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Camping fare typically includes burgers and hot dogs, and while these are certainly easy, get ready to rethink the cuisine that can be savored over the open flame. With recipes like Spiced Currant Cream Scones, Maple-Glazed Wild Salmon, and Tomato Tarte Tatin, Huck and Young celebrate delicious food and the great outdoors. They also include step-by-step instructions for activities such as stargazing, foraging for woodland berries, and minding one’s fruits of the sea (or, how to clean a fish). Campfire Cookery proves that the campfire cannot only be a blissful escape but a true culinary destination.
“It is the rare cookbook that has even the camping-averse actually contemplating a weekend of mosquitoes and sweaty sleeping bags . . . But really, we simply love the recipes.” —LA Weekly
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Read an Excerpt
KINDLING ONE'S FIRE
IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THUS, OUR PRIMAL YEARNING FOR A HOT LICK OF FLAME TO SPARK THE BLAZE OF IMAGINATION. From the time of unceasing toil as hunter-gatherers (an era which forever echoes in our collective unconscious), it is the glow of the fire that is the zenith of what it means to be human. It is light, life, the promise of a hot meal and jovial companionship. If it is true that fire was a gift stolen from the gods by crafty Prometheus, then we do owe him a debt of honor. Or, if, as those more scientifically minded among us may believe, our ancestors first discovered open-fire cookery from the happy chance of a lightning bolt raining down upon a freshly killed beast, then we must all take a moment to marvel at our unbelievable luck.
Even today, there is nothing that so tempts the senses as a cooking fire. The sizzle of olive oil as it sputters off into the embers. The heady scent of merguez sausage as it sears over the flame's amber tendrils. Even the rat-a-tat-tat of popping corn makes an irresistible call to one's companions, inviting all to join in a ring around the campfire. It is still a beacon offering warmth, sustenance, and protection from the elements, but with a bit of practiced manipulation (and by following the helpful instruction herein), the fire may offer so much more. It may even offer chocolate cake.
But before one can get on with the fire-created delicacies of this book, it is important to master the intricacies of the flame: how to both kindle and douse it. To learn what measures to take to ensure the safety of one's companions and environment. For though fire is a beautiful force of creation, it is forever dancing on the edge of destruction. Perhaps that, too, is part of its tantalizing allure.
The Well-Stocked Trunk
"She could not explain in so many words, but she felt that those who prepare for all the emergencies of life beforehand may equip themselves at the expense of joy"
The hustle of preparing for camp is an exciting time, when one can dust off a well-worn steamer trunk, shine some silverware, and dutifully restock any tinctures or tonics that have dwindled since one's last foray into the wild, all the while bursting with holiday anticipation. One experiences great satisfaction in feeling well equipped to meet Nature's demands, whatever they may be.
But do remember that adventure is reliant on a certain measure of the unexpected, and one should never place such emphasis on accumulating the bare necessities that all opportunities for pleasures and thrills are stymied. For inspiration, please consult the following list of our personal camp essentials, some of which are indispensable (noted with an asterisk), others quite handy, and a few (or more) positively sybaritic. Certainly in the history of campfire cookery, one has made do with less. Perhaps, admittedly, even far less. But we'd rather not sally forth at all if it is meant to be a somber and sparse occasion; we suggest one always find room among one's requisites for those trinkets that are frivolous, wholly impractical, and most apt to yield impromptu joy.
As we are concerned primarily with the food and frolicking aspects of camping, we have chosen not to discuss sartorial needs or shelter and bedding. A good wilderness guide is sure to have plenty to say on such matters.
Assembling the Batterie de Cuisine
In French kitchens of high esteem, a workspace must be outfitted with a suitable batterie de cuisine, all the excellent tools and equipment that permit a kitchen to run as smoothly as a Swiss-made clock. In this regard, an outdoor kitchen is scarcely different, with the exception that one's necessary tools must include those that manage open fire. For clarity, we have divided these needs into three: cookery essentials, fire maintenance essentials, and items for tidy campkeeping.
* 10-inch Cast-Iron Skillet with Lid: One cannot go astray with cast-iron cookware (see The Incomparable Cast Iron, page 20). A skillet with a tightly fitting lid is just the thing for sautéing, pan-frying, steaming, and saucing.
* 5-quart Dutch Oven with Lid: Capable of holding greater volume than a skillet, the Dutch oven is ideal for soups, stews, braises, and roasts. One might fill it with water to boil at teatime or with cooking oil to fry breakfast beignets. It is important that it have a tightly fitting lid; the lids of camping-specific Dutch ovens have a lip (called a flange) to hold hot coals, supplying heat from above for baking breads, rolls, biscuits, and scones. One might also look for a camping Dutch oven with legs, so that it sits over, and not directly in, the coals when baking.
* Tripod Grill: We are quite attached to our grill, a grate suspended on three legs via a pulley system. When placed over the fire for cooking, it allows excellent control, as one can bring the food closer to or further from the flame as desired. It also breaks down easily for automobile transportation.
* Grill Grate: If one does not have the resources or space for a tripod grill, a collapsible grill grate can be used instead. A grate with legs that can be placed over the fire, it is wonderful for grilling or stovetop-style cookery; however, it does require greater attentiveness, since one cannot control the heat by adjusting the height as with the tripod grill.
* Short- and Long-Handled Stainless-Steel Tongs: The shorter tongs help in tossing salads or turning food at close proximity; the long tongs are needed when one must reach something close to a scorching flame, such as when grilling meat or fish. We have also — somewhat inappropriately — used long tongs for rearranging logs on a fire. One finds tongs amongst the grilling tools at a hardware shop.
* Short- and Long-handled Stainless-Steel Mixing Spoons: Use the short spoon for stirring ingredients off the heat and the longer spoon for stirring soups, stews, sauces, and risotto at a safe distance from the flame. One finds these spoons amongst the grilling tools at a hardware shop.
* Long-handled Stainless-Steel Spatula: Ideal for flipping crumpets or pancakes at a safe distance from a scorching flame. Also excellent for stirring sautés and flipping fish. One finds these spatulas amongst the grilling tools at a hardware shop.
* Metal Skewers: These sharp rods are just the tools for holding chunks of meats or fruit in place during openflame roasting and for fondue dipping. One might even put the longer versions to good use in marshmallow toasting. Purchase an assortment of lengths and thicknesses.
* Mixing Bowls: We like to use stainless-steel bowls in the wild, as they are sturdy and unbreakable (even when placed for short periods over the fire or used as a cake mold inside a Dutch oven). They also make excellent noisemakers to frighten away animals or in cases of sudden revelry. They are perfect for mixing salads, sauces, vinaigrettes, batters, and dough. Purchase an assortment of sizes.
* Cutting Boards: For prepping food or letting it rest a moment after cooking. Although we prefer solid boards cut from hardwood or bamboo (a renewable resource), to conserve space, flexible plastic cutting boards can be rolled up and stashed in the trunk.
* Kitchen Knives: We've seen so-called cooking professionals arrive at camp with enough knives in their kits to outfit a band of outlaws. We have found that a large chef's knife, a serrated bread knife, and a small paring knife are entirely sufficient for any kitchen needs.
* Swiss Army Knife: The workhorse of the wilderness, this knife will do anything in a pinch, from slicing cheese to opening wine bottles to removing spinach from one's teeth. We've traveled with seasoned out-doorsmen who refuse to use any other knife in their outdoor kitchen.
* Corkscrew: One must always, always carry into the wild a means for uncorking wine or other stubbornly stoppered spirits.
* 9-inch Round Cooling Rack: We use this to suspend fish or vegetables over simmering water for steaming — it fits inside the bottom of a cast-iron skillet. Since one has brought it along, it can also be used for cooling baked cakes, cookies, or scones.
* Whisk: A fork serves adequately for the beating of eggs, vinaigrettes, and sauces, but we find nothing gives food the same airy loft as agitation by a whisk.
* Stainless-Steel Ladle: One will be happy to have this along when dishing up soups, stews, or Turkish coffee. A tin cup can always substitute if it is desirable to conserve space.
Military Folding Table: We have prepped food upon a slab of shale and made a log of deadwood our dining table, but if one can spare the space, a folding table will facilitate cookery work and give one's party a place to display the ephemera collected during daily adventures.
Can Opener: Should one bring tinned foods on a holiday (they are, after all, indestructible and therefore lifesaving in instances of natural disaster), this will do the trick to pry them open.
Heatproof Rubber Spatula: One cannot discount the usefulness of this tool's flexible tip, which is the best choice for mixing cake batters. It can also scrape the last bit of food from hard-to-reach crannies in a pot, making for easier washing up.
Hand-Cranked Spice or Coffee Grinder: Freshly ground spices or coffee provide the most aroma and flavor. Often found at flea markets for a pittance, a hand-crank grinder will rise to the occasion without the need for newfangled electricity.
Basting or Pastry Brush: This brush is handy for slathering roasting meat with juices, or giving pastries a wash of cream before baking. Nylon-bristled brushes can be flammable; we suggest seeking out silicone varieties.
Instant-Read Thermometer: The woods might be filled with scavenging creatures that thrill to the taste of uncooked meat, but being civilized types ourselves, we always cook our meat and poultry to proper internal temperatures. An instant-read thermometer is an assured means of achieving this goal.
Bricks: Wrapped in heavy-duty foil, they can be used to weight down meat for searing. We also sometimes position several in a row to create a makeshift resting place for food. Do not heave bricks or stones at woodland creatures in an effort to frighten them away from camp; such tomfoolery is more likely to provoke than protect.
Hand-Cranked Ice Cream Maker: Anytime we have a scoop of fresh gelato in hand and the afternoon sun upon our backs, it is Rome all over again. And on a sweltering day at camp, when hiking seems too much of a bother, cranking ice cream always lifts the spirits.
Teakettle: While we personally find a Dutch oven boils water excellently, for some aficionados, teatime is not the same without the telltale whistle.
Kitchen Shears: Perfect for cutting through tough bones or cartilage in meat and fish, shears can also be used to cut kitchen twine or snip herbs. We always put a pair in our foraging basket, whether we are in search of greens, herbs, or wildflowers.
Thick Rope: Useful for stringing up food to keep it away from curious critters (and as a clothesline to dry damp clothing, rags, or linens). We have also found that a length of rope comes in handy at the most unexpected moments, such as when a companion accidentally stumbles into a crevasse.
* Hatchet: A sharp hatchet makes quick work of woodcutting, so that one can sit fireside in short order.
Waterproof Matches: One will be happy to have purchased these special matches at an explorers' supply store when trying to construct a toasty fire in a relentless deluge of rain.
Coal Shovel: Essential for baking, which requires one to shuffle coals about the fire pit. It can also be used to adjust the position of logs upon the fire.
* Metal Ash Bucket: When the fire is raging, we fill this with water and keep it near at hand for emergencies; when we are ready to break down camp, we pour the water over the fire, scoop the ash into the bucket, and scatter the fully extinguished ash into the forest.
* Heatproof Gloves: We find we are always less skittish around a fire when outfitted in a pair of these burly suede gloves. While we would not recommend grabbing a blazing log with them, they are excellent for retrieving a hot pot or for shifting a cooking grate without burning one's hands.
Lightweight Foldout Saw: Some fear the mighty hatchet; for such a predicament, we suggest this tool, which can cut through medium-size pieces of dead-wood to be used for fuel.
Flint and Steel: A reliable, time-tested tool for igniting a flame, and one needn't worry about running out, as can happen with a box of matches. It does, however, require the addition of a scrap of linen or flannel and an old tea tin to make one's char cloth (see Igniting the Fire, page 24–25).
* Water Spritzer: Used to tamp down wayward flames; for style's sake, we like to recycle our old and empty perfume bottles (well-washed, of course, as any lingering alcohol would be quite flammable).
Plumbers' Candles: Long ago favored by plumbers to seal pipes, these candles boast a lengthy, hot burn. One can employ them for fire starting (their flame extinguishes less quickly than that of a match), or keep them on hand for any occasion on which one wishes to encourage a romantic ambience.
Chimney Starter: Should one be building a fire with lump charcoal, a chimney starter will aid speedy ignition.
Bits of Newspaper and Fluff: Take a moment to collect one's laundry lint, discarded newspapers, and other scraps of fluff from under one's bed. All will make excellent starter fuel for the fire.
TO ENSURE TIDY CAMPKEEPING
Vinegar Spritzer: We always bring a spritzer of vinegar water to keep our cutting boards and other surfaces free of contamination by toxic critters.
Hand and Dish Soap: Impeccable personal hygiene — in particular, frequent hand washing — and clean dishware are essential for preventing food-borne illness. For Nature's sake, do try to purchase nontoxic, biodegradable suds.
Icebox: A large airtight cooler fully stocked with ice will keep one's carefully selected meat, fish, and produce from spoiling. If possible, we recommend bringing three: one for meat, poultry, and fish; one for dairy; and the third for produce and beverages.
Five-Gallon Metal Bucket: We fill ours with hot water and use it for hand washing and dishwashing, as needed.
Garbage Bags: Always clean up camp carefully, making sure that every speck of paper, food, or other refuse goes into a bag and does not litter Nature's pristine floor.
Muslin Reusable Bags: We prefer to use these washable drawstring bags rather than plastic resealable bags whenever possible, as we find them more ecologically sound. They are particularly effective for the storage of fresh, uncut produce.
Rags: Consider the search for cleaning implements a perfect excuse to empty out one's wardrobe. That old gabardine blazer or cashmere muffler will make an excellent tool for cleaning camp.
Paper Towels: To be used sparingly; they are helpful for patting down freshly rinsed meat, draining fried foods, and cleaning up the occasional wine slosh.
Aluminum Foil: In addition to its usefulness in wrapping up leftovers, foil makes an excellent package for cooking food in the embers of a flame, as it will not melt.
Plastic Wrap: We try to use as little as possible, but it helps to keep bugs and other contaminants out of food.
Mason Jars or Other Airtight Containers: Reusable containers are an excellent way to store leftovers; we often bring our vinaigrette in a jar.
Suitable Sundries for Outdoor Dining & Living
In this section, we delight in all the nonessentials of campfire life. Not a single item upon this list is ever entirely necessary, and yet we are always glad to have them along with us, as they contribute inestimably to the domestication of our wilderness home.
Steamer Trunk: An investment that one will not regret, it is spacious enough for one's tools and other supplies, can be tightly shut for transport or at bedtime, and serves wonderfully as an improvised table or seat.
Lanterns: Should one need to venture into the dark depths of the forest after nightfall, a lantern's rays provide excellent illumination. We also use lanterns for shadow puppetry and tableaux vivants.
Parasol: When the noonday sun shines brightly, cultivate a delicate complexion under the shade of an elaborately designed, handheld umbrella.
Woolly Pendleton Blankets or Cheerful Quilts: Use one as a wrap on a chilly evening, to dry off post–river swim, or to protect clothing from damp grass during a meadow picnic.
Magnifying Glass: One will have greater success distinguishing the flora of the countryside with a magnifying glass. It is also useful for edible entomology (page 147) and for starting a fire by the heat of the sun. And it lends the bearer an air of authority and intelligence.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Campfire Cookery"
Copyright © 2011 Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Melissa Clark,
CHAPTER ONE: Kindling One's Fire,
CHAPTER TWO: Preparing for the Feast,
CHAPTER THREE: Campfire Breakfast,
CHAPTER FOUR: Campfire Teatime,
CHAPTER FIVE: Campfire Cocktails,
CHAPTER SIX: Campfire Main Dishes,
CHAPTER SEVEN: Campfire Sides & Vegetables,
CHAPTER EIGHT: Campfire Desserts,
CHAPTER NINE: After the Repast,