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.
Our apres ski meal on Sunday was mushroom bourguignon from the smitten kitchen cookbook that I’d made the night before. My husband and I inhaled it – nothing makes me quite so hungry as mountain air combined with intense physical activity.
My mum is in a similar boat to you with the skiing, started late in life when us kids started skiing. She started enjoying it a lot more once she got her own boots (rental boots suck!).
pizza has got to be the most univeraally accepted food. i am drooling at this idea of poatoes, leeks and bechamel oh my! but i have a two-year old and only enough flour for one pizza tonight. so we will be going traditional as i dream of this magical pie that i hope to consume soon! or as soon as my toddler’s palette grows in sophistication. or i buy flour.
I’m french, so après ski food will always mean tartiflette to me (think: potatoes, bacon and cheese, baked). But this pizza sounds so yum! I might try it for a regular weekend night since its so cold these days.
yum! going to give this a go for our weekly pizza and movie night.
When I think après-ski food, I also think of tartiflette, raclette, fondue – cheesy goodness! I’ve been wanting to recreate the tartiflette pizzas I enjoyed in France – those are pretty over the top, but after a day of skiing, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Jenny – I am literally TERRIFIED of skiing! My family owns a home in Big Sky, MT and I refuse to go in the winter – just summer. The whole fling yourself off a mountain thing just never appealed to me. Hiking it during the summer with a perfect picnic? My kind of gig 🙂
I use my slow cooker a lot when we are skiing all day. Just made Steak Carnitas from Eat Live Run for the 100th time this weekend. So good! Literally a 5 minute prep before we head out and dinner is ready when we get home. great post! will need to try some of these on our ski trip next month.
Béchamel sauce on pizza is a new and wonderful concept to me. I don’t really participate in winter sports (but I do want to try snowshoeing)… however, my husband snowboards regularly and I know he would appreciate a hearty meal like this one after a day on the slopes.
If you ever decide to give up skiing, you’ll enjoy this.
One suggestion to those learning to ski as adults: take a private 2-hour lesson when you begin, so you learn how to get to the bottom of the mountain, safely and having absorbed the correct way to repeat on your own, and come to really enjoy it. Totally agree with the suggestion of buying a well-fitting ski boot. It will make all the difference. Wonderful recipes. Thanks.
Once again, you have fantastically (and amusingly) expressed exactly how I feel about something! Growing up in Virginia, there wasn’t a lot of chance to ski. But when you marry a Vermont boy, you better learn. So I did. And now I have two Brooklyn kids who love them some powder. I just try to manage it so I get an hour or two in front of the lodge fire with a beer and a book while they max out the day on the slope. If only we knew more people with weekend houses in the mountains!
I am a gal who does not like heights, and does not like to be cold, so skiing with the family presents quite a challenge – I can relate! I do love a good pizza and now know bourbon has the potential to dramatically improves a skiing adventure. Excellent tip. Can’t wait to try this recipe – it sounds divine…
This sounds an awful lot like our ski weekends–a nervous day on the slopes for me, and pizza for all after! I’ll have to try the potato and leek combination next time we head up to the mountains.
Snowplowing down small inclines for one morning only was enough of skiing for me. It was more pleasurable to watch my (then) fiancee speed down a long incline and stop at the bottom in one piece; I could admire that.
Cold weather outside and warm food accompanied by bourbon inside… now that’s a scenario that I can embrace.
So Happy T Have Remembered To Look On Dals, I Feel Ever So Much More Normal, And Glad To Know That I’m NotAlone In This Soccerlacrossse, But We Play Under The LightS Outside, But Tonight Is An Off Night, And Now Off To Your Recipe Fo Chicken FingerS……
Good for you learning to ski in your 30’s! I tried to learn to snowboard in my 30’s but fell and cracked my a** so badly I almost cried getting down on the floor to play trains or pick up socks for months on end. That quenched my desire to be a cool mom. Now my husband takes our kids skiing and I enjoy my quiet house and make sure there’s an apres ski spread ready and waiting
About the only time I enjoy melted cheese recipes, tartiflette, raclette and fondu. Also, because we don’t tend to lunch when we ski, it’s nice to have some tapas with a drink as soon as we’ve come off the slopes, then have a quick nap before heading out to dinner.
I am reading your posts while enjoying our own après ski in Whistler, Canada. We all have different tastes: my kids love tuna mayonnaise and crackers, the guys go for beer and nuts, while us ladies dive into cheese and salami! Have not worked on dinner yet…Nothing like a cold and hard day up the mountain to work up an appetite!