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Camping: Breakfast, s’mores, and more

We’ve been away from our computers, road-tripping through the west to run a couple of half-marathon races hosted by Vacation Races in Teton National Park in Wyoming and West Yellowstone, Montana. After what felt like marathon drives through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, we got to spend a week with family in the hills, camping and touring the parks, fishing, and running.

It has been too many years since our last summer camping trip. So it was a great treat to start June with a week of camping in Island Park, Idaho. It was beautiful, if unseasonably warm, but that didn’t stop us from building camp fires, roasting marshmallows and cooking on coals and grills.

Our camp cooking included the essential s’mores, grilled fresh trout from the nearby Island Park reservoir and Henry’s Lake, a delicious breakfast for dinner cooked completely al fresco, and an occasional smokey reprieve from the darned mosquitos that drove us crazy most of the time.

The trout we cooked over the fire was delicately smokey. It was perfect all by itself, but a light squeeze of fresh lemon made it irresistible. Having just come out of the lake, it was as fresh and delicious as it ever gets! And it was made all the better eaten under the canopy of a pine forest.

As good as that trout was, the most memorable meal is a bacon, egg and potato breakfast we prepared exclusively over the open fire. Breakfast at any time of day is a treat. We eat breakfast for dinner all the time. After a day of running and driving around Yellowstone Park, we wanted something hearty and comforting. And as convenient as it was to have an indoor, camp trailer kitchen at our disposal, it was too warm to stand inside when there was a perfectly good fire pit with a grill and plenty of fire wood just outside. We opted for an outdoor cooking adventure.

Bacon and eggs never disappoint. We had potatoes, carrots and onions in the camper pantry, so we diced them up, seasoned them, triple wrapped them in aluminum foil (an essential camping implement), and tossed them onto the hot coals of the fire. The “hobo pockets” need to be carefully placed so as not to burn the crap out of the potatoes. Layers of foil should protect them from the harshest temperatures while the veggies steam in the pouch. If you get it right, the potatoes will be cooked and the rest of the veggies will have a tiny bit of caramelization and very few black bits.

Cooking bacon on the fire was a breeze. We placed a sheet of aluminum foil over the grilling grate on the fire pit, directly over the hottest part of the fire, and used it like a griddle. The bacon cooked perfectly. It did produce a lot of rendered fat which in turn caused some flare-ups that scorched the foil, but the bacon was unscathed.

Our nephew had the clever idea of creating little aluminum trays to cook our eggs. With a few easy folds, we had our egg “pans” which we sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. We sat them on the foil we’d used for the bacon, which added a needed layer between the eggs and the hot fire. The eggs turned out perfectly!

When we opened the hobo pockets, the vegetables were nicely cooked, with very little scorched bits. They were a complete success. We topped them with our “fried” eggs, helped ourselves to a couple slices of bacon, and sat out in the open air, tucking in to awesome camp food and washing it all down with a cold beer.

Our time in West Yellowstone included a volunteer stint at the s’mores table at the Yellowstone Half Marathon Expo. We saw a lot of toasted marshmallows that evening. There is no doubt of the s’more’s importance in the American camping experience, though there is some diversity of thought on the “proper” steps in the s’more ritual. We toasted our graham crackers on the fire grill with a piece of chocolate melting on it while we toasted our marshmallows. Our marshmallows are slowly roasted and tan, not extinguished torches, but we appreciate everyone has their own idea of the perfect fire toasted marshmallow, so no judgement. S’mores are best by a campfire. There’s no other way to get a smokey accent on that sweet mess. But there are endless ways to play with the idea of the s’more at home. More on that in future posts.

Happy Summer!

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Open Fire Fried Eggs and Bacon

bacon
eggs

For the bacon.

Spread a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil over the grill of an open fire. Cook the bacon until crisp. Careful of grease fires.

For the eggs.

Use aluminum foil to make a little tray to cook the eggs, spray with non-stick cooking spray. More aluminum for lids. Cook to one’s liking.

Hobo Hash Pack

2-3 potatoes
1 onions
2 cups root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, etc.
2 tablespoons or more olive oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon dijion mustard (optional — especially for 10 year olds)
salt and pepper
cooking spray
Heavy Duty Aluminum foil

Cut potatoes, onions, and root vegetables into similar sized cubes, and add to a bowl, add the olive oil or butter, dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Toss to coat and set aside.

Tear 8 square pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil about. Place a cup to a cup-and-a-half of the potato mixture to each of four of the foil packs. Fold the foil over in half and each pack on another sheet of foil and fold it over the pack, so you are double layering the aluminum around the potato mixture.

Place the foil packs in the coals of a fire and cook for 30-40 minutes. Turning the packs every 10 minutes or so to keep from burning.

s’mores

1 box graham crackers
1 chocolate bars, broken into pieces
1 bag of marshmallows

Over an open fire with a barbecue grill, place two graham crackers on the coolest side of the grill. Careful not to burn the cracker. Place a small piece of chocolate on top and watch to keep from burning. You just want a warm cracker with just a barely gooey chocolate.

With a marshmallow or two on a stick, toast over an open flame to one’s liking. I prefer just a barely toasty marshmallow. Gooey on the inside and a light toast on the outside. This will take patience. Go slow.

Once the marshmallow is toasted. Put on top of the graham cracker with chocolate. Top with the other one and enjoy the gooey, yumminess.

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Bacon Cabbage Pizza

Yes, we’ve gone a bit batty for St. Patty’s day, but in truth, the pizza really is quite good. Given our low supply of pantry staples yesterday, Jason did a quick search keeping in mind a few things that we did have in our larder and this cabbage bacon pizza from epicurious popped up. We tweaked the recipe quite a bite, starting with the dough. Rye and graham flours give an earthy tone to our crust, a nice cheddar mornay sauce for the base, fewer pieces of bacon (we like bacon, but 8 pieces seems excessive), a dash of sherry vinegar over the cabbage, and a light touch with the gruyere cheese is all that is needed—no mozzarella necessary. A little Irish, a little Italian, and a little Swiss. This multicultural pizza is a perfect substitute for the usual corned beef and cabbage. However, Guinness is a must!

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Pizza Dough (adapted from Mark Bittman)

1 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
1 cup rye flour
1 cup graham flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 – 1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. Process until the dough forms a ball.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)

When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Cheddar Mornay Sauce

1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
salt & pepper
optional: ground mustard, cayenne, and/or Worcestershire sauce

In a small sauce pan, warm the milk with the bay leaf. In another sauce pan over medium heat, add the butter and melt until bubbles form. Add the flour and whisk for about 30 seconds or until flour is slightly tan. Add the warm milk, minus the bay leaf, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and add the shredded cheddar cheese, whisking until smooth. Set aside.

Bacon and Cabbage

3 strips of bacon
1/2 medium cabbage head, cored and shredded
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt & pepper

Add the bacon to the skillet, over low to medium heat, and slowly render the fat from the bacon until it is crisp. Flipping and turning as necessary. About 15 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel. Pour off bacon fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the shredded cabbage and sauté until wilted and slightly brown. Make a hot spot in the center of the pan and add the caraway seeds. Toast for 10-30 seconds then stir into the cabbage. Remove from heat and season with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.

Assembling and Baking the Pizza

1/2 pizza dough
cheddar mornay sauce
bacon and sautéd cabbage
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Roll the dough or toss to form a circle.

Par bake the dough for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and smear half to all of the cheddar mornay sauce; bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and crumble the bacon over the top, then add the sautéd cabbage, and top with shredded gruyere. Back for another 10-15 minutes or until top is slightly toasted and pizza crust is also toasted and crisp.