Farm to Table in the Cafeteria
By Christina Freeman
Chefs Andy Barnes and Andy Ziegler tend to the greenhouse. Photo by Jennie Lay
By Willow Fitzerald
Steamboat Mountain School’s main building features Western charm and all the amenities that foster education and community.
Although many artifacts in the classrooms are souvenirs brought back by students from their trips around the world, the accompanying lassos, saddles and cattle brands whisper of the school’s agricultural history. The high school is actively turning that whisper into a shout, both in the classrooms and the kitchen, by launching a cutting-edge Sustainable Agriculture Program.
Above Strawberry Park, a noteworthy vein of agricultural history runs through both the land and the traditions at Steamboat Mountain School. Even before founder Lowell Whiteman added an educational facet to his boys’ camp in 1957, he spent many years teaching kids about animal husbandry and showing them the ropes of a rough-and-tumble Western lifestyle. Keeping with that tradition, this year Steamboat Mountain School is honing its focus on land ethics and sustainable local agriculture.
Seeding a sustainable ag program
The program idea originated in the school’s kitchen, where chefs Andy Ziegler and Andy Barnes create locally sourced, fresh meals. It has since expanded to include an on-campus greenhouse, aquaculture, large-scale composting, food sourced from local farms, employment of an intern and extensive community engagement. When students returned to campus this fall, the Sustainable Agriculture Program started taking an active role in classes like environmental science and environmental geography. It also takes center stage in campus chores and activities, giving both day and boarding students opportunities for project-based learning through sustainability.
This year, the program is focusing on minimizing the school’s environmental impact, starting with reducing and reusing wastes and educating students about nutrition and food sustainability. Hands-on composting, recycling and gardening projects are engaging students directly, while the intern works with all the school’s teachers and students to foster diverse environmental projects. Students are developing relationships with local farmers through farm visits and case studies, and the program strives to knit a closer bond between the Steamboat Springs community and the Steamboat Mountain School.
Chefs Ziegler and Barnes continue to host locally-sourced gourmet dinners that are open to the community in order to raise money for the program. The next dinner will be Friday, Jan. 23.
Sustainability has never been far from the heart of Steamboat Mountain School. In the classrooms, passionate teachers help students build an honest relationship with the environment. On camping trips, those same teachers share their wilderness passions. In towns, cities and mountains around the globe, where students experience the world’s grand diversity, environmental sustainability has always been part of the discussion. The Sustainable Agriculture Program is yet another avenue for students to get their hands in the dirt, eat what’s local, and learn about community through experience and action at the dinner table.
Steamboat Mountain School executive chefs Andy Ziegler and Andy Barnes share favorite recipes to warm your winter bones, impress your guests and showcase the virtues of Yampa Valley beef.
Portuguese Beef Stew
1 . lbs. beef chuck
3 carrots, cut into .” disks
1 yellow onion, large dice
1 bulb fennel, remove fronds and core, cut into 1” pieces
3 cloves garlic, rough chop
. lb. thick-cut bacon, cubed
2 12-oz. cans whole tomatoes
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
10 whole cloves
20 pepper corns
15 coriander seeds
. tsp. cumin
. tsp. cinnamon
(Combine all spices in a grinder or mortar and pestle)
Start with a thick bottom casserole pot with a lid. Over medium heat, slowly cook bacon. While bacon is cooking, prepare the chuck by removing any sinew and cutting it into approximately 1” cubes.
On a plate or a shallow bowl, mix flour and salt together and evenly coat the cubed beef.
Once the bacon is barely crisp, remove it from the pot, leaving the bacon fat inside the pot to sear the beef. Turn your heat up to medium-high and work in batches to brown the beef. To sear all the beef evenly, take care not to crowd the pan.
Set the beef aside with the bacon and turn the heat down. Add vegetables and slowly sweat them until translucent. Add the wine and cook on high until half the wine has evaporated.
Crush the tomatoes with your hands, and add them to the pot. Add the ground spices and water. Cover the pot and cook in the oven at 300° F for approximately 2 hours.
Check periodically to make sure there is enough liquid. If you need to add more, add 1/2 cup of water at a time. The meat should be tender and melt in your mouth when it is done.
Butternut Squash Yogurt Sauce
1 cup roasted and mashed butternut squash
2 cups plain yogurt
1 tsp. salt
1 . tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 jalapeno, sliced in disks
1 tsp. curry powder
. tsp. smoked paprika
Mix squash, yogurt, salt and sugar together in a food processor. (If you do not have one, just mix vigorously with a whisk.)
Heat oil in a small pan with a lid. Once it is hot, add mustard seeds and cover. Cook until the seeds stop popping. Add the sliced jalapeño and the remainder of the spices. Cover the pan and remove from heat immediately. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Pour the spice mixture over the yogurt and mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.