French fries are nutritious, healthy, gluten-free, and insanely tasty if cooked properly. In a word, French fries can be exceptional. Exceptional French fries are not embarrased to share a plate with filet mignon, chateaubriand, ribeye steaks, and even the snootiest burgers. But exceptional French fries don't just spring out of thin air. Especially when you're camping.
oven-roasted French fries are pretty straight forward, when you're cooking over an open fire out in the woods, it's a different story. I had worked out a skillet fried version of campfire French fries last spring, but when I received my new camp dutch oven for Christmas this year, I thought I had better experiment some more. The beauty of the camp dutch oven is that it allows for true roasting and baking, since you can pile hot coals on top of the lid.
Here's how to achieve exceptional roasted French fries over an open fire:
- 2-3 large russet potatoes (for an 8-quart dutch oven)
- kosher salt
- Canadian steak seasoning
Rocky Mountain National Park. It was January. We were at 8,000 feet. It was about 10 degrees.
Will, sensibly, began by clearing snow out of the fire ring. He then set up and lit the fire, and fed it for a half hour until we had a nice big bed of coals.
If you have the luxury of a U.S. Forest Service campfire ring-plus-grill contraption, you can probably place your camp dutch oven right on top of the grill. Adjust heat as necessary by ading or removing coals from under the grill. Start with less heat than you think you need! You should have no open flame, and your bed of coals should be pretty sparse.
Lift the lid to check on the fries, and stir them around a bit to make sure they aren't burning on the bottom. Rotate the base of the dutch oven about 90 degrees, and place the lid down with the writing facing you (since you rotated the base, keeping the lid facing you will have the effect of rotating the lid relative to the food inside). Check on the French fries every 7-8 minutes, and each time you do, stir the fries around, rotate the base of the dutch oven 90 degrees, and replace the lid with the text facing you.
If your French fries are cooking too quickly (often the bottom of the dutch oven gets too hot), pull the dutch oven off the fire, and re-arrange your coals as necessary to reduce the heat. In this too-much-heat scenario, be sure to stir the fries around more frequently to avoid burning.