Monday, April 19, 2010

Camp Food: A Lesson from the Pros

Want to learn how to make really awesome camp food? Take a lesson from the manly men of the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Association. This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the kayaking expertise and devour the food of these experienced outdoorsmen. But on to the food,

Step one: The Dutch Oven

This is not your mommy's Le Creuset (although I do loooove their new Cassis color). Traditional dutch ovens like these were meant for camp fire cooking: heavy cast iron, standing on approx. 2 inch high feet, with a lipped lid, meant for piling coals under and on top of for heating from both directions. All of these meals were prepared in a dutch oven like these two.

Step Two: The Ingredients

  Camp food is usually a fascinating mixture of real, fresh ingredients, prepared in a simple, hearty style....

And unabashedly canned and store bought ingredients, used for their convenience and portability. I'm not sure if I'd ever seen canned chicken breast before. Yet somehow, it all comes out tasting amazing. Maybe its the camping, maybe it's the company.

Step Three: The Food

We had three awesome dutch oven dishes. The first was a stew, made from tender marinated steak, potatoes, red onion, red, orange and yellow peppers with a dash of salt and pepper.

Cory, who made this dish, marinated the steak beforehand and brought it along in a cooler, so it had plenty of time to get deliciously tender. It was simple, fresh, and delicious.

Next, we had a tortilla soup, made by Peter. He says it was "just a Shore Lunch mix," but really, he's being modest. 16 cups of water, 2 packets of tortilla soup mix, a can of diced tomatoes, canned chicken breast, heat it all up and voila!

  It tastes a lot better than the picture I took. Add some crumbled tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, and dear Lord, was that amazing. And this pot was HUGE. It was also completely not what I would expect to eat on a camping trip with a bunch of guys. I think I might be looking for some Shore Lunch mix for myself next week.

Finally, we concluded with what turned out to be the group favorite: Enchiladas, again, made by Peter (who I should clearly camp with more often). He took probably a pound of hamburger meat, fried it up, added a can of cream of chicken and a can of cream of mushroom soup, then spooned the mixture into tortillas and folded them up. After the meat mixture was mostly gone, he piled the tortilla wraps back into the dutch oven, shelving them in layers upward. Then, he poured a can of enchilada sauce on top, smothering it with cheese, and covering it back up to bake for a few minutes. It came out like this:

Mmm, cheese. I'm not a huge fan of ground beef, but the enchiladas were muy tasty. It was more of a casserole than my traditional idea of an enchilada, but still way more elaborate than what I usually make.

Then, we of course concluded the evening with S'mores, despite being way too full. There's always room in this belly for a s'more.

All in all, I was very impressed by what these guys could make over a fire. Admittedly, when I go camping, I usually cook with a Coleman camp stove, because I'm convinced I'll burn anything over a fire (which I usually do). However, this weekend really made me want to try my hand at real campfire cooking more. Maybe when Dave and I go to the Black Hills some time later this summer, we'll challenge ourselves to just use the campfire to cook. It may be hard though; I really like my camp stove.

Thanks to Cory and the SDCKA for killer vittles and an awesome time!

What do you make when you go camping?


  1. I love those cast iron pans. where can I find one like that?

  2. Lodge Logic makes great no-nonsense cast iron cookware that's great for camping, which is usually at most outdoor and camping stores like REI or Cabela's. It also lasts forever; some of these dutch ovens were probably 20+ years old!