OURAY COUNTY – If you want to get to know the soul of a place, pick up a regional cookbook. The South has its classic Charleston Receipts. People who know of Nantucket might think of it as the place that launched Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Visitors who enjoy eating there are just as likely to embrace Sarah Leah Chase’s Nantucket Open-House Cookbook and its wintry counterpart, Cold-Weather Cooking. This spring, Weehawken Arts will belly up to the publishing table with a culinary cookbook-cum-travelogue all its own.
The book, says Weehawken’s Susie Opdahl, will focus on “the typical lifestyles and activities” of residents over a year in Ouray County.
The catch, of course, is that there is no typical lifestyle or activity here, and that variety may be the book’s biggest asset. Opdahl, who calls herself “a lousy cook,” is nevertheless an excellent compiler of recipes. In place of an actual cookbook, which isn’t scheduled for publication until early next summer (at which point Weehawken’s Cookbook Committee will have been collecting recipes and photos for a full 12 months), she sports a thick binder – a blueprint – of photos, activities, and suggested dishes to enjoy them with, such as the Nordic association dinner at Buen Tiempo (accompanied by a recipe for the restaurant’s enchiladas) or a gathering at a community garden (Chris Lance’s kale pesto; Dawn Klein’s garden pizza). The Imogene Pass run calls for carbo loading; instead of predictable spaghetti and meatballs, why not make the feast memorable with a plate of pasta laden with the Silver Nugget’s wild mushroom sauce? (It’s in the book.) Sara Sharpe, proprietor of the Secret Garden Bed & Breakfast in Ouray, is also a caterer. She hosted, and fed, the folk group Red Horse, who played the Wright Opera House last fall (her recipe: marinated, grilled chicken with wild-and-brown rice). Researcher Karen Rasmussen has plumbed the Ouray County Historical Museum’s archives for a gourmet gingerbread from the 1890s. Though Opdahl isn’t much of a cook, her daughter-in-law is. She provided a Greek lasagna dish – the perfect thing to serve before, say, an evening with the chamber music of Trio Solisti at the 4-H Events Center.
Local restaurants have been particularly generous contributors. The Beaumont Hotel has supplied instructions for one of its signature seasonal risottos and also its roasted Portobello burger. “When the Thai restaurant [Thai Paradise in Ridgway] heard about our plans, they called right away. They not only gave me a couple of recipes, they sent me home with an entire dinner,” Opdahl says.
Weehawken’s publication will include offerings not only from local chefs and resident gourmands, but favorite family recipes from just-plain-good home cooks. There will be something for every member of the family: appetizers, main and side dishes (featuring local game), meals kids can make, desserts, dog biscuits. In March or April, the Cookbook Committee will convene to test and re-test; recipes will be tweaked to get the seasoning just right, and breads and cakes will be adjusted for altitude. Opdahl welcomes submissions from locals and visitors alike (contact her at P.O. Box 1021, Ouray CO 81427 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org). The cookbook will receive marketing help from Weehawken’s Kay Siebold, who worked on the Denver Junior League’s Colorado Cache series, much loved by Colorado cooks. While we wait, a preview: a stuffing recipe for the holiday season, full of flavor and quick to prepare, from Ouray resident and cookbook author Dawn Klein.
1 lb. Mexican chorizo
1 medium onion
1 bunch celery
½ cup butter
1 loaf (1 lb.) Italian bread
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup pepitas
Brown the chorizo in a large frying pan and crumble into small pieces. Drain and set aside. Dice onion and celery into half-inch pieces and sauté in butter until tender. Cut bread into one-inch cubes; set aside. Add chorizo, chicken broth and pepitas to celery-onion mixture and simmer until broth is hot. Pour into a large mixing bowl, mixing in handfuls of bread until you have added enough bread to soak up broth. This recipe can stuff a turkey, or be baked at about 350 degrees until firm in the middle and crisp on top.