I’ve never donned a pair of snow skis in my life, nor do I plan to. But I do have a pair of hiking boots. The last time I wore them was on a fitness vacation in the mountains around Lake Tahoe eons ago.
A new cookbook has given me a reason to hang on to them. A hike through the European Alps, perhaps? Meredith Erickson has got me dreaming.
While helping high-profile chefs produce their cookbooks, the Canadian food writer spent six years researching her own — often by foot, ski or cable car. In writing “Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops” (Ten Speed, $50), Erickson takes us through the mountains of Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France to discover flavors far outside the fondue pot.
She opens with a harrowing story of skiing through a blinding blizzard with a sleepover bag strapped to her back to make it to a Swiss hotel to try the Zurich-Style Veal Strips in Cream Sauce they’re known for, and scores the recipe. To go with it, she points us to one for rosti, a crusty potato cake served throughout Switzerland but most memorably, for her, at a restaurant perched on an Appenzeller cliff where provisions arrive by cable car and are lowered into an adjacent cave.
“Alpine Cooking” is both a cookbook and travel guide, weaving helpful maps and travel hacks throughout the stunning photographs and well-explained recipes. Along the way, she introduces us to the chefs, innkeepers, mountain hut owners, cattle farmers, helicopter pilots and other local characters who inspire her. The recipes range from rustic to refined, each steeped in tradition and classified as the slopes are for skiiers and hikers, according to level of difficulty: Herdsman Macaroni (Easy), Venison Ragout (Medium), or a Mont-Blanc Tart capped with a towering swirl of finely piped chestnut cream (Difficult.)
From the schnitzels to the goulashes to the hot chocolate infused with Alpine herbs, this is cold-weather cooking at its best.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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