This winter’s snowfall has been both heavy and impressive. From what the locals say, Prague hasn’t received this much snow in more than 20 years. As a result, the ski season in the Czech Republic has been fantastic! So one early Saturday morning, we coaxed our drowsy bodies out of our cozy warm bed, covered them in thermals and piled on more insulated gear to protect us from the fierce cold weather. Then, along with six other friends, loaded up two cars and headed out for the Jested ski resort, just an hour and half’s drive out of Prague. We were a happy group of 8, 7 skiers and one snowboarder in tow.
My ski “career” began just a mere five seasons ago and I have grown to love it. At first I considered skiing to be a painful experience and I couldn’t understand the thrill of being in the freezing cold, carrying such heavy equipment and permitting one’s precious feet to such torture by donning ski boots. I used to say that somehow this was an agreement invisibly placed somewhere in my marriage contract: I had to learn to enjoy skiing and my husband’s part was to learn how to cook.
As our group was waiting in line for a lift to the top of the mountain, a friend and I started to talk about the pains of skiing. The first hour had yet to pass, but the highest number of moans and groans always occurs within this horrible first hour. My friend began listing all the difficulties involved with skiing and I fully agreed. However, I had to mention how getting up at 6am on a Saturday morning, braving the cold and embracing the feel of my ski boots was just one part of the success of my happy marriage and to keep the formula balanced, my husband managed to try to expand the number of dishes he could cook up for dinner. (If you are wondering, the big number, for now, is 5.)
Overhearing our conversation, my husband quickly jumped in and referred to a cooking class we took during a recent trip to Luang Prabang, Laos. “It was 12 hours long!” he exclaims.
“Not true!” I interject, “It was just from 10-4.”
“Yes, but it was tough, we had to cook and eat so much… appetizers, lunch..all day,” bemoaning and shaking his head.
“Yes, but now you know how to cook a few more dishes,” I raise my brows, glance towards my friend and whisper the magic number to him…5.
My friend also shares a passion for the culinary arts and our conversation quickly diverges into the topic of… food! I begin to describe a dish we had tasted in Laos, the Lao Fried Noodle and how we discovered a whole new way to cook rice noodles. My brother who was standing a few meters ahead of us, yet eavesdropping from a far, chimes in and asks “Is that for dinner tonight?”
I say “No, but there is a pot of coconut pumpkin soup waiting for us back in Prague.”
“Coconut pumpkin soup,” my friend repeats, “that must be sweet.”
“Yes, it is a bit, but it also has some lemongrass and ginger and some chili flakes to give it some…” I say with my fist clenched tightly, shaking it in the air. My friend senses the flavors and he starts to ask me about the ingredients. In a flash, both the steps and ingredients start to roll off my tongue.
“Well, since we are on the subject of recipes, here’s a good one,” and he begins to tell me about this deliciously rich and creamy salmon Gorgonzola pastry roll. “When I serve it to people, they just think ‘Wow!’ but it is so simple to make.” he nods reassuringly. I go over the ingredients and steps one more time and log it into my memory.
Coincidentally, the waiting time to get on to the ski lift and ride up to the mountain top had not felt excruciatingly long . While we were exchanging recipes, we managed to forget the pain inflicted by our ski boots, the cold chill in the air bothered us less and our senses were suddenly awakened. Isn’t it amazing how far the thought of food and cooking can take a person elsewhere?
Slope Swapping Recipes:
Lao Fried Noodles
1 package of dried flat wide rice noodles (if you can get them fresh, even better!)
2 Tablespoons of Oil (add more if you are using more noodles)
Soak noodles in hot water.
When soft, drain. Skip these first two steps if using fresh noodles.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of Oil in a non-stick frying pan in medium heat.
When ready, slip the noodles into the pan and let cook for about 2 minutes.
Then crack the egg over the noodles. It should look like you are cooking fried eggs sunny side up.
Lower the flame.
Using a flat slotted spoon, remove the fried noodles when the egg looks done.
Transfer it to a plate, if you are concerned about the oil, lay the noodles on a paper towel to soak up the extra oil.
When slightly cooled, cut noodles into smaller square portions.
You can use the noodles for most asian stir fry noodle dishes. If you want more specific sauce recipes on this, send me a note.
Aprés Ski Coconut Pumpkin Soup
2 cups diced pumpkin
1 onion, chopped into small pieces
3-4 Tablespoons sliced ginger
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 can of coconut cream
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime, unless you can get a few lemongrass stalks then just use 1/2 of the lime juice
Chili flakes to your taste
Using a large pot, bring flame to medium.
Add onion, then pumpkin and ginger (lemongrass too). Give them a minute or two in between adding the ingredients.
Add the broth. It should cover the ingredients. Add more if needed.
Let it come to a boil, then bring it down to a simmer and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
If you have a hand blender, you can do this directly in the pot, otherwise pour ingredients into a blender and purée. Please wait until it is somewhat cool to handle before doing this. If using lemongrass, remove the stalks before pureeing.
Add purée back to the pot and stir in the coconut milk, lime juice and zest. Flavor to taste. Warm up if needed and enjoy!
Snowy Salmon Gorgonzola Roll (an interpretation…merci Philippe)
1 Pastry Roll (store-bought or made from scratch)
500 grams Salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into rectangular pieces
1 Tablespoon oil
1 tsp salt (add more or less to your liking)
pepper to taste
60 grams of spinach
3 cloves of garlic, minced
100 grams gorgonzola cheese
100 ml of cream
1 egg yolk
Heat oil. When hot, add garlic and stir.
When lightly brown, add spinach, salt and pepper to taste.
Stir fry for a few seconds more, remove and place it to the side.
Pan sear salmon (sprinkle salt on top) for a few minutes in the same pan.
Roll out pastry dough.
Line salmon pieces in the center of the dough.
Add garlic spinach mixture on top.
Using about 50 grams, break pieces of the gorgonzola off and place it over the rest of the ingredients.
Fold pastry dough, one edge over the other. Brush with egg yolk and bake in oven at 180/325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Combine the leftover gorgonzola with the cream in a pan. Heat and stir (blend with hand blender for more smoothness if you like) until it turns into a sauce.
When pastry is finished, add crème on top and serve!