For a lot of people, the phrase “Apres Ski” conjures a certain image — a group of ruddy-faced J. Crew models wearing Uggs and sipping red wine around a rough-hewn coffee table; a cold beer soothing burning muscles in front of a roaring fire; and (for Phoebe) reading a comic book under a blanket in her pajamas. For me, it means one thing: Skiing is over. I survived another day and — knock on wood — didn’t hurt myself.
It’s not that I don’t like skiing. When all the stars align — rental gear fits right, slopes aren’t too icy, there’s feeling in all twenty fingers and toes — I totally get the exhilaration thing. But the problem is, I learned in my thirties, the decade I had kids, the decade when my mantra became “Why have fun when I can be safe instead?” This past weekend, we rented a house in the Adirondacks with our friends Todd and Anne (book owners might remember them), whose mantra, I’m guessing, would probably be the reverse. I was so grateful that my kids could look to them (and Andy) as examples of grace and confidence on the slopes, instead of to their mother, who, upon completing her first run, had to kick off her boot and fall sideways into the snow because her foot fell asleep. True story.
I was also grateful that when we returned home to the rental, there was bourbon. Which we sipped as Todd fired up the oven and baked two pizzas for the eight of us — four adults and four kids, one who doesn’t eat beef, one who doesn’t eat pork, one who likes his pizza as straightforward as possible. The first pizza was a tomato-and-mozzarella, the second, a riff on Jim Lahey’s Potato-and-Leek (from the amazing My Pizza), which was just about as good a family-friendly apres-ski meal as you can find out there. Maybe it was the bourbon talking, but the meal — eaten at a long table with wind-chapped kids — was enough to erase whatever anxiety I had on the slopes that day, and get me pumped up to do it all again the next.
Potato and Leek Pizza
The other reason why this works is because, unlike a lot of wintery comfort food dishes, it doesn’t require a whole day of braising or planning. It can be on the table within an hour or two of returning from the mountain.
Recipe only very slightly adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Pizza
1 small Yukon potato, peeled and sliced paper-thin
1 ¼ cups chopped leeks, white part only
1 16-ounce ball of pizza dough (Todd used multigrain)
2 ½ tbsp béchamel sauce (see below, you might have a little left over)
2/3 cup finely grated Gruyére cheese
leaves from 1 rosemary sprig
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Place the potato slices in a small saucepan with generously salted water. Bring the water to a boil, then drain the potatoes and set aside to cool. (Todd fried the potatoes in olive oil for about five minutes, instead of blanching, which worked quite well.)
Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the chopped leeks and blanch until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and set aside.
Spread the pizza dough into a standard cookie sheet, pressing flat with your fingers until it reaches the corners. (This takes some time, but be patient, the crispy crust that results will be worth it.) Drizzle the béchamel evenly over the surface, leaving about an inch of the rim untouched. In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes, leeks, cheese, rosemary and pepper along with a drizzle of olive oil and toss everything to coat.
Distribute the potato mixture evenly over the dough. Drizzle with a bit more oil and brush the crust’s rim with more oil. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and bubbly.
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
a pinch of ground nutmeg
Pour about 1/3 of the milk into a saucepan, add butter, and heat while stirring, until the butter melts. Meanwhile, put the flour in a medium bowl, add remaining milk and whisk. Ladle some of the warm mixture into the cold flour mixture to warm it. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan and whisk it in. Add salt. Over medium-low heat, whisk the mixture frequently, as it cooks and thickens. The béchamel is done when it has reached the consistency of a runny sauce or heavy cream. Grate in the nutmeg and allow to cool to room temperature. It will continue to thicken as it cools. Use the béchamel immediately.
Five Other Ideas for Family-Friendly Apres Ski Feasts: (1) Stromboli (2) Beef Stew (3) Chicken Pot Pie (Dinner: A Love Story) (4) Andy’s “Second-Place” Chili (5) Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions, Spinach, and Parmesan.