Sunday, July 25, 2010
Going camping is a great way to spend time in the summer, but just because you’re roughing it in the wilderness doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. I recently went camping with my sister in the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains of New Paltz, New York, and we cooked ourselves some fabulous meals over the campfire.
When cooking food while camping tin foil is your best friend. You can wrap almost anything in tinfoil, throw it in the fire, and soon have a meal. We wrapped up everything the night before, stuck it in a fridge, then transferred it into the cooler before we hit the road, and when Friday night came after a day of hiking and waterfalls, we were ready to cook and eat.
On the menu was barbecue chicken, potatoes, and corn on the cob. For the chicken I opted for pre-cut wings. I wanted to use the small pieces to help speed up the cooking process, and since all the pre-cut wings are close in size it would ensure they all cooked at the same speed. In a bowl we tossed the wings with barbecue sauce. Now usually I try to avoid pre-made sauces that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, but I have to admit that something about Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce has a hold on me. We mixed together two different kinds—original spicy and hickory brown sugar, coating each wing in the sweet and spicy sauce. Then we piled the chicken into the tinfoil and stuck it the fridge so all the flavors could melt into the meat overnight.
Similarly, we tossed baby red potatoes (again opting for a small size to help speed up the cooking process) in olive oil, salt, and pepper and wrapped them in foil. For the corn we set out squares of foil and rubbed a stick of butter on one side of the foil and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. Then we carefully wrapped up each cob so it would be coated in the butter when it cooked.
When it was time to eat we built the fire and let some coals form, I moved the sticks out of one section of the fire and placed the chicken and potatoes in the heat. I knew the corn would take less time to cook, so I simply placed them on a rock by the fire and moved them closer when the other food was nearly done. Because I couldn’t tell how hot the temperature of the fire actually was, I simply had to guess on the cooking time. After twenty minutes I rearranged the chicken and potatoes, hoping to ensure an even cooking process. After another twenty minutes had gone by I decided to check to see if they were done, and voila, they were perfect! The meat was just cooking through and fell delightfully off the bone. The potatoes were nice and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside where some cinders and found their way into the foil packet. And the corn was perfect—sweet and buttery and perfectly cooked.
We swallowed it all down with some Sailor Jerry’s dark rum mixed with just a splash of home-made lemonade, appropriately sipped in Dollar Store Christmas mugs. The dinner was a success, followed by a dessert of toasted marshmallows and a late-night snack of Jiffy Pop.
For breakfast I woke up and stirred the still-hot ashes, placing just a few sticks and twigs to get the fire going again. After we got some hot coals we threw in the remaining potatoes so they would heat up again. Then we placed a small pan on the coals with just a bit of olive oil. I cracked in four farm-fresh eggs and stirred them up. They fluffed up beautifully with rich white and yellow colors. After a little salt and pepper they were done.
Breakfast requires coffee, even when you’re in the woods, so we made cowboy coffee. In a small pot we added coffee grounds and water and set it on the hot coals. It took a very long time, but eventually the water began to bubble and the grounds sunk to the bottom of the pot. Although it’s best to use a ladle to scoop out the hot coffee, we didn’t have one, so instead we just poured in out of the pot right into our mugs. Despite a few grounds in the coffee, it was dark, rich, and tasty. After a hearty, campfire breakfast we were ready for more hiking and swimming and the general awe-inspiring beauty of the Shawangunk Mountains.
So foodies, don’t fret! Even in the woods you’ll be okay without your caviar, shaved truffles, and extra virgin olive oil. Some of the best food is cooked simply over an old-fashioned campfire, so pack up your tents, sleeping bags, hiking boots, and a cooler full of fresh ingredients and tinfoil, and get cooking!