BACKCOUNTRY CHEF – LIQUID COMFORT

Warm up your winter adventures with hot-buttered rum & souped-up noodles.

Few things are as delicious and satisfying as a warm mug of cider or cocoa when tailgating on a drizzly day before the big game, made even better with a little nip from the flask. Or slurping down a cup of steaming noodle soup after a day snowshoeing or sledding, clutching a spork with chilly fingers. That liquid comfort traveling from lips to bellies—warming us up from the inside out—is a sure sign our day in the great outdoors just got that much better.

Unfortunately, most of the options in the pre-packaged “just add hot water” category for both sustenance and sipping tend to be chock-full of preservatives and a long list of ingredients we can’t identify, let alone pronounce. But that needn’t be the case with a bit of night-before prep, some simple ingredients and a thermos of hot water. Here are two of my favorite ways to warm up when the weather cools down.


Hot-Buttered Rum

Around Thanksgiving each year, I mix up a jar of hot buttered rum batter and scoop it out as needed all winter long. It’ll keep for months in the fridge, and one pint will make 20-plus drinks, depending on how buttery you like your mug. For the booze component, a golden-hued barrel-aged rum from Barbados gives the drink a nice molasses tone, but you can use white rum if that’s what you’ve got on hand.

Method: To an 8-ounce (1 cup) mug add: 1 heaping tablespoon of butter batter (recipe, below) and 2 ounces dark rum. Fill the mug almost to the rim with hot water and stir gently until the butter is melted and sugar dissolves. Rub the rim of the mug with a bit of orange zest and drop the zest into the drink. Top off the mug to the rim with more hot water if needed, and a little grating of fresh nutmeg.


Rum Butter Batter
½ cup vanilla bean ice cream, softened
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
A generous pinch each of: ground cloves, ground mace and smoked sea salt

In a bowl, smash all of the ingredients together until they are completely combined. Transfer to a pint Mason jar or other re-sealable container. Store in the refrigerator until ready for use.


Souped-up Noodles

When my kids were little, one of their go-to après-ski tailgate snacks was that cheap ski-bum staple: instant ramen noodles in a Styrofoam cup. Now that they’re older, we still crave that salty carb-fest but also aim to add more nutritious, complex flavors to the mix. Inspired by a favorite food scientist, Kenji Lopez-Alt of the SeriousEats.com Food Lab, we’ve been playing around with an endless variety of just-add-water instant noodle combinations assembled at home before we head to the slopes.

Just keep in mind that whatever ingredients you add for your own variation won’t really “cook” in the jar—a thermos can’t keep water hot enough for heating raw meat to safe temperatures—so include pre-cooked meat and either par-cook or shred hard vegetables into small pieces. This makes for a perfect opportunity to use leftovers. Cooked spaghetti noodles, grilled veggies and that doggie-bagged sirloin from the steakhouse all make for great Mason jar meals. Just build your jar using these suggested layer ingredients, and you’re good to go!

¤ Layer 1, Flavor booster
1 heaping tablespoon of “Better Than Bouillon” beef, chicken or vegetable stock base concentrate. Add a bit of soy sauce, hoisin, Sriracha or fresh cracked black pepper for an extra kick.

¤ Layer 2, Protein
Layer shredded rotisserie chicken, chopped deli ham, thinly sliced strips of cooked beef, cooked shrimp, chopped turkey jerky, canned garbanzo beans or hard-boiled egg.

¤ Layer 3, Veg it up
Add shredded carrots, thinly sliced zucchini, spinach leaves, frozen peas or corn, cabbage leaves, chopped green onions, jalapeno peppers and sliced mushrooms.

¤ Layer 4, Noodles
Dry Thai or Vietnamese rice noodles can be added with no pre-cooking prep; Italian-style pasta, egg noodles and other hard pasta should be pre-cooked. For extra noodle-y goodness, pack these to the top of the jar. Close the lid.

Add hot water to the jars just before serving. Replace lid firmly and, wearing a glove or using a towel, give the jar a few gentle shakes to distribute and dissolve the bouillon evenly. Caution: Jar will be hot to handle, so either let it cool or wear gloves.

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