Sometimes I think I was supposed to be alive in the 19th century…in the wild west…and as a cowgirl. Okay, well the cowgirl part is just because I really like horses. But the 19th century part – that’s really true. And it’s because I really like to cook with cast iron pans over the fire. Just like (I believe) they used to do in the 19th century. Turning on your stove meant stoking your fire or wood-fire stove. If you want to add primal to your cooking, that’s it. Cooking over the fire adds a whole new element of intellect and attention to cooking. You’re constantly having to move the pan to a different spot on the grate to get more or less heat. How’s the fire? Add another log. Yikes – too hot! Spread the logs out and get some airflow going. And when you get that perfect combination of wind ventilation and hot, hot coals. Holy Smokes. MAGIC.
Every time we go camping, one of the things I look forward to the most, is what kind of magic meal I get to try to perfect over the fire. It’s me, my cast iron pan(s), and the fire. That’s it. Pure Joy. I’ve recently increased my collection of campfire cast iron pans. I started out with my dad’s (who knows who it belonged to before him) ginormous daddy-sized fry pan. It might be something like 25′ in diameter. Then I found another one just like it, teenager size: maybe 10′ in diameter. Then we got the momma-sized 5 quart dutch oven. And that’s all that I’ll likely ever need (that said, I just checked my mom’s pot collection and found a toddler and infant sized cast iron pan all buried and dusty in the way back bottom shelf. I’ll likely be busting those out next season. I will have a Chad Morris approved cast iron pan system!).
Here’s a few dishes I’ve created over the past few years, that I am now perfecting.
Chili: preferences – beef or deer meat. Chop the veggies. Render the fat out of the bacon. Add the veggies. Sit back and enjoy the scenery for a bit. Add the meat. Once the meat is browned and everything is bubbling together nicely, add the tomatoes and spices (emphasis on spice!). Check the fire. Stir the pot. Give it an hour…or three. Get your bowl ready for some hot, smoky goodness! Obviously, chili is perfect with tortilla chips and cheddar cheese, if those are included in your dietary options. If not, try it with some raw goat cheese and plantain chips. Dish up and enjoy!
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner – left over chili; eggs and bacon. This chili is a version of the same thing above. One thing that is a morning staple, every time we camp, is bacon and eggs for breakfast. Bacon and eggs takes such a diligent watch over the fire: too hot – your bacon gets way too crispy; not hot enough…well, that rarely happens. Then, once you’ve got all that delicious bacon fat rendered, move the pan too the coolest part of the fire grate and add those eggies! Careful though, you don’t want to cremate them – they are delicate containers of deliciousness. Have some leftover veggies from last night’s dinner? Maybe some little fingerlings (before my paleo days) or zucchini? Add ’em to the pan!
Indulge – bacon wrapped hotdogs…and some bacon fat, sauteed zucchini. And cheese. Of Course (if that floats your paleo boat). And the funny thing about being in the woods is that you can always find a stick to make skewer or “toothpick”. How else are you going to keep the bacon wrapped around the hotdog?
Berry Compote. It was originally going to be a berry crumble cooked over the fire. But then I got lazy and decided not to make the crumble. So then I thought I’d make berry tapioca pudding (the white balls in the first picture). But I didn’t have enough, so I just let it cook down to a compote. So then I put that over my sweet potato paleo waffles the next morning! Taa-DAAA! I have to say, done right with enough gelatin, this filling will make a killer berry pie! The best part – I picked these berries myself at their peak ripeness so I didn’t have to add any sugar. Cool beans…errr…berries.