Spring Has Sprung?!? & New Hampshire Mud Pie

mud_seasonAccording to the calendar, spring has sprung. For anyone living in New Hampshire, spring is a somewhat relative term. You’ve heard the saying – March comes in like a lion and goes out like lamb. Well, not here. As far as I can figure, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion. If you want, you can change that last part to out like raging rhinoceros/. With snow on the first day of spring, the weather is hardly lamb-like.

Some people refer to this time of year as mud season. I usually think of it as still winter and not in a good way. The good kind of winter is jolly with skiing, skating, après festivities and general all-round frivolity. The bad kind of winter is the fed-up kind with ugly piles of dirty snow on the side of the road. Mud and sand are everywhere. Dirt roads are nothing but muck, trapping cars in their sticky mire. Paved roads are no better. An abundance of frost heaves and potholes turn them into roller coasters.

When it snows, instead of light and fluffy, a nasty mix of snow, sleet and rain falls from the sky. Alternating rain and frigid temperatures turn the mountain into an ice-skating rink one day and slush puddle the next. Then again, a lot of people are past caring. When the first gently falling flakes came down in December, they waxed poetic and then grabbed their skis, snowshoes or sled. Now they’re fed up and don’t mind telling you. What they once called magical is now are just a pain in the you know what.

Of course, it’s not all bad news. Whether you are in desperate need of a break or not, there’s a pretty good chance you gave the last of your pennies to the snowplow guy. A spa day seems out of the question until you get stuck on the shortcut you always take to the ski hill. You are utterly bereft until it hits you. Just below your spinning wheels is a seemingly endless supply of mud! Forget a simple facial, there’s enough for everyone in the state to enjoy a full body mud wrap. And it’s organic!

And that’s not all. At least once, possibly twice or three times, we’ll have that delightful combination of sunshine and warmish temperatures. Those are the days when a morning on the slopes is sheer delight. Instead of hard packed powder (generally known as ice to the rest of the world), the snow is soft and granular. Even better, you can put aside your Michelin man getup and sport your favorite Norwegian or fisherman’s knit sweater. The one your mom got for Christmas in 1952 and you borrowed twenty-five years later. Has it really been that long since you’ve not returned it?

Slush_Cup_Ragged_01Even if you don’t like to ski, you can go to the mountain and hangout. There will be lots of music and end of season festivities. A favorite is watching skiers and snowboarders attempt to skim across an ice-cold pond of slush. Some even make it.

Sound like too much frivolity; how about a peaceful walk around the lake? The road around Pleasant Lake may have its share of cracks and craters but its dry and the woods are abuzz with wild turkeys and other feathered friends. After a winter of arctic temperatures and hurricane-force winds, it’s good to be outside.

Enjoy mud season, after all the black flies will be here sooner than you think! Bon appétit!

New Hampshire Mud Pie
A very easy dessert, Mud Pie is a favorite at my house. What about yours? Enjoy!
Serves 12-16

Cookie Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers or Oreo cookies (about 2 cups crumbs)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamonmud_pie_06
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the sugar, cinnamon, espresso powder and salt and pulse to combine.

Put the cookie crumbs in a bowl, drizzle with the melted butter and toss to combine. Put the buttery crumbs in the springform pan and firmly press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and about 1-2 inches up the sides of the pan.

Bake the crust until set, about 7 minutes. Cool completely.

Ice Cream Filling
2 quarts ice cream or gelato, your favorite flavor(s)
Your favorite add-ins: chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, crushed candies and cookies

Put the ice cream in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes to soften.

Scoop 1 quart of ice cream into the springform pan and spread it evenly over the cookie crust. Sprinkle liberally with chocolate chips, nuts, coconut and/or crushed candies and cookies and gently press into the ice cream.

Repeat with the second quart of ice cream and more toppings. Cover and freeze for several hours or overnight.

I recommend coffee and vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreo cookies and Heath bars.

Chocolate Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
14 ounces dark chocolate* or a mix of dark and milk chocolate, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, salt and orange juice in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and, swirling the pan occasionally, boil until it is a deep amber color, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cream, the mixture will bubble, and whisk until smooth. Heat over low heat until the cream is hot but not boiling. Whisk in the espresso powder and Grand Marnier.

Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes to melt. Whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk again until smooth and combined.

Serve warm. If making ahead, warm the chocolate sauce in a heavy saucepan over very low heat or in a double boiler over simmering water.

* Forget chocolate chips for this recipe. Having lived in Switzerland for almost two decades, I always use Swiss chocolate for this sauce. It melts beautifully and is worth the extra expense.

To servemud_pie_02
Move the Mud Pie to the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before serving. Gently release the collar on the springform pan.

Decoratively drizzle individual plates with chocolate sauce (pretend you are the pastry chef in an elegant restaurant).

Slice the pie and place each slice on a plate on top of the chocolate sauce. If you insist, you can drizzle each slice with more chocolate sauce.

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One Year Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Two Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Three Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Four Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Five Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Six Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will survive Mud Season? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

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