Sunday, May 10, 2009

Recipe: Campfire French Fries

For those of you who have tried my oven-roasted skillet fries, and are hoping for the same crispy goodness when you're out in the woods... I've worked out an adaptation for campfire cooking. No doubt there is much rejoicing.

Now, to be clear, this is car camping... and the U.S. Forest Service grill / fire ring thingy comes in handy for this one (for those of you who backpack with your cast iron, I apologize for my short-sightedness).

  • Russet potatoes
  • Salt
  • Canadian Steak seasoning (a mixture of lemon pepper, garlic, onion, and a few other odds and ends)
  • Canola oil


The key to this recipe is to pre-bake the potatoes. Unlike at home (in the oven) where the potatoes really have a chance to roast, over the open firepit these potatoes will fry. I recommend pre-baking the potatoes a full day in advance, so they have time to cool down, which vastly simplifies cutting them into fries. If you're really on your game, you'll plan to eat baked potatoes the night before, and throw in an extra one for each person. Of course, you can also cheat by baking all your potatoes at home before you go...

To begin, build yourself a campfire. You want a nice bed of coals for cooking, and very little flame. To achieve this, I recommend burning a hot fire made of smaller-diameter wood for 20 minutes or so. You may need to add some wood during cooking. These should be very small pieces that don't create a lot of flame.

While your fire is working out its issues, slice your potatoes into long wedge-shaped fries no more than 3/4 of an inch thick on the outside arc. I recommend leaving the skin on for flavor, nutrition, and to aid the structural integrity of the fry.

Oil a medium cast iron skillet with about a quarter-inch of canola, and toss in the fries. Use two pans if need be to avoid crowding. Salt and season liberally, and stir things around to coat the fries evenly with oil and seasoning.

Place the skillet (or skillets) on the fire grate once your fire is ready. Turn fries frequently to avoid over-browning. Watch for hot spots, and adjust the height of the grate so the fries don't get burned or cook too fast. It will take about 15 minutes to get a nice crust on and warm the interior of each fry. Ideally, you've been grilling your burgers on the same grate... and everything comes off together hot and delicious!

Mmmmm... time to go camping again soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recipe: Enameled Dutch Oven Popcorn

Popcorn fresh from an enameled cast iron dutch oven

An enameled cast iron dutch oven is an ideal way to make popcorn. The end result is free of unwanted chemicals, incredibly tasty, and is easy to do once you get the hang of it.

The key is to keep the heat lower than you might think. Give it plenty of time to heat up.  Once the bottom of your cast iron dutch oven gets hot, the corn pops in a hurry!

Note: if you have a traditional (bare cast iron) dutch oven, there's a bare cast iron dutch oven popcorn recipe for you as well.

  • 1/3 cup Canola oil and Walnut oil mix, 50/50 mix
  • 2/3 cup Popcorn
  • Salt (to taste)

Heat canola and walnut oil (mixed 50/50) in your enameled cast iron dutch oven over medium heat. Oil should be a little less than a quarter inch deep in the pan. Toss in two kernels of popcorn (to test oil temperature), and place lid on pan until they pop. This will probably take 5-8 minutes.

Once both test kernels pop, add enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan entirely (about 2/3 cup), and replace the lid loosely.

Shake pan gently while kernels pop to keep from burning, and keep the lid slightly ajar (half inch or so) to help steam escape.

Once popping slows down and/or the dutch oven is full, remove lid, and (with hotpads) dump contents into a large steel bowl.

Season to taste with finely ground salt, or whatever else your heart desires.