Après ski started with the sole purpose of connecting with friends after a great day on the slopes, so let’s carry on that tradition in our own backyards. Cold winter weather doesn’t have to stop you from having a little alfresco fun when you follow the hallmarks of outdoor entertaining: plenty of beverages, easily accessible and easy-to-eat food, and of course a showstopping atmosphere. Here are some of my favorite recipes to kick off the festivities.
This concoction of melted cheese is a decadent way to celebrate chilly winter nights. It features Gruyère along with other Swiss cheeses. Use a fondue set, cast-iron pan or Dutch oven and place on a warming tray, gently stirring for long-lasting enjoyment.
1 pound Gruyere cheese, finely grated
½ pound Emmentaler or other Swiss cheese, grated
1 cup dry white wine, warmed
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, juiced
1 dollop mustard
1. In a cast-iron pan or Dutch oven, combine cheeses with wine, cornstarch and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese begins to melt.
2. Add garlic juice and mustard, and continue to melt, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low and stir gently until smooth and creamy. Avoid overcooking as the Swiss cheese will become chewy and stringy.
4. Cover, keep on low heat and continue to stir while serving. Enjoy with accompaniments like bread, meat, roasted potatoes, apples and pears. Use long dipping forks for ease and have multiple utensils for each guest.
Mulled cider and wine help warm the body and lift the mood. Here are two choices, both of which can be made up to two days ahead. TIP: Fill your serving container with boiling water prior to preparation to keep the drink hot while transporting outside.
1 gallon apple cider
¾ to 1 cup dry white wine, such as an oaky chardonnay
4 to 6 whole cloves
1 whole star anise
3 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 Tbsp. honey
1. Combine all ingredients except honey in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat, taking care not to overheat, for 45 to 50 minutes.
2. Before serving, strain any solids or residue through a fine mesh strainer then transfer into your preheated serving vessel. Stir in honey until combined.
1 bottle dry red wine, such as malbec or syrah
1 cup pomegranate juice or unsweetened cranberry juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
4 to 6 whole cloves
4 whole star anise
3 cinnamon sticks, broken, plus more for serving
rosemary and thyme sprigs to taste
1 Tbsp. honey
1. Combine all ingredients except honey in a large saucepan and bring to a soft boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to low heat and cover, simmering undisturbed for 30 minutes (no stirring, but tasting allowed!).
2. Before serving, strain any solids or residue through a fine mesh strainer then transfer into your preheated serving vessel. Stir in honey until combined. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and serve warm.
Set your mugs and glasses on a warming tray and present your spoons in a warmed jar to keep warm.
6 oz. brewed coffee
1 sugar cube
1½ oz. Irish whiskey
freshly whipped cream
1. Fill a warm mug with coffee and stir in sugar until fully dissolved.
2. Add whiskey and stir until incorporated.
3. Pour whipped cream slowly over a warm spoon onto coffee, taking care not to break surface, or add a dollop for more effect. Serve piping hot.