It doesn’t matter how great Portland is. Every summer weekend, I leave it. There’s just too much beauty scattered all over Maine that my tent and I have to go see.
Now, you can bring bags of almonds, some protein bars and peanut butter sandwiches, but why torture yourself. Camping is the time to get in touch with your inner caveman/woman (or inner Ron Swanson, as the case may be) — for me, that means as much meat on a stick as possible. You can easily put eggs, burgers or a steak in a pan or *sigh* eat a salad, but here are some recipes I’ve grown fond of this summer:
-One square cast iron grilling pan
-Heavy duty tinfoil
-Cooler with ice and food
-Paper plates (the good ones, thick and with a lip)
-A piece of tupperware or a bowl (to mix eggs and milk for french toast)
… That’s about it. It’s about all I can handle. Sometimes I bring a pot and fresh press for coffee. No water-heater, no propane-anything, no spatula.
Here’s a recipe list for my favorite camp meals:
Admittedly, this is not to different from in-your-real-house breakfast, but the smoke, the grill-lines, the joy of having a beautiful, normal breakfast in the woods makes it a very-happy meal. And some adjustments must be made if you’re going to cook over an open fire.
-1 pound of bacon (ideally thick cut)
-1 bag of Country Kitchen’s Canadian white bread (not JJ Nissen-brand)
-1 stick of butter
-1/2 cup of milk
-Maine maple syrup
-Lots of paper plates
Serves 6 people. Costs about $12.
The important part of this meal is that you start by cooking the bacon. This does two things: It coats the cast iron in fat, which makes it possible to make the eggy toast after (otherwise the french toast will stick) and some of the bacon bits will stick to the pan and then to the toast, mmmmmm.
First, get your fire going and then let it settle down a bit. Once it’s calmed down, rattle the logs until they’re more or less in a flat pile that you could put a pan on. If you have a grill-top, you don’t have to worry about this, just put it over the fire. Put the empty cast iron pan on the fire until it’s hot. Then remove the pan from the heat and add all of the bacon. Separate it a bit, so it’s not one huge clump, but it is OK for all the pieces to touch. Put the pan back on the fire. Flip as you usually do. Once done, remove the pan, move the bacon to a plate and carefully dump the puddle of grease into the fire. The fire will instantly jump up and get very hot. Make sure to leave a shiny, well-greased pan — maybe a bit more grease than you would at home, it’s your vacation.
Put the bacon to the side and get ready for the toast.
Mix the eggs and milk in a tupperware container. Put bread on a paper plate and pour some egg mix onto them, flip them. Make sure they’re totally coated and then put them on the greased pan. Put the pan back on the fire. It will probably take three minutes on one side, then one more minute on the flip side. If you are making a bunch, add pads of butter where the toast will be. Egg sticks very easily to cast iron, so don’t scrimp.
Add blueberries or strawberries and mimosas and you have a full-on camping brunch.
Simple. Cheap. Nutritious. Delicious.
-1 whole, gutted fish
-Corn with husks on
-Salt and pepper
-Heavy duty tinfoil
This is easy. Actually, it’s super hard to mess up. Take a whole fish — consider a red snapper for something small or a blue fish for something more — and rub it with salt and pepper (I take extra free packets at any restaurants I go to before camping). Place it on tinfoil and add a few pads of butter and some slices of lemon. Wrap it in tinfoil. Rolling the ends of the tinfoil is the best way to keep the heat and liquids in. Then wrap it again in heavy duty tinfoil. Put it either on a grill rack or on hot coals. If it’s a small fish, it will take about 4-6 minutes per side. If it’s a bigger fish, it could take up to 12 minutes each side. Throw the corn on the coals or grill when you have about 5 minutes left, keep the husks on.
Take the tin foiled fish off the grill and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then open and eat. My friends and family are happy to just open the tinfoil and let everybody go at it with forks. It makes for easy cleanup.
-Pack of hotdogs (99 cents at Hannaford)
-Buttery crescent rolls (yes, they say “buttery” on the package)
-A good, strong stick
Build your fire. Get your stick. Put the hotdog on the stick. Now heat up the hotdog. Once it’s hot, get one triangles of dough from your crescent roll package and roll it around your dog. Put the whole thing back in a hot spot near (but not in) the fire. Give the time dough to cook, or risk having a crispy outside and a soggy, raw inside.
Kebabs are good for camping because you can prepare them ahead of time, but also because it’s a good way to get a lot of vegetables into your camping diet. Grocery stores often sell skewered vegetables in the produce section for about $4, but if you like this meal you should buy the kebab sticks ($1.50) and your own vegetables because it will be cheaper in the long-run … and if you’re anything like me all you want is the mushrooms anyway.
-Kielbasa ($5 a package)
-Package of wood skewers ($1-2)
-Mushrooms or squash or zucchini
You can do this one of two ways. You can throw them all in the pan, cover it with tinfoil and throw them on the fire and hope for the best (maybe add a little beer to the pan to give it some steam). This method hasn’t worked for me because the skewers are just a bit too long for the pan (as you can see in that photo). The kebabs take a long time to cook without direct heat.
The other way is to take three kebabs, wrap them in tinfoil and throw them directly on the fire. Try to add some beer or water to each packet, the moister helps soften some of the veggies. Leave them in there for about 4 minutes, flip them and leave them for another 3 minutes or so, depending on your fire.
You can substitute kielbasa for more expensive steak tips or chicken. I just like the sausage because it’s cheap, hard to overcook, impossible to undercook and comes in waterproof (cooler-friendly) package. One other tip: I like to surround the meat with onions to keep it flavorful and moist.
Just heat up muffins in a pan with butter. Maybe with a side of trail mix. Mmmm.
Got some camping recipes? I could use more. Put them in the comments.