Snow fell in the Sierra Nevadas over the weekend flushing out the avid skiers and winter sports enthusiasts. I was not among them. Snow is so beautiful to look at. Delicate flakes drifting from the sky draping the trees with white. After a good snowfall the world transforms outside your window. Visions of Currier & Ives and flickering fires in the hearth come to mind. That is, until you have to drive in it, shovel it, or get it off your roof. At that time all remaining lyrics from “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” fly out the window and your inner Grinch emerges.
I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A fact I’ve mentioned countless times. Winters there lean towards harsh, with snow doled out generously by Mother Nature. During blizzards as a kid I can remember being pressed against the picture window in the living room wind howling beyond the pane. Snow would literally be falling diagonally, visibility reduced to the end of your arm. Brrrr. Closing my eyes to sleep on nights such as those, my thoughts would turn to my sled hanging on the nail in the basement, or the snowman I would build when the winds died down and my grandmother deemed it time to go out and play. Like most kids growing up in heavily snowed areas there was substantial additional clothing involved in going outside. For me it was warm socks and “woolies”, as my grandmother referred to them, long underwear to you. Over the woolies went a heavily insulated one-piece snowsuit zipped tightly around my chubby parts. All this was topped by a fur-lined hat with flaps and accessorized with “idiot mittens” as I’ve always called them. Idiot mittens were attached to one another by a long string which was threaded through your arm holes and slipped around your neck. Like most children I could lose everything I owned within five minutes of leaving the house, so the strings kept the trips to buy mittens down to a manageable place. By the time I was done, I could have led an expedition to the North Pole without any danger of frostbite.
Snow visits us up here in the high country from time to time. The first year we moved in we were ill prepared for winter weather. Overnight a winter storm passed through the area and when I pulled the blinds the following morning surprised to find a world of white outside. As beautiful as it was we had no salt for our steep driveway, nor a snow shovel to clear a path. We stood like two soldiers at the front door, without weapons to fight the war. In the end we stayed inside for three days until the sun removed the snow. Neighbors tell us those of us with steep driveways park our cars on the street when a storm is imminent. Good to know.
People installing chains are cleaning up in the mountainous areas. I believe the going rate for suffering the elements to get them around the wheels runs about $100.00. Not work I’d prefer, but I guess in any business you identify the need, then fill it. I’m not hardy enough these days for freezing weather. I’m afraid if out there too long someone would come by and stuff a carrot up my nose and throw a scarf around my neck.
My son will be heading for the slopes if this weather pattern holds. El Nino is supposedly lurking out in the Pacific waiting to help us with our drought so I hope it does. Skiing is a big part of my son’s winter program. His two children were introduced to it early and when I see videos of them careening down the slippery slopes I find I have to remind myself to breathe. Though I hail from a climate where skiing is prevalent, I have only snow skied once. I found that one time too many, actually, but I applaud those with the temerity to do it and do it well.
On my one and only snow skiing expedition, Mammoth was the location of choice. A lovely layer of powder (to use skier’s vernacular) covered the ski area. Perfect weather for throwing oneself off the mountain, or so I was told. Equipment had been rented only for me, because the group I went with were all seasoned skiers and had equipment of their own. As it happens throughout my life I’ve ended up learning to do something new around people already well skilled at it. This leaving me to look even more like an idiot in the process than I actually might have if we were learning together. This was to be no exception.
A light snow fell as we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel holding our reservations for the weekend. Friday traffic and treacherous driving conditions left us relieved we had added “late arrival” to our plans as we made our way slowly up the icy steps. I was nervous about the following morning. In a new relationship, I was not anxious to place skis on my feet and display my total ineptness to the object of my affection. Assured by him, there would be lessons in place and instructions on how to keep my body parts in tact before sending me out on my own, I closed my eyes for the night sleeping restlessly.
Ski togs in place and boots on, I showed up on the Bunny Hill for my scheduled lesson. Needless to say most of the others in the class still had their baby teeth, making me feel a bit like the kid held behind in elementary school. The teacher, a fresh-faced young woman who put us through our paces on how to stop (really important information for me), how to hold our knees, and how to use our poles. Most of my perspective of the class was looking up from a prone position, but some of the information stuck as I managed to stand up for at least 10 minutes at the end of the class.
Armed with enough information to be dangerous I was talked into going up with the others on the chair lift. Unknowingly I was to be dropped off at an intermediate slope and expected to return to the base of the hill. Pom pom bobbing on top of my ski hat I somehow made it onto the chair lift without maiming myself. Up, up, up the hill I rode my fear rising with the altitude. At the top I was told to keep the tips of my skis up, stand up and exit to the right. Sure. Forgetting everything as I approached lift-off my skis dipped down, the chair lift pushed me to one side and backwards I went over the side of the nearest hill picking up speed as the slope allowed. Help.
My companions were long gone, flying gracefully towards a hot toddy at the lodge. I, on the other hand, amazingly escaped being carried down on a litter by the help of a wonderful man (possibly an angel) who gathered me up out of a hole in a snow pile and guided me down to the bottom. He asked if he could buy me something hot, but I explained, thanking him profusely, I was already hot enough.
Inside I found everybody warm and happy sitting close to the fire. Hmmmmm. That was my last ski weekend and coincidentally the end of a budding relationship. So, for now I remain on my own two feet and I’m likin’ it.
I can’t say enough about how delicious this meal was. I’ll share the pork first and then the delicious potatoes.
Brie Pork Loin with Cherry Sauce
1 1/2 lb. pork loin
salt and pepper
4 oz. Brie, rind removed and diced
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped
4 slices slightly stale bread
1 tsp. dried sage
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 can sweet cherries with juice
1/2 cup port wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat baking pan with cooking spray.
Butterfly the roast taking care not to cut all the way through. Lay flat and cover with plastic wrap. Pound to 1/2″ thick. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Place Brie down the center of the meat.
For the stuffing:
Melt the butter in skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and celery and cook for 6-8 mins. or until tender. In mixing bowl combine with remaining ingredients and toss.
Place on top of Brie in center of roast. (You may have some left over.) Tuck ends of roast in and roll from the sides around stuffing. Tie with string.
Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Brown roast on all sides.
Place seam side up in baking pan and bake uncovered for 25 mins. or until an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Tent for 15 mins. Slice and serve with sauce.
Using the same skillet you used to brown the meat, melt butter over med. high heat. Add shallots and cook for 1 min. Add sugar and cherries with juice to skillet. Cook 3-4 mins.
Stir in port and broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to med-low and cook 10 mins. until reduced to 1 1/2 cups.
Whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch. Whisk into sauce. Stir until thickened. Add salt and pepper as desired.