Hot Springs And Hot Food Beckon in Utah

FOR a capacity crowd of 92, it's going to be a jolly holiday at the Homestead. Many come just for the daily sleigh rides across the rolling, snow-covered meadows of Utah's spectacular Heber Valley; others take advantage of the world-class cross country and downhill skiing. Everyone enjoys the classic country fare. ``It's like stepping into a Currier & Ives Christmas card,'' says Mary Kay Lazarus, a spokeswoman for the inn, noting the setting and the hospitality.

The Homestead's reputation for hospitality and western cuisine dates back to 1886. A favorite spot in the Heber Valley was Simon Schneitter's hot springs in Midway, Utah, just outside Salt Lake City, where the Homestead now stands. With neighbors always about, it wasn't long before Simon's wife, Fanny, took to the kitchen. It is said that Fanny's chicken dinners soon earned a reputation as renowned as the hot springs'.

Today it falls to head chef Robert Harper to carry on Fanny Schneitter's legacy. Mr. Harper says that the main attraction Christmas Day will be an elaborate afternoon buffet, but he offers the following as a guaranteed crowd pleaser for any early risers at the inn or at home.

SCRAMBLED EGGS FLORENTINE 1 dozen eggs 1 pound spinach, fresh or frozen 1 small onion, diced 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

In skillet, saute onions and mushrooms until onions are clear. Add spinach (if fresh, blanch it by placing it in hot water for about 2 minutes, then drain) and saute until spinach is hot.

Pour in eggs and scramble. Top with grated cheese (chef Harper suggests half swiss, half cheddar). Serves six.

GRAVY FOR BISCUITS 4 ounces sausage meat 3-4 tablespoons flour 1 cup water 1/2 cup of heavy cream scallions (optional) Salt, pepper, and garlic to taste

Remove sausage from casing and brown in skillet until fat is rendered. Add flour and cook until mixture lightens (it will be gray from the fat). Add water and simmer 3-4 minutes. Add cream and chopped scallions. Thin with additional cream. Add salt, pepper, and garlic.

Pour over buttermilk biscuits. Serves six.

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