Vail Valley’s pre-game palate stretch
VAIL, Colorado -Don’t let your Vail Valley Thanksgiving guests fall victim to T-Day torture. Maybe you’ve been witness to it before. The house is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the feast to come, yet there’s nary a snack in sight to silence grumbling tummies. But hey, we understand the host’s position too – it’s easy to let the appetizers fall by the wayside when you’re trying desperately to juggle seven or eight dishes while roasting a 20-pound bird.With that in mind, we posed a simple challenge to some area chefs – come up with a Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvre that is easy to make and not too filling or fattening. Mary Morgan Parker, owner of The Pantry in the Minturn and the catering company Pan For Hire, said Thanksgiving appetizers should be simple. You should be able to plate the dish ahead of time and serve it at room temperature, because there’s no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks you’re going to find a spot in the over-crowded oven. “Think of them as the palate’s answer to a pre-game stretch: a chance to limber up the tastebuds before the drum(sticks) roll and the main event begins,” Parker wrote in an e-mail. “They should complement the food to come, but not duplicate the flavors and textures and richness on the way.”Parker decided to use a “quintessential mountain ingredient” in her recipe – smoked trout – to which she added a light-but-zippy horseradish creme fraiche, some peppery green watercress and hints of dried cherry. “Slap the fishies on a platter, doll them up with a Jackson Pollack drizzle of sauce, strew with watercress and cherries, and serve with a knife and a basket of crackers,” she said.Sarah Kornfield, the executive chef of Restaurant Mirador in Cordillera, offered up her recipe for sweet potato pancakes with dried brandy sauce. “The fall flavors and the warm brandy are a great start to a Thanksgiving feast,” she said. If you really want to go simple, try fire-roasted olives, a recipe from local chef Kelly Liken. “At Rick and Kelly’s American Bistro we fire these olives in our wood burning pizza oven, but at home you can saute them in a hot pan on your stove,” she said. “They are a great sharable snack or appetizer. They are definitely healthy, packed with great nutrients, and everybody loves them.”
Courtesy of Sarah Kornfield, executive chef of Restaurant Mirador at the Cordillera LodgePancakes:2 large sweet potatoes, shredded1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped2 eggs1/4 cup flourpinch of salt and pepperBrie cheeseFor the sauce1/2 cup dates, diced1/2 cup dried apricots, diced1/2 cup dried figs, diced2 Tablespoons brown sugar2 Tablespoons unsalted butter1/4 cup cooking brandyPeel and shred potatoes on a box grater or the grater attachment of your food processor. Add the following ingredients: Thyme, flour, eggs, salt and pepper. You need to work fast so the potatoes do not brown. Mix with your hands until combined. Heat a frying pan to high heat. Add a small amount of oil to the pan and turn down to medium heat. Form potato mix into patties and brown in the pan until golden on each side. Place on a serving tray with small square slices of brie on each cake.In a heated frying add all of the ingredients for the sauce except the brandy. Turn heat down to medium and let cook until simmering (about 3 minutes). Deglaze the pan with cooking brandy, about 1/4 cup. Turn heat down and let cook for 1 minute. Pour over the pancakes and brie.
Courtesy of Kelly Liken, chef/owner of Kelly Liken and co-owner of Rick & Kelly’s American Bistro 1 pound mixed olives (preferably not pre marinated)2 sprigs fresh rosemary2 sprigs fresh thyme1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced1/2 cup roasted or fresh garlic cloves2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil. Add all of the other ingredients until they are hot, roasted and toasty. Serve in a deep bowl with some crusty bread for dunking in the flavored olive oil.
Courtesy of Mary Morgan Parker of The Pantry2 smoked trout filets, or about 4 ounces1/2 cup watercress, loosely packed3 tablespoons dried cherriesHorseradish creme fraiche1/2 cup prepared creme fraiche (or see the Ask Wren column on B3 for a recipe to make your own)3 teaspoons prepared horseradishPinch white pepperSalt to tasteLay out the trout filets on a platter. Combine creme fraiche and horseradish. Season with a little salt and white pepper. Drizzle over trout. Strew watercress leaves and dried cherries around the fish. Serve with crackers.High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.