Goose-feather snow falls dreamily, drifting against frosted windows. Throw another log on the fire, and invite your book club friends to a cozy discussion of something other than politics.
A little literary gossip has become a favorite pastime in the Wood River Valley—but without the deep comfort of good food, book club gatherings could seem a bit dry. While we love reading—and talking about what we’re reading—we seem to love food as much, or maybe even more. Combined, these passions create the recipe for a perfect winter evening.
Mediocrity is not in our nature here. Whatever we do, we do with great gusto; so the usual potluck fare just doesn’t cut it. But it can be daunting to try to create a wonderful, portable culinary contribution to a larger meal, especially if preparation time is limited at the end of a busy day, and the offering must look as good as it tastes when placed on a friend’s serving table.
We have the option, of course, of running by a restaurant and picking something up, but it is our good fortune to live in an area where the palate-tickling talents of chefs are matched by uncommon generosity. Local experts offered to tell us how to whip up divine noshes that are certain to elicit hearty oohs and ahhs. Here they share their ideas on concocting moveable—and immensely satisfying—book club feasts.
In the cozy, unassuming house in Ketchum where Highway 75 drops into Warm Springs Road, Globus greets the nose with enticing aromas: ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and a hint of chili. Few things comfort us like glorious noodles, and Globus is known for theirs, but there is more to the process of eating than simply tasting the food, according to Executive Chef Andreas Heaphy.
“I eat what makes me feel good, what gives me energy. Mine is a sort of holistically healthy approach to food: nourishing for my body, wonderful to taste, and soothing for my soul.
“Working with food relaxes me,” Heaphy explains. “It grounds me in a way nothing else does.” And while he was well trained through Portland, Oregon’s Western Culinary Institute, and had that training deepened through an impressive stint at Manhattan’s famed Bouley restaurant, Heaphy truly appreciates his work at Globus.
For this chef, the enjoyment of food is strongly centered in memories: “One of my favorite food experiences was a dish called ‘festival fish’ that I had in Palau, Micronesia. It was really fantastic, served on bamboo platters and involving almost everyone in the family who owned the little restaurant there. The experience was so great that my wife and I try to re-create it with friends at our house at least once a year.”
Understanding the undeniably sentimental draw of food-based experiences, Heaphy enjoys offering a “little escape” at Globus. “If someone has just come back from, say, Singapore, and is craving something they had there, I’ll try to re-create it for them. I love the challenge.”
The idea of creativity in comfort food brought Heaphy to ponder an Asian twist on a potluck dish. He delights in the vision of arriving at a winter book club meeting carrying steaming-hot clay pots filled with savory lamb and vegetables, infused with the rich flavors of garlic, hoisin, sherry, and shitakes. Taking sustenance from these rustic clay pots would warm any winter evening, and knock the edge off any lingering stresses of the day.
Chinese Five-Spice Lamb in Clay Pots
28 oz. boneless leg of lamb
4 T. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground Szechwan peppercorns
1/2 c. peanut oil
1 1/2 T. minced garlic
1 1/2 T. minced ginger
2 c. leeks, white parts only
2 c. shitake mushrooms, julienne
2 ea. dried Japone chili, crushed
1 T. Chinese black bean paste
1 c. carrots, cut in 1” dice
1 1/2 c. celery, cut in 1” dice
1 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice blend
1 T. mushroom soy sauce
3 c. beef stock
1 c. sherry
3/4 c. hoisin sauce
1/2 c. oyster sauce
4 oz. oyster sauce
Preheat oven to 300 F. Trim and cut lamb into 1-1/2” cubes. Dust cubes with mixture of flour and ground peppercorns. Heat a large stockpot on the stovetop, and add peanut oil. When the oil is very hot and shimmering, add the lamb. Sear on all sides until nicely browned. Then add the garlic, ginger, leeks, mushrooms, crushed chili, bean paste, carrots, celery, and five-spice blend. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally until very fragrant (about 5 minutes). Add soy sauce, beef stock, sherry, hoisin and oyster sauce, bringing mixture to a boil. Transfer the stew mixture into four separate Chinese clay pots, cover, and place on middle oven rack. Cook until lamb is very tender, about 90 minutes. Serve with jasmine rice and steamed baby bok choy, if desired. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. >>>
A slow smile spreads across Richard “Rico” Albright’s face when quizzed on the notion of bringing food to a gathering of book lovers. “Well, people love pizza,” he laughs.
“And it’s quick to prepare, easy to take somewhere, easy to eat. Perfect, right?”
Rico should know: Pizza is his claim to local fame. He arrived here in the seventies, “basically to ski,” and brought with him skills learned at his dad’s California pizzeria. The idea was to work construction until the snow fell (back in the days when construction had “a season”) and ski all winter. Rico was given an indicator of his future in the Wood River Valley early on. “I used to make pizzas for my friends,” he recalls, “and they kept encouraging me to open my own place.”
After five years of construction work and constant prodding from friends, Rico struck a deal with Brad Roos, the owner of Whiskey Jacques on Main Street. There, Rico cranked out his popular pizza and salads for nearly a decade, happily living the life so many people come here seeking—skiing during the day, working at night. Another stint of construction work detoured him for a few years, but he felt that something was missing. Following a nagging desire to be the proprietor of his own restaurant, Rico opened the first pizzeria bearing his name, on Sixth and Washington, in 1997. A year later, he moved the business to its current location on Main Street. “It’s a lot more fun when it’s busy. And it’s a lot easier to be busy on Main Street,” he laughs.
“I like the overall concept of restaurants, creating the idea of the place and making it all work. Of course, food is an important component, but it’s the people—the customers and my really great crew—and the experience of working and relating in the restaurant that I really enjoy. ”
“I couldn’t do this without my staff. I’m really lucky to have a good crew here, the best management up front, and the best guys in the kitchen. Chef Joe Woodside came here after cooking school in Pittsburgh to work with Sun Valley. We’ve got him in our kitchen now, and he’s really great at experimenting with combinations for sauté dishes and for pizza.”
Laughing, Rico also admits that making pizza isn’t rocket science: “Anybody can make a pizza. The key is combining the toppings creatively.” And he concedes that he isn’t a precise-recipe kind of guy. His pick for a winter gathering of friends starts out with a timesaving option: “Stop by the restaurant and buy a pre-made crust from us if you don’t have time to mix one up at home.”
Rico gazes off into the distance, muses about how colorful the pizza should be, what flavors would be best for a winter night, and begins . . .
Book Club Pizza from Rico’s
“Preheat a pizza stone in the oven to 450 F. Roll out the dough—make it a thin crust—and place it on a pizza screen. Then spread a mixture of red marinara sauce and green pesto sauce on the dough, and add spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and pine nuts. Put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the top is nice and bubbly. Cut it into squares for easy serving.
“That’s it. Easy, right? And perfect for a group.”