After a 2.5 year hiatus, I finally went back up to Mammoth for a little R&R for New Years. Only my friends will know why I’ve been absent for so long and we’ll leave it at that. I know they’re laughing right now. Good times right? My friend L picked me up and we headed up the 14 & 395 freeway for one of California’s finest resorts. Places like Mammoth really make California the place to be. We have great food, a good music scene, tolerable beaches, lush vineyards, snow, silicone, collagen and plastic. Only a 4.5 hour drive, Mammoth was the perfect escape for the fourteen of us. We arrived around 2 am and immediately cracked open the liquor for a night of debauchery. What else can you do in a cabin? Board games? Hell no.
While the liquor flowed, I immediately jumped into my favorite part of any house – the kitchen. The bathroom is second. After spending $150 on my yellow Le Creuset pot, I had to make as much use of it as I could. Soups and stews immediately come to mind when stuck in a cold, snowy environment, like Mammoth. I decided to quickly make a Chili with ground beef because after all it was 2 am and I didn’t have all night to braise Osso Buco veal shanks. No beans. When you have fourteen hungry snowboarders couped up in a warm, three-bedroom condo, sleeping side-by-side, it would be to everyone’s best interest to skip on the beans. God knows what would have happened if a match was lit.
For the chili, I browned 4 lbs. of ground beef with olive oil, a little bit of butter and S&P on medium heat. I threw in a few pieces of bacon, one whole diced onion, 1 bellpepper, 2 minced garlic cloves and four large cans of whole peeled tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, and brought it to a simmer. I then added cumin, oregano, garlic salt and chili powder. I used water to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes. After about 45 minutes, it was ready to go. My favorite chili is from Wienerschnitzel’s and I find it easier to cook a dish when you have a recipe to follow. Wienerschniztel’s is heavy on cumin, and although I dumped a grip in to the pot, I was far from having the same taste. Oh well.
I’m sorry for the constant referencing of flatulence, but I really think elevation plays a big part in it. I had no beans in the chili and yet everyone still… well you could imagine the night. Just imagine the horns section of a high school band – tuba, trumpet, trombone and whatever Kenny G plays in an off-rhythm, 6-hour symphony.
It was 8 am, and the concert was finally over – time to ride the frosted mountains of Mammoth. It was beautiful… like perfectly, buttered and pureed mashed potatoes. I was a little bit concerned that I would be heading back to the bunny slopes after the first run because of my 2.5 years of inactivity. I actually did okay and gained my confidence back.
We broke for lunch at Canyon Lodge at around 12:30 to regain some energy expended from dodging snobby skiers who think they own the mountain and snowboarders lounging on the mountain like they were at a beach in Hawaii. I thought about bringing my chili in Tupperware and packing it in my backpack, but in case I were to eat shit, it wouldn’t have been good. I’d look like I was a Taiwanese, shaved ice topped off with some red chili. Even Bourdain would say that’s gross. We all know how ridiculously expensive lodge food could be, but man, after a few runs, EVERYTHING smells good and looks good. Over to my left, I could hear the sizzling of fresh hamburgers and hot dogs. I didn’t feel like a burger though. Over to my right, was a bar. Hmm. Beer for lunch? That actually sounds appetizing. I was kinda full from the instant oatmeal I had for breakfast. Naw. I didn’t want to have to pull over into the forest for a quick watering while on the trail. I went in to the crowded cafeteria and considered my options:
Grilled food. No.
Soups and salad. No.
Pizza. Mmm, that sounds good. $5 a slice? No thanks.
Mexican food. No, not after last night’s 6-hour symphony.
Chinese food. Okay, fine.
I got three egg rolls for $4 with a side of fried rice for $3. How Asian can I be? I can’t even stay away from rice for ONE WHOLE WEEKEND haha. Well it turns out that maybe I should’ve gone for the big, juicy hamburger. The “Chinese” food I ordered made Panda Inn taste like haute cuisine.
We got back from snowboarding at around 4 pm and we were all worn out. We had gone to the top of the mountain where the 40-90 mph winds blew needle-like snow into your face. Ouch. My lips were chapped and cheeks were stone cold, and the only thing to warm us up would be a group of hot chicks and a hot bowl of soup. For dinner, we decided to have beef/turkey spaghetti and French Onion soup.
I sliced six, large onions on medium heat till they were caramelized with two cloves of smashed garlic and four sprigs of thyme. The hardest and most crucial part in making FOS is the caramelization of the onions. Caramelization is the oxidation of the sugars in the onion – the result is a brown, nutty color and sweet taste to the onion. This takes 15-20 minutes and requires constant attention so that the onions are not burnt. Once they've reached the caramelized state, I added about 3/4 of a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon. Yeah, here I go again with the $2 buck chuck haha. Who cares. I simmered the onions and wine for about 10 minutes so the tannins (alcoholic acids) would evaporate and then added six cans of beef broth. Threw in another four sprigs of thyme and simmered it for about ninety minutes. Add S&P, garlic, oregano and dried thyme to achieve the desired taste. I forgot to use Worcestershire Sauce to give it that acidic kick but I think the FOS tasted okay. I also baked a few croutons using a La Brea Bakery baguette, olive oil, garlic and thyme, for dipping. Cheese was not used because the soup wouldn’t have been hot enough to melt the cheese. Restaurants usually throw the bowl of FOS into the oven with the cheese and crouton submerged in the soup, making the soup gooey and yummy.
As the night went on, I could hear the sounds of sobs and sniffles as the girls and one guy (AK) soaked up all the Kleenex tissues watching The Notebook, the clanking of beer bottles and glasses as us guys played card games for drinks and the ever so loud sound of the 'symphony'.
Good snow. Good friends. Good food. Definitely good times.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Posted by e d b m at 5:52 PM