Cold Weather Dining

As temperatures plummet, our thoughts (and appetites) turn to hearty comfort foods. Eight local chefs offer recipes for soup, fondue, pot roast, and other stick-to-your-ribs favorites. PLUS: Fireplace-friendly eateries, and unusual ways to prepare the ver


Cold Weather Dining


Baby, it’s cold outside! The leaves are (almost) down, there is a crisp chill in the air, the logs are blazing in the hearth, and — best of all — our local chefs are cooking up a storm. Lucky for us, because nothing takes the frosty feeling out of a winter day like a hearty dish to warm you heart and soul. Here, eight Valley chefs share some of their favorite cold weather recipes — from meatloaf to fondue to rack of lamb to one gooey, hot toffee dessert — and fill us in on the delights of dining at their restaurants when the climate cools off


By Jennifer Leba, Rita Ross, and Elizabeth Stein

Photographs by John Fortunato, Jennifer May, and Thomas Moore



Swiss Hutte


Rte. 23, Hillsdale 518-325-3333,


Americans like to do it as an appetizer, but in Europe it is a main course,” says chef Gert Alper about the many faces of fondue. But any way you like it, he says, fondue is just plain fun. “If you have a bunch of people together on a cold night, with a bottle of wine and some fondue in front of the fireplace, it’s hard to beat.”


While many varieties of fondue can be found around the world, at the Swiss Hutte, you’ll only be dipping into a traditional Waadtländer fondue. The secret is Gruyère cheese — and only Gruyère from Switzerland. The fondue is served with a salad and warmed, house-made white bread. “We cut the bread into bite-size chunks and then we put it in the oven so it has a little crunch when you put it in the cheese,” says Alper. “Of course, if people request apples or a little ham for dipping, we’ll supply that, too.”


Raised in Zurich, Alper has co-owned the Swiss Hutte (which also has 14 guest rooms) with his wife Cindy since 1986. He feels that the classic Tudor house/restaurant offers up an authentic Alpine experience. “It’s very European. We are located right across from the Catamount ski area; at night, it is lit up and you can see the skiers coming down. We have big willow trees outside that are also lit up, and you can see the reflection in the pond.”


Three blazing fireplaces enhance the atmosphere even more. Steak au poivre, Australian rack of lamb, Wienerschnitzel, and Alper’s famous soufflés are also wintertime favorites.

But back to the fondue. Here’s a hint: Try to call beforehand to request it.


Waadtländer Fondue


1½ cups dry white wine u12 oz Swiss Gruyère, grated u1 Tbsp cornstarch u1 clove garlic uHungarian paprika uA shot of good-quality kirsch (not too sweet)


  1. Combine the cornstarch with the kirsch. Set aside.
  2. Slice the garlic in half lengthwise and rub the cut side over the inside of a medium-size, heavy saucepan.
  3. Add the wine and a pinch each of salt, fresh ground black pepper, and Hungarian paprika. Bring mixture to a light boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, and add the cheese in handfuls. Stir using a figure-eight motion to keep lumps from forming.

5. Stir in the cornstarch-kirsch mixture; do not let mixture boil. 6. Transfer to a traditional Swiss fondue pot. Serve immediately.



Le Canard Enchaine


276 Fair St., Kingston



The piano bar at Le Canard Enchainé may be gone, but the good times and good food live on — especially in the cold weather months. “We’re much busier in the winter,” says Public Relations Manager Glen Shaffer. “I suppose it’s because people go out to eat more in the winter. But I have to say, it is very cozy in here.” We’ll say. Basically, there is no antidote to the midwinter blues quite as effective as a visit to this charming, Parisian-style bistro, where chef/owner Jean-Jacques Carquillat (and co-owner Jennifer Madden) has been creating swoon-worthy French country fare for years. And forget hibernating: On Saturday nights at 10, the party gets started at the club upstairs.


“The cassoulets are very popular in the winter months; both seafood and the meat ones,” says Shaffer. “Jean-Jacques does a great beef bourguignon, the lamb is delicious, and everyone loves the French onion soup. Our menu changes, and it is really a lot of comfort food. It’s all good.”


Rack of Lamb

Balsamic Merlot Reduction


1 cup sugar u2 cups water u1 orange, cut in half u½ lemon u½ lime u½ bunch fresh rosemary u1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns u ½ cup lamb or veal stock u2 cups balsamic vinegar u2 cups Merlot


1. Cook the first seven ingredients over medium heat until caramelized (not burned). 2. Add the lamb or veal stock, the balsamic vinegar, and the Merlot. 3. Cook over low heat until reduced to 3/4 volume; strain. 4. Add cornstarch roux (made with two parts cornstarch to one part warm water) until thickened to nappe consistency: Dip back of soup spoon into mixture and wipe the middle with your finger; turn sideways. Sauce is ready when the top sauce does not drip to bottom sauce on spoon.


Lamb Rack Preparation

  1. Coat the rack with herbs (rosemary, thyme, garlic, etc.).
  2. Sear on all sides in a skillet coated with olive oil.
  3. Place in 450-degree oven until rare or medium rare (between 8-15 minutes).

4. Slice between bones and arrange over mashed potatoes; pour the reduction over and around lamb as an accent to the dish. Top with lightly sautéed garlic spinach.


Dragonfly Grille


114 Mill Hill Rd., Woodstock



It this time of year, our menu starts changing once a week,” says chef Jonathan Sheridan. “But the meatloaf is always there.”


Sheridan, formerly chef at the Cement Factory in Rosendale, has been making his signature dish for a long time. “The main complaint that I always heard about meatloaf was that it was too dry. When I first started making it, I always wrapped it in a cheesecloth. Then, one day, I didn’t have a cheesecloth, so I wrapped it in bacon. And since then, I’ve wrapped it in bacon every single time.” So what’s the secret? “It is a blend of beef and pork, but I throw in something unique and surprising — dried cherries. It gives it a little surprise, but at the same time, is very familiar. It is served with mushroom gravy and honey-glazed carrots and Corolla [garlic] mashed potatoes. I get them from a farm in Plattekill — it is the best potato, and a perfect complement to the meatloaf. Everyone tells me that it is so satisfying and warming in the winter.”


Mom’s Meatloaf


1 large white onion, minced  u7 cloves garlic, chopped u1½ cup dried cherries  u3 lbs ground beef, no more than 80 percent lean u1 lb ground pork u¾ cup fresh parsley, chopped u¾ cup fresh basil, chopped u¼ cup fresh thyme, chopped u4 large eggs u¾ cup fresh bread crumbs u1 cup ketchup u4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce u1 Tbsp kosher salt u¾ Tbsp fresh ground black pepper u1 lb raw bacon


  1. Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil or bacon fat, if available, until slightly brown.


  1. Barely cover dried cherries with boiling water; steep until plumped. 3. Cool onions, garlic, and cherries. 4. Combine all ingredients, including any remaining water from cherries. 5. Mix until everything is well blended. 6. Form mixture into loaf shape on a cookie sheet; cover loaf with bacon slices, overlapping slightly. 7. Put a small amount of water on cookie sheet, barely covering bottom. 8. Bake in 350-degree oven until internal temperature of meatloaf is barely 160 degrees. 9. Remove from oven; allow to cool slightly before slicing.




Gus’s Restaurant & Tavern


10 Quassaick Ave., New Windsor



German restaurants are few and far between in the Hudson Valley, but step through the doors of Gus’s Tavern and it’s easy to imagine that you’ve just come inside after tramping through the snow-covered Black Forest. For here is the real deal: a true wood-walled (not paneled) German tavern in all its Bavarian glory. And while the goulash certainly grabs its fair share of the glory, other favorites like Wienerschnitzel and Rouladen (rolled beef stuffed with onions, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and other goodies, then stewed in its own juices in a Dutch oven) also keep the crowds content.


“We get some die-hard Germans in here,” says Lauren Ostner, whose grandparents started the restaurant in 1934 after arriving from the old country. (Her parents, Richard and Linda Ostner, now run the eatery.) “We have this adorable couple who come in with their lederhosen. They bring their own beer mugs. We get lots of generations of people coming in. They say, ‘My father ate here,’ that kind of thing. But it is very homey, so we get lots of different people, even college kids who crave this kind of comfort food when they come home for the holidays.”



5 lbs cubed lean beef (preferably sirloin or chuck) cut in at least one-inch cubes u1½-2 lbs Spanish onions, peeled and diced u2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika, finely ground u2 Tbsp garlic powder u2 tsp white pepper, finely ground u2 tsp coarse salt u6 oz tomato juice


  1. Place the cubes of beef in a large sauce or stew pot. Add 2-3 cups of water and place on a burner at medium-low heat, stirring often.

2. Place the diced onions in a frying pan (preferably cast-iron) with ½ pound of lard or rendered pork fat; set heat to medium. Sauté onions until nicely caramelized, then reserve.

3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper to stew pot. As the beef simmers, add tomato juice and water to keep contents barely covered.

4. Blend paprika with the onions, then add to the pot.
5. Simmer until beef is very tender (about 1½ hours), stirring gently as the sauce thickens (don't let it burn; add water if necessary).



Il Cenacolo


228 S. Plank Rd., Newburgh


We are busier in the winter than we are in the summer,” says Sali Hadzi of Il Cenácolo, his premier Northern Italian restaurant in Newburgh. And no wonder: The lineup of authentic Tuscan dishes — including favorites like osso buco; veal stew with peppers, garlic, and white wine; and branzino, a wild sea bass served with a white wine-laced tomato sauce flavored with garlic — is full of rich and hearty flavors just right for this time of year. And with a menu that features up to 40 daily specials, the restaurant can take full advantage of seasonal ingredients.


One of Il Cenácolo’s signature entrées during the colder months is an Italian pot roast, a dish Hadzi remembers fondly from his youth. Relatively simple to prepare, it is made using an eye round roast, which Hadzi “spikes” with garlic and pancetta. After browning, the beef is put in a stew pot with finely chopped carrots, celery, onions, porcini mushrooms, and enough red wine to come about halfway up the sides of the meat. The roast then slowly simmers in a 300-degree oven for about four hours, a process that leaves it fork-tender and eminently flavorful. “It is a very traditional Tuscan dish,” Hadzi says — and a popular one when the thermometer dips. He notes that, especially in wintertime, “People come in looking forward to eating hearty dishes and having a nice glass of wine.”



The Prospect Restaurant at Scribner Hollow


Rte. 23-A, Hunter, 518-263-4211 or 1-800-395-4683


We’re directly across the street from Hunter Mountain, so you can see skiers whipping down the slopes when you eat,” says chef/owner Guy Chirico, who took over the restaurant and lodge from his father 15 years ago. After the restaurant’s $125,000 makeover, you may well want to focus on the attractive interior of the eatery, with its faux-finish ceilings and russet and gold color scheme. (Don’t miss the oil paintings done by Chirico’s father, who passed away last year.)


Each year, the restaurant racks up an impressive list of awards from various wine magazines, including biggies like Wine Spectator. “We have 30 New York State wines on our wine list,” says Chirico. “There is a real synergy between New York State food and New York State wine. We really believe in that, it’s what we do.”


Our suggestion? Get a table as close to one of the two fireplaces as possible, indulge in something warm and wonderful — try the coq au vin, the paella, or the pheasant saltimbocca — with a glass of wine. Then head upstairs to one of the 40 guest rooms (plan ahead: get one with a fireplace). That’s our idea of a true winter wonderland.


Catskill Mountain Pheasant Saltimbocca


1 2½-lb pheasant, split into 2 halves, partially deboned u1 cup pancetta (or double-smoked bacon), chopped ufresh sage u2 cups fresh hot stock, either good chicken stock or stock made from the pheasant bones


1. Spray ½ hotel pan (or other broiler and oven-proof pan at least 2 inches deep) with cooking spray.

2. Season pheasant on both sides with a spice mixture made up of: ¼ part granulated garlic, ¼ part granulated onion, ¼ part kosher salt, 1⁄8 part cracked black pepper, 1⁄8 part table-grind pepper.

3. Coat the top with olive oil and broil until the skin starts to get crisp and brown.

4. Remove from broiler and add enough of the hot stock so that the lower half-inch of the pheasant is immersed.

5. Add some of the ingredients for the saltimbocca sauce, such as some of the diced pancetta, Madeira, fresh sage, and seasonings. This has the effect of creating a saltimbocca-scented “nage” or shallow poaching liquid.

6. Transfer to a preheated 350-degree oven for 12-15 minutes. The pheasant should emerge still brown and crispy on top, but nice and moist throughout. (You can put the pan back under the broiler for a couple of seconds at the end to crisp up the skin.)


For the saltimbocca sauce:

Garlic, sliced shallots, chopped extra-virgin olive oil 1 cup Madeira uprosciutto or Westphalian ham, sliced very thin pancetta or double-smoked bacon extra virgin olive oil uunsalted butter ½ cup Madeira 1 Tbsp chiffonade of fresh sage, plus sprigs for garnish ½ pint of espagnole (a classic sauce base made from a caramelized mirepoix, herbs, spices, wine, and stock. Countless great recipes for espagnole are available.) chopped parsley salt and pepper


1. Sauté sliced garlic and chopped shallots in extra-virgin olive oil until soft.

2. Add pancetta and prosciutto and sauté until most fat renders off pancetta, then de-fat the pan.

3. Deglaze pan with Madeira and reduce by half.

4. Add chiffonade of fresh sage and espagnole. Simmer for 15 minutes; finish with butter. 5. Add salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.

Slice some prosciutto into one-inch ribbons, broil them for about one minute, and pick out a nice sage sprig.

Add the pheasant to the sauce pan for one minute, then transfer to a 12-inch dinner plate. Top with saltimbocca sauce, garnish with ribbons of crispy prosciutto, and tuck the sage sprig into the wing joint. Serve with oven-roasted local fingerling potatoes and maple-glazed acorn squash.



Iron Forge Inn


38 Iron Forge Rd., Bellvale



When I was a kid, my parents used to bring me here for Christmas Eve dinners. I can remember the snow piling up on the old stone wall, the old lanterns out front. You have views looking at the old Methodist Church and out onto Sugar Loaf Mountain. It’s a really neat place,” says chef Erik Johansen, who grew up down the road from the Iron Forge Inn and started washing dishes for the previous owners when he was 13 years old. “They were the first people who taught me to have fun with food.”


Ten years ago, Johansen’s family took over the restaurant. By that time, Johansen had ditched his plans to study marine biology and physics in order to get a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. “I decided that I didn’t want to spend my life sitting behind a desk,” he says.


Winter is particularly charming at the Iron Forge, a 1760 building that has been a restaurant for 60 years. “For many generations, it was the home of a blacksmith. That’s where the name comes from,” says Johansen. “But it still looks like it did 150 years ago, with very cozy rooms. Each room has a very different feel, different colors.”


Naturally, Johansen whips up fresh fare that perfectly complements this cozy atmophere. On the menu this season? A warm duck-salad appetizer; chestnut ravioli with pulled duck and a pumpkin consommé; Warwick-apple-and-shaved-fennel salad with orange-curry dressing; and a lobster bisque with white truffles. And if you’re craving a more casual atmosphere, head downstairs to the tap room, open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, for a burger or wings. “We still make all our own breads,” says Johansen. “And anything we make for the pub gets the same care that we use for the restaurant.”


Braised Short Ribswith Onion Bread Pudding and Spiced Mole


For the short ribs:

5 lbs short ribs of beef u2 onions, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick u4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed u2 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick u4 celery stalks, sliced u1 bottle red wine u2 bay leaves u3 sprigs thyme u2 quarts chicken broth

1. Sear the short ribs in hot oil to a deep golden brown.

2. Sweat the onions lightly with the garlic. Add the carrots and celery and cook briefly.

3. Add the wine and herbs, and reduce by half.

4. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

5. Put the short ribs into a roasting pan suitable to hold all of the ingredients. Pour the wine/broth mixture over the ribs.

6. Cover with foil, braise in a 300-degree oven for 3½-4 hours. The meat should be very tender when finished.

7. Remove the ribs from the stock, being careful not to break up the meat. The meat is ready to serve, but is best left to cool in the cooking liquid overnight.


For the spiced mole:

8 dried chiles, stems and seeds removed ½ cup almonds 1 Tbsp unsalted roasted peanuts ¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds 1 Tbsp sesame seeds u1 large ripe, dark-skinned plantain, peeled and thickly sliced 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into wedges u4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled u½ lb tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and coarsely chopped u½ lb plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped u1⁄3 cup raisins u2 whole cloves u1 tsp whole black peppercorns 2 whole allspice berries u½ tsp cumin seeds u½ tsp aniseed u1 cinnamon stick u½ cup bread, sliced into 1-inch sections u1 tortilla, torn into pieces u3 oz chocolate ¼ cup dark brown sugar 2 cups chicken broth 4 sprigs thyme 1 tsp salt

1. In a large heavy-bottom pot, add oil and sear the chilis over medium heat, allowing the skin to blister and blacken. Place in a second stock pot.

2. Toast the nuts and seeds until golden; add to the second pot.

3. Toast the plantain pieces, the onion, and the garlic; add to second pot.

4. Sauté the tomatillo, tomatoes, and raisins; add to second pot.

5. Toast the spices in a separate, dry sauté pan; add to second pot.

6. Toast the bread and tortillas; add to second pot with the chocolate and brown sugar.

7. Stir in the stock, thyme, and salt; simmer for 30 minutes over low heat (be careful not to scorch the bottom of the pot).

8. The sauce may be thinned with water or chicken broth if necessary.


For the onion bread pudding:

10 whole onions, unpeeled (we use local Pine Island onions) u4 cups heavy cream
u4 cups whole milk u2 Tbsp salt u2 bay leaves u8 thyme sprigs u10 whole black peppercorns u14 egg yolks u4 whole eggs ujuice of 1 lemon u18 cups bread, diced into ¼-inch pieces

1. Bake the onions until the centers are very soft.

2. Tie the bay leaf, thyme, and black peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter using butchers twine.

3. Purée the onions until smooth.

4. Combine the roasted onion purée, cream, milk, one tablespoon salt, and the herb sachet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for 15 minutes; remove from heat.

5. Whisk the remaining one tablespoon of salt with the eggs in a stainless-steel bowl. While stirring, slowly drizzle in the hot cream mixture until combined; then strain the mixture back into the stainless-steel bowl. Add lemon juice.

6. Line a hotel pan with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.

7. Combine the bread with the onion custard mix, squeezing the bread to allow the custard to be absorbed. Let mixture sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Cover with foil.

8. Set the hotel pan into a roasting pan and place in oven. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the hotel pan. Bake 1-1½ hours. The finished mixture should jiggle in one solid mass like a cooked cheesecake or crème brulée. If the center is still “liquidy,” remo

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