At Ryder-Walker, we are all missing the flavors of the Alps. It’s a rare dinner that passes that we aren’t dreaming of a local Alpkäse or imagining a cold mug of Quöllfrisch beer in an Appenzell hut. While we’re looking forward to our next excursion into a local Swiss market to pick up fresh-baked breads and dried meats for the trail, we thought it would be nice to share with you recipes from the mountains we miss. Although we may not be able to hike in our favorite destinations, we still can enjoy the cuisine.
Here are a selection of our favorite, easy to make recipes of classic mountain dishes complete with local drinks to pair them with.
Origin: The French Savoie
Fondue is one of the most iconic dishes in the Alps. Everyone who has been through Zermatt has seen the pots of boiling cheese and everyone who lived through the seventies has a vague memory of an American fondue craze long past. In the alps, however, the exact right way to prepare a fondue is a subject of hot debate.
While the most classic fondues originate from the French Savoie and Switzerland, we would like to keep our hands clean from recommending a recipe for a “true” fondue, and instead would like to recommend what some would surely see as a blasphemous fondue: The tomato fondue! Tomato fondue is everything a fondue should be, with the simple addition of diced or blended tomatoes – turning your pot of melted cheese into a pot of melted pizza! It might sound strange but trust us – it’s secretly even better than traditional fondue.
1 pound 50/50 Gruyere & Emmentaler split,
Corn Starch to thicken
1 cup white wine to emulsify cheese
1 can diced tomatoes
½ diced onion.
1 loaf day-old baguette, cubed
Fry the onion in a (preferably ceramic) pot. Simmer wine. The goal here is to start a simmering base and cook off excess alcohol. Add cheese and stir until separated. Add corn starch to rebind the liquid and cheese. Finally, add tomatoes and let simmer until thick and creamy. Serve over constant heat. Sterno is a great option to maintain melted cheese.
We’ve paired our tomato fondue with a classic Savoyard digestif to help you work through all that cheese. Génépi is a green digestif that is made from a secret recipe of alpine herbs. A drink I have heard described as “like licking a pine tree” Génépi is strong stuff, but the perfect follow up to an evening of fondue.
If you can’t find Génépi a great pairing with fondue is your favorite white wine. Beer is unadvised because it can sit quite heavily with fondue.
Origin: The Austrian Tyrol
Throughout the Alps there are a hundred ways to prepare a dish of ham and potatoes. Choosing the ultimate dish is nearly impossible, however, rather than recommending Rosti or Raclette, we have opted for their Austrian cousin, as it is one of the rare alpine dishes that excludes cheese. Enter the Tiroler Gröstl, the Tyrolean entry in the best way to fatten up for winter competition! Sporting a hearty mix of fried ham and potatoes and spiced with paprika and caraway seed, the Tiroler Gröstl is simple and delicious. Add eggs over easy for a hearty meal.
Quartered fingerling potatoes
Bacon or boiled beef,
Whole caraway seeds
Begin by frying the bacon and onion together. Fry until the onion is translucent. Remove from pan.
Fry the potatoes until golden brown. Make sure they are soft in the middle!
Add caraway and paprika and fry briefly. Add the bacon and onion mix to the hot pan, option to add fried eggs on top then serve.
Almdudler is an Austrian soda the popularity of which is only surpassed by Coke itself. A surprisingly herbal and light soda, Almdudler can either be drunk on its own or as part of a Radler – half beer half Almdudler!
Gerstensuppe (Barley Soup)
Origin: The Swiss Engadine
Now that we have arrived at our soup recommendation, you would be forgiven for thinking we have a lighter food on offer – but this is alpine food we’re talking about! Engadiner Gerstensuppe is the heartiest soup you can imagine. Starting with a base of beef and ham, the Gerstensuppe adds cream, potatoes, and barley to the mix to stew up the heartiest soup imaginable.
½ pound diced ham
½ pound stew beef
1 can haricot or kidney beans
1 cup diced carrots
½ pound diced potatoes
¼ cup cream
Flour to thicken the broth
Bring ham, beef, and barley to a boil in just shy of a liter of water.
Simmer for two hours.
Add vegetables and potatoes.
Whisk flour into cream.
Simmer for an hour or until thick and aromatic.
Fendant is a Swiss secret. One of the most iconic wines from Switzerland, Fendant is light, festive, and historic. The Fendant grape was bred in the 1800s and remains exclusive to Swiss vineyards to this day. While it might not be the fanciest wine or easiest to find, Fendant is so iconic to Switzerland that we had to include it!
Origin: Northern Italy
To start your alpine meal, you might enjoy an appetizer composed of delicacies from Italy, such as a dish that we might encounter while staying at the fabulous Chalet del Sogno on the Ryder Walker trip to the Brenta Dolomites. A key component of the salad is a fresh cheese: the burrata. Called the queen of cheeses in Italy, burrata should immediately rise to the top of your culinary wish list if you are not already familiar with it.
A delicate, soft orb of cheese, with an exterior that is similar to fresh mozzarella, the outer layer of cheese is tied into a little pouch and filled with oozing soft bits of cheese and cream. Though the burrata originated in Puglia, it is now made in dairies throughout Italy, where it is sold to local kitchens to be eaten the very same day it is made.
This composed salad includes thin slices of eggplant and quartered cherry tomatoes marinated in a simple vinaigrette, topped by a few finely snipped chives, and arranged along with ooey-gooey, fresh burrata cheese. Of course, the cheese is better if you have just picked it up from the alpine dairy, but any good burrata will do! The greatest pleasure of all is slicing into the burrata and having the cream pool on the plate to be mopped up by a bit of freshly baked ciabatta. The contrast of the creamy cheese with the sweet vegetables and acidic vinaigrette will keep your palate amused, and you won’t want to miss a single bit of this scrumptious appetizer.
You can essentially pair your burrata however you like. We recommend picking up the burrata itself from the best source you can, the common burrata in the supermarket is fine, but it is the star of the dish, and if a more local cheesemonger is available pay them a visit!
Cut the eggplant as thinly as possible.
Sauté the eggplant in olive oil until crispy.
Garnish the burrata with olive oil, halved tomatoes, and chives.
Pairing: Sparkling Wine
Why not pair your burrata salad with one of the many fine wines of northern Italy? We’d recommend one of the sparkling wines of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, which are often considered a rival to their French cousin, Champagne. A light, low alcohol glass of sparkling wine from the Ferrari vineyards, made in the Metodo Classico , with the second fermentation in the bottle, would be a delightful accompaniment to the burrata salad. What a perfect way to set the mood for the meal to follow. Buon appetito!