The second half of winter was a busy time for us. As with much of the country, it was colder than average here in the Northeast. This didn’t deter us from the weekly trek to Vermont to ski, and fortunately the cold air brought lots of snow and great skiing and snowshoeing. As we end another chapter of New England winters, I'll fondly remember breaking trail in nearly two feet of fresh snow on Stratton Pond, watching our dog Charlie pogo stick through the same two feet of snow, and of course seeing my daughters continue to grow as accomplished young skiers. The short days and long winter nights gave me plenty of time to play in the kitchen, and I was drawn to the idea of meals appropriate for the season.
Friends and readers know that I love to make fresh, stuffed pasta. In Italy during the holiday season, fresh stuffed pasta such as tortellini, ravioli, and agnolotti are regularly served family style, frequently in flavorful broth (en Brodo), as opposed to with sauce (con sugo). I chose to make Anolini, a round shape, and serve it with a roasted veal broth.
For my next winter recipe, I made Hungarian mushroom soup. I made a lot of soups this winter, but this one stood out to my family as a hearty winter recipe. Hungary is well known for paprika as Hungarian dishes feature it frequently, though paprika has its origins in Spain and Portugal. Paprika is essentially ground dried peppers, which can range from sweet bell to spicy chili peppers. Paprika made it's way to Central Europe centuries ago, but did not become the popular spice we know today until the late 1800's. Though originally spicy, what we now most commonly associate with Hungarian paprika is sweet and pungent. Hungarian mushroom soup is made with, of course, mushrooms, however the dominant 'paprikash' flavor comes from the combination of sour cream and paprika. Dill also plays a prominent role in the soup.
Finally, several readers have asked about dessert recipes. What to serve for dessert is always a challenge for me. However I was driving through Newfane, Vermont one weekend and I remembered years ago the now closed Old Newfane Inn used to serve a Baked Alaska to large parties.. It was a great dome of toasted meringue over cake and ice cream, served family style and sliced at the table. The term Baked Alaska spawned at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in the late 1800’s, in honor of America’s acquisition of Alaska.
I'd never made one before, but at least I was clear on the components....ice cream, cake and meringue. I knew for my first attempt I would 'cheat' and use store bought ice cream (Ben and Jerry's...we're in Vermont after all!). For the cake I chose sponge cake, in no small part because I have a good sponge cake recipe, and for the topping I used Italian Meringue.