Tag Archives: potatoes

Campfire Cooking Methods

Before more recent whirlwind adventures to a wedding in Vermont, K____ and I took a brief respite to camp in the North Cascades National Park. The votes are in, and the top winning option for next blog post was Campfire Cooking Methods! Special thanks to Logistikris for the unique comment entry of ‘Campfire chocoraspberry cake.’ I’ll try to cover chocoraspberry cake next. We were only there a couple nights, or: “as long as my back will take tent sleeping,” and “that’s how long the giant cooler of ice and frozen meats lasts to a safe-ish temp.”

Packing bin of non-refrigeration items for high-maintenance car camping: cooking oils and vinaigrettes are quarantined in a brown paper bag.
Packing bin of non-refrigeration items for high-maintenance car camping: cooking oils and vinaigrettes are quarantined in a brown paper bag.

Method Part 1: Pack it!

If you were a compulsive planner like me, you might list what you’d like to eat on your camping trip, and portion out ingredients as you pack up the accompanying junk food (in my house any road trip merits a hiatus from healthier eating). This time, I had in mind..

  • hot toddies
  • chocolate raspberry cake
  • marshmallows
  • hot dogs
  • and traditional sausage-bacon-egg-potato breakfast foods

In retrospect, it was too much in one night’s work to prep everything and also make spam musubi, but yeah, that’s what I did (even with lots of help from K___). If you are NOT a compulsive planner like me, I leave it to you to wing it like you do (i.e. like a BOSS). Really, I only measured things out for the first two items listed there, and I cheated with box chocolate cake mix. It’s camping, not the Iron Chef. I also made a little mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil which came in handy as dressing and marinade.

Method Part 2: Fire, not for backpacking -especially in high-fire-prone areas.

With the exception of marshmallow roasting, you want a low, even fire with plenty of coals. K____ and I treated fire-building like a team sport, with him as captain. We spread the logs out pretty wide for cooking, to make room for an even surface for the tools. Want more on this? Let me google that for you... Don’t forget to read up before you are out of cell phone reception zones. Obvi, if you are backpacking, all this “camping” is a whole different ball game.

Method Part 3: Tools
Here’s what the latest full-scale carried-a-little-too-far Wong Way of camping entails for cooking tools:

Tool 1: Cast Iron Skillet
-Needs: high temp cooking oil or butter, don’t forget the metal flipper!
-Good for bacon and all-purpose random cooking, especially when you snag the last possible campsite and it turns out to have no standard grill rack.
-Bad for open-flame potatoes.
-Obviously a bad idea for for light-weight packs.

Cast iron skillet in action! Served with a side of beer from a faraway place.
Cast iron skillet in action! Served with a side of beer from a faraway place.

Tool 2: Dutch Oven
-Good for making cake, probably good for a lot else too, like stew. It really holds the heat in.
-Bad for your back. This thing is so heavy. At least that means the squirrels can’t mess with it, only Yogi Bear.
-ditto on the backpacking

Tool 3: Aluminum Foil
-Good for..tubers, if you can get coals. Much better to wrap potatoes than expose them in cooking on a skillet. It was useful to shape handles on top of them for easier maneuvering.
-Also good for fashioning makeshift plateware and utensils, for that one time when you forgot sporks.

If you put the pre-mixed toddy ingredients in a glass jar you can heat it up near the fire to melt the honey before combining with water from the percolator.
If you put the pre-mixed toddy ingredients in a glass jar you can heat it up near the fire to melt the honey before combining with water from the percolator.

Tool 4: Percolator. Just add water!
-Good for coffee, tea, hot cocoa
Hot toddies (basically, pre-mix everything but the water and lemon).
-Easy mac & cup noodle.
-Thermos + raw chicken noodle soup to cook over time.

Surprise Winning Tool: Percolator?!
That’s right, folks. While I’m grateful for the delicious breakfast K___ served up via skillet, and the fully-baked cake thanks to how well the dutch oven holds heat in, the percolator was the one I was most grateful to have, both to stave off a caffeine headache in the morning with coffee, and to keep me really cozy in the evening with hot toddies. It also felt like the easiest, most versatile one with endless possibilities. Maybe my opinion is swayed too strongly by how precious having water was on this trip since they hadn’t turned on the taps on the North Cascades yet. Oops.

Second Runner Up: Dutch Oven! This one is getting googled some more for the next camping trip. I’d probably rather just cheat directly with hot cakes’ take ‘n’ bake for smaller portion sizes on cakes, but I think you might get a good stew out of the dutch oven instead. They even come with campfire directions!

Safety Notes: on meat thermometers and a giant cooler on wheels..
-It’s definitely good to not poison yourself (see: safe cooking temps for meat).
-Tried to store meats on the bottom of the cooler, separated by ziplocs for extra OCD-style care.
-Tried to cook the more salmonella-prone items first, like eggs.

Relaxing with a hot toddy after dinner before getting in that tent.
Relaxing with a hot toddy after dinner before getting in that tent. Salud!

Questions? Comments? As usual, post below!

Sunday Squash Roast – Stocking Up for the Apocalypse

Various squashes and potatoes ready for roasting in the oven.

The butternut squash planted late last spring is finally yielding ripened fruit. Due to the surprisingly longer processing time, i try to remember to only to roast butternut on a weekend, otherwise i end up eating around 10pm. With a solid sized squash like the one pictured, there’s always extra leftovers that can be frozen or portioned out for the week to put in salad, pasta or other meals.

skin, chop, chop, chop, mix.
skin, chop, chop, chop, mix.

Sunday Squash Roast

Serves 10

Ingredients:
* 1 small (about 1.5 pounds) butternut squash, see below for cubing tip
* 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
* 6 medium red potatoes, cubed
* 1 red onion, quartered
* 1 carrot, chopped in chunks
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F.
  2. Shortcut: stab w/fork several times, microwave for 2-3 minutes, slice off outer shell, cube and de-seed. This also cuts the original recipe’s roasting time by about 10 minutes (to the 25-30 minute range).
  3. In a large bowl, combine the squash, carrot, sweet potato, and red potatoes. Separate the red onion quarters into pieces and add them to the mixture.
  4. Note: it is very important to mix this separately before combining with the vegetables, otherwise the oil and vinegar don’t distribute for an even caramelization: in a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  5. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan.
  6. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.

A derivative of “roasted vegetables with fresh herbs” from a random King County employees recipe listing.

roast, roast roast.
roast, roast roast.

Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
1 of 5 stars.
I may have been making variations for four years, so it’s nothing new –but it has a pretty consistent and tasty result so I figured I’d post it here.
Likelihood of Repeat: 100%
So convenient as a filler for new leftover combinations, you can put it on salad, or add it to soup for more oomph, or eat it atop rice with a protein..
Lesson Learned: Fighting to slice the butternut squash into cubes is always a little more tedious than you expect, even after you microwave it to tenderize a little. I made this on a Sunday, but didn’t even really get to eating it until the next day because the processing + baking time took so long it missed the other dinner items that were done earlier at a decent time. You also don’t get a crisp a caramelization factor if you microwave it before baking. This always makes much more than I expect out of one butternut squash, too. I had enough to eat all week, plus a few servings to freeze for later. Thus, the title of this post.

Nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom.

Potato & Leek Gratin

(Vet’s Day bonus entry)

Monday was one of those bonus days in life, with a little extra time for good living. Thanks, US Holiday schedule and indescribable sacrifice of military service members. A friend of mine convinced me it would be a good idea to bike to brunch on the south end of Lake Union, then bike back, and a good idea it was. My back pain may disagree, but I’ll blame that on the yoga.

Brunch at South Lake Union Portage Bay the Wong Way: sweetened rice porridge, orange juice, two orders of bacon not shown.
Brunch at South Lake Union Portage Bay the Wong Way: sweetened rice porridge, orange juice, two orders of bacon not shown.
Beautiful bike ride past Green Lake
Beautiful bike ride past Green Lake

During tea break at her house, besides helping to knead some delicious-smelling bread dough, I was gifted with a leek!

Thinking of the extra raw potatoes I had, I dug out this recipe for potato and leek gratin from the NY Times I’ve yet to get around to. Ingredients were substituted, portions scaled down by half to match the 1 leek, approximately:

1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, sliced and rinsed of sand
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle or a spice mill
1/2 tsp dry dill
3 large Yukon golds, scrubbed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup, tightly packed)
3/4 c Mt. Townsend Campfire Jack cheese
2 1/3 cups low-fat milk
1 cup almond milk

Leek & potato gratin: steps.
Leek & potato gratin: chop, rub garlic in pan and coat with olive oil, saute leeks, add salt, pepper and dill, mix with potatoes and salt and pepper, spread out on pan in single layer, add milk, bake and bake and bake.

The drawback of this recipe is that it takes at LEAST 1.5 hours, if not closer to 1 and a half hour for the full portion. The original recipe has you baking for 45 minutes, add cheese THEN baking for 30-45, THEN cooling 10-15, and that’s all only after you’ve chopped and processed all the ingredients. That’s absurd. Who the heck bakes potatoes for that long?!

I baked for 45 minutes, added cheese, switched to Convection Bake for ~20 minutes, then took it out and started eating. It was delicious. The only drawback was my own error, which was to only cut the leek lengthwise and start sautéing, thinking, “why would they have you do that? It cooks all unevenly….oh, they didn’t,” so I pulled it half way through, sliced it up and finished sautéing. Phew, that was close. This is why recipes are so much easier with photos, people. I was also worried the almond milk would be funky, I just don’t have milk in my house since I’m lactose-intolerant (the cheese I can’t give up), but it turned out delicious (to me). I hate cumin, that’s why it’s dill instead.

Leek & Potato Gratin: nom nom nom.
Leek & Potato Gratin: nom nom nom.

Now the only problem is that I live with some one who doesn’t eat a lot of potatoes, and it wouldn’t be right for me to eat them all myself. Thankfully, I found takers at work, so my lactose-intolerant self doesn’t suffer through it for three more meals.

This week’s trial recipe ratings:
Novelty Rating: 85%
I see leeks at the markets, but rarely bother cooking with them. This recipe combines them with one of my favorite foods -potatoes!
Likelihood of repeat: 55%
Not sure who I might make it for, but it sure is delicious..