I must admit, I love camping, despite the fact that it’s a giant pain in the ass. Hauling all that gear – tent, tarp, cooler, sleeping bag, air mattress… Jeesh! The list goes on and on. But then when you get to the campsite, it’s somehow all worth the work. In the thick of the trees, the air is fresher, the stars shine brighter. You’re surrounded by friends and camaraderie, enjoying cold drinks and laughs around the campfire. You suddenly forget all that sweating and swearing you were doing just a few short hours ago as you were trying to stuff all that gear into the minuscule trunk of your crappy 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet.
It may astonish you to learn that one of my favorite things about camping is the food. For me, cooking outdoors is a wicked good time. In the great outdoors, without a full kitchen and only having the basics on hand, I find that it’s best to keep it simple. So I wanted to share with you a couple of the simple recipes my camping buddies and I enjoyed.
(Thanks to Christopher D. for the pic of me at the camp stove!)
Spicy Camp Beans
2 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 small onion, diced
2 links chorizo, sliced
1 large can black beans (drained & rinsed as best you can under the circumstances)
1 jar salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa)
Grill Seasoning (or salt & pepper)
A real good splash of whatever liquor Kevin J. hasn’t already drank (About 1/2 cup. I used Jim Beam, but beer will do)
On your camp stove, heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and chorizo and saute until the onion is translucent and the chorizo has rendered some nice orange fat, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the beans, salsa, and liquor and stir to combine. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until it all comes together and looks soupy. If it looks too dry, add some water. Season with grill seasoning (or salt & pepper). Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve it up!
My buddy Kevin J. made an excellent pork tenderloin as an entree – and he even thought to bring a meat thermometer. Pure win! Brant B. made some delightful grilled zucchini and summer squash and a perfect campfire meal was had by all.
(Here’s me with Mac M. at the bonfire. Come on, aren’t we adorable?)
Few things are as perfect as breakfast on a chilly morning at the campsite. Again, this ain’t the Ritz, so let’s not get too fancy; bacon and eggs will do, and maybe some potatoes if you’re feeling adventurous. I remember once reading that you lose between 2 and 4 pounds a day while camping. I don’t know if this is true. I suspect it might be true if you are doing “real” camping, with lots of hiking and hauling logs and hunting elk and such. The campground I frequent has a few too many amenities (including showers, toilets, a cafe, and even a small dance club) for you to feel like you’re “roughing it.” Anyway, if you try this recipe, you may gain between 2 and 4 pounds a day. Just sayin.
Leftover bacon fat
1 Green Pepper, seeded & sliced
1 Red Pepper, seeded & sliced
1 Onion, peeled & sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
6 baking potatoes, halved and sliced into thin half-moons
14 oz smoked sausage, sliced
You should start with your grill pan, slick with leftover bacon fat, on your camp stove over medium heat. Lay out your potatoes, sausage, peppers and onions in a flat layer (you may have to do this in batches). Scatter the garlic over the top and sprinkle with grill seasoning. It’s handy to have foil pans on hand for holding your potatoes and vegetables, and also for serving. You want your potatoes to brown slowly so they cook through and become tender and crispy. For us, this took about 20 minutes. Flip potatoes with a spatula and move them around until they are browned evenly and cooked through. Serve hot with bacon and eggs.
(Btw, check out my buddy Andrew K’s neat old VW camper bus. Isn’t it the coolest?:)
The only problem with camping (aside from the preparation) is that it’s over all too quickly. Before you know it, it’s time to pack all that gear up and haul it all back home. Now if only I could get someone to help me deflate my air mattress…