Growing older means seeing friends who live far away gets harder and harder. My college friends and I started a tradition to do an annual car camping trip, and we just got back from spending a weekend at the beautiful Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park.
Because I love to plan, love to cook, and love to see friends, I’ve been in charge of organizing our menu for the weekend. The first time I went car camping, we just had the typical fare: hot dogs, hamburgers, stews, etc. Nothing exciting. I started looking into what people made when they go camping and was amazed at the level of gourmet cooking people execute over a campfire. So today, I just wanted to share the dinner recipes from this past weekend for anyone interested in upping their campfire cooking game.
Beef Chili & Hoecakes
This is probably one of the easiest meals to make over a fire. I’m big on prepping food before hand so a day or two before the trip, I’ll cook the chili in a slow cooker. Once it has cooled, I transfer the chili to a plastic zippered bag and freeze it so that it will stay cold in your cooler (and act as a cooling block of ice for your other foods…). It’s fine if it’s a little liquidy, it will boil down when reheated over the campfire.
I love having cornbread with chili but I was super nervous about trying to bake cornbread in my cast iron skillet over a fire. Keeping a consistent temperature that is not too hot and not too cool can be challenging on an open fire, so instead of a classic cornbread, I use a hoecake recipe, which is pretty much like a cornmeal based pancake. I premix all the dry ingredients in a bag beforehand and combine it with the wet ingredients onsite. It takes minutes to cook up and are just as satisfying as cornbread.
Chicken Kabobs & Foil Packet Paella
- Chicken Kabobs – no specific recipe
- Paella packet recipe from Zestuous
- Tips for foil packet cooking and other foil packet recipes from Art of Manliness
The method for chicken kabobs over a fire is no different from other methods of cooking, so a simple google search for “chicken kabob” will yield more results than you care to read. Personally, I dumb it down so it’s super easy. I cube chicken thighs into 1″-1.5″ pieces and make chicken only skewers. Finished skewers go in a bag and I dump in a pre-made marinade (usually of the lemon-pepper or garlic-herb variety) 30 minutes before cooking. I prefer to separate proteins and veggies onto different skewers because they cook at different rates.
The paella packets were a new addition this year and it worked beautifully. The only thing I did different was to cook the rice separately in a pot beforehand, then put in cooked rice and veggies into the packets to crisp up in the fire. I’m definitely going to experiment more with foil packet cooking because it worked so well.
Skirt Steak Fajitas & Mexican Rice
This was probably the favorite meal of the trip. I prepped the marinade beforehand and stored it in a mason jar until ready to be combined with the meats, which were in their own plastic bags (yes, I used a lot of plastic bags this trip. It’s too darn convenient). This marinade was spot on. I cooked the steaks about 4 minutes on each side and they were beautifully medium rare in the middle and medium on the ends.
For Mexican Rice, I don’t usually add any vegetables and instead of tomato sauce, I used diced tomatoes (sometimes pureed, sometimes not). I pre-toasted the rice beforehand (in retrospect, probably not necessary) so at the campsite, I combined the liquid, spices, and rice into a pot and let it cook over a medium fire. I recommend stirring the rice occasionally as the outsides will burn if left undisturbed.
Hope these sparked some ideas for your next camping trip!