the broth. This recipe relies completely on using a Cuisinart, so I packed my Mini-Prep as a back-up. And good thing I did, there was no Cuisinart to be found at the house we rented. The recipe link above goes to Cook’s Illustrated, and you won’t be able to see it unless you have a subscription. But a quick Google search will lead you to many other sites that have the recipe written in full. One note, I added a red pepper to the mix, so that it would have a little extra color. I don’t think it did much to the overall flavor, but the finished product looked gorgeous.
The corn muffins were originally a recipe that I found in Cook’s Illustrated, but I’ve since seen on sites like Smitten Kitchen. They are amazing – more like polenta muffins than a regular corn muffin. They taste best right out of the oven, and are a perfect accompaniment to the chili. Make some extra so you can griddle them for breakfast the next morning! These are truly the best corn muffins I have ever had.
There are so many different pairings you could have with this meal. We drank an old Cabernet with it, which was delicious, but a white wine would truly bring out its flavors. We suggest the Abbazia di Novella Kerner from the Alto Adige region in Italy – it’s creamy and tropical and would cut right through the spiciness of the chili. A nice white wine after a snowy day can be so thirst quenching!
You almost can’t go wrong with a beer pairing for this chili, but it practically begs to be paired with my favorite beer of all time, the Left Hand Milk Stout!
The moral of the story is this – just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you have to skimp on your meals. With a little advance planning your ski weekend memories can involve fantastic food and wine!