I love cooking outdoors and through the years, have developed some ‘standard’ recipes that meet my two requirements (easy and tasty)! Although I often prepare these dishes at camps hunting and fishing, they can just as easily be cooked at home.
In this week’s column, I’ll share a few of my favorites with you. All take only a few minutes to prep and although they are primarily wild game recipes, domestic meats can be substituted.
Dutch Kettle Quail (Or Cornish hens, chicken breasts, wings.)
This is a recipe I learned from my friend the late Bob Hood. Bob was a great Dutch Kettle Cook and we often enjoyed this recipe on quail hunts. Begin by melting a stick of salted butter in a cast iron Dutch Kettle with recessed lid. Dredge quail (or Cornish hens) in the butter and coat with Ritz Cracker meal. Place the birds in the kettle and sprinkle cracker meal liberally over the birds. Season with salt and pepper (not too much salt, the cracker meal is pretty salty) and top with one half stick of butter cut into small pads. If using a standard 10 inch Dutch Kettle, place about 7 charcoal briquettes under the kettle (the Dutch Kettle should have legs to elevate it a few inches) and about 13 briquettes on top in the recess of the lid. Allow to cook for 50 minutes and check for doneness. If using a #10 kettle, use 7 briquettes under and 13 on top. This is a general rule of thumb but it’s sometime necessary to use more coals during cold weather. I usually cook with campfire coals but it’s a good idea for the beginner Dutch Kettle cook to use charcoal which is easier to measure. This has to be my favorite campfire meal. The birds always come out crispy on top and well seasoned with the Ritz cracker meal. When serving, make sure and dish out some of the browned cracker meal on top of the quail/Cornish hens. Of course, this receipt can also be cooked inside in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.
Dutch Kettle Cobbler
This is a very simple dish that everyone enjoys. I do much of the prep work at home by mixing a can of sliced peaches and some frozen blackberries in a sealable container with a couple tablespoons of cinnamon and 2 cups of sugar. At camp, I take 2 pie shells and place one on the bottom and cut the other into strips and placed criss-crossed on top of the mixture. I also add one stick of unsalted butter on top and allow it to melt and slowly trickle down into the berries/peaches. Sprinkle a bit of sugar and cinnamon on top, add the coals above and below the kettle and allow to bake about 45 minutes. You will know it’s done when your guests smell the aroma and begin asking you when it’s ready!
Bacon Wrapped Wild Pork Backstrap
Of course, if you are fresh out of wild pork, you can substitute with a domestic pork loin. Begin by slicing the back trap lengthwise and open it up (like a hot dog bun). Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder or your favorite dry seasoning. From this point on, the sky is the limit as to what you decide to use as ‘stuffing’. Slices of seeded jalapeno, cream cheese and chunks of white meat chicken is a good start but you can add everything from whole mushrooms to apple slices to enhance the flavor. Once the backstrap is loaded, wrap it with several layers of good bacon and secure with toothpicks or wooden skewers. The loin can be cooked over an open fire but I much prefer to place it in my Smokin Tex electric smoker set at 225 degrees and give it a good smoke flavor with hickory or pecan wood. Use a meat thermometer and cook to about 170 degrees. When finished, the bacon should be crispy and the meat tender. Wild pork will be a bit tougher and will often require wrapping in foil and additional slow heat cooking.
Camp Cabbage Rolls
If you like conventional cabbage rolls, you will love this simple recipe that takes only about 45 minutes, start to finish. Begin with one pound of spicy breakfast sausage (raw) and mix in about 1.5 cups of raw rice. Form into balls about one inch in diameter. Place a layer of the sausage in the bottom of a thick walled pot and top with a layer of chunked raw cabbage. Continue layering until all the meat and head of cabbage is in the pot. Now, simply add one large can of Spicy V8 juice, no other seasoning is necessary. Cover with lid and slow simmer until the sausage balls are done and cabbage tender, about 45 minutes. Served with cornbread, this is a one pot meal that goes well any time of the year.
Quick and Tasty Camp Fajitas
I always prep this dish at home the day before. Fajitas can be made from just about any meat, wild or domestic. I often cut well trimmed strips of venison or wild pork into small pieces and season liberally with Fiesta Fajita seasoning and place in a freezer bag with freshly chopped garlic, onion and diced jalapeno and the juice from a couple of limes. Placed in an ice cooler this is a quick camp meal waiting to happen! I usually fry a couple pieces of fatty bacon first in a cast iron skillet and then add the seasoned fajita strips/veggies. It might be necessary to add a little oil to keep the meat from sticking to the skillet. A couple minutes before the meat is done, I’ll toss in a couple of red or yellow thinly sliced bell peppers. Heat some flour or corn tortillas and your meal is ready to devour! I often boil a pot of red beans ahead of time and mash them up and add cumin, garlic and bits of jalapeno. Refried beans are hard to beat at camp as a side dish for fajitas!
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org.