Happy birthday Pork Cracklins! Nine years of documenting everything I cook, and this is my first evernpost on outdoor food.
I grew up camping – not the pampered kind in a campground or RV, but on my family’s property in the Sierras. No bathrooms, no running water. I mostly remember getting clean with dips in the bracing water of the South Fork of the American (it runs through the property). I don’t remember a lot about the food other than we had a pretty sweet camp kitchen setup and we ate a lot of burgers and baked beans.
I never camped as an adult, unless you count the trek to Machu Picchu (I don’t – we had porters carrying our gear, setting up our tents, preparing our meals). The closest Larry and I have come to camping are the trips we’ve made to Yosemite, staying in the tent cabins at Curry Village.
We’ve stuck our toes in the water this summer and have tried our hand at camping (car, tent, campground with bathrooms!). Our first trip was fun but exhausting – Coco spent most of the night huffing and growling at all the night noises. We bought our dinner in town and brought fruit and granola for breakfast so we didn’t have to deal with the food aspect of the trip.
We just got back from our second trip, again to Henry Cowell in the Santa Cruz Mountains – it’s close to home and dog-friendly (but full of poison oak!). Again, it was a short overnight trip, but this time we brought food for dinner and breakfast.
I was nervous about cooking over an open flame. We decided not to bring a camp stove (there are fire pits at each camp site), but open flame is unpredictable and it’s not easy to control the heat. I kept it simple.
Dinner was a terrific rib-eye steak from Moon Meadow, our favorite local ranch. Just salt and pepper, and I cooked it in a pan on top of the grate. I remembered to bring a meat thermometer, and it turned out great: perfectly cooked, and smoky from the fire. Larry did a great job tending the fire and maintained a hot zone and a not-so-hot-zone for me.
We had little red potatoes this week from our CSA, so I prepared them as simply as I could – cut into chunks, tossed with sprigs of rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper. I wrapped them in a foil packet and let the fire do its job. I checked them a couple of times so we’d know when to put the steak on. It’s amazing how good food tastes outdoors. Or is it the smoke? I’m not sure, but they were totally delicious. Dessert was the s’mores I posted about yesterday.
My confidence growing, I dove right in to breakfast in the morning. I had mixed up the dry ingredients for whole grain pancakes, and I brought an egg and little containers of buttermilk, molasses and oil. I melted butter in the pan over the fire, added the wet ingredients to the dry and mixed it up.
The trick with pancakes is to make sure the pan is level. We did okay, just had to tend to the pan regularly. I kept moving it around on the grate, trying to get the heat level just right. I didn’t bother with bacon – we cooked it in the oven at home, and wrapped it up in foil to warm it over the fire. I didn’t want to have to deal with bacon grease.
The pancakes? I ate a huge pile of them. I lost count. I’m usually not a breakfast person, and I might eat one or two pancakes. These are light and flavorful, not heavy from the grains which include oats, whole wheat flour, and cornmeal. I actually forgot to put the oats in, but they were still really good. And Coco had a better trip, too – she slept most of the night. I’m looking forward to cooking more over fire!
- Whole Grain-Buttermilk Pancakes (Bon Appetit, September 2000)