Luke Clayton: Camp meals the easy way
By Luke Clayton, Daily Light contributor
I enjoyed a summer hog hunt with some great friends recently and, as is often the case, I volunteered to be the camp cook. I learned a long time ago that it’s most challenging to actually hunt, or fish for that matter, and come in after being in the field or on the water all day and prepare a tasty meal. Granted, it’s easy enough to open a can of Spam or make cold cuts and cheese sandwiches but the kind of camp meals that are remembered take a bit of preparation. On this most recent hunt, I had slow smoked some pork ribs, chicken breasts and pork shoulder; put the meat in freezer bags and directly in my cooler. This I did at home the day before the hunt.
I and most of the folks I spend time in the outdoors with absolutely love Tex-Mex, which can be some of the easiest of meals to prepare. Some recipes require slow cooking of meat ahead of time but others can be made from scratch back at camp after the day is done. Let me share a couple of my favorite camp meals with you. You might just wish to give them a try on your next trip to the lake or visit to the hunting lease.
Here’s an easy made-from-scratch recipe that can be prepared in 30 minutes at camp after a busy day in the woods. Use about 1.5 pounds of quality ground meat (venison, wild pork or whatever you have). Get the meat sizzling in a cast iron skillet and add a packet of taco seasoning, one diced jalapeno, 4 cloves of fresh garlic finely chopped and one medium size onion. Allow the meat to brown and the veggies to become soft. Now, add a few tablespoons of good picante sauce and fold in a small can of refried beans. Allow to simmer a few minutes but watch it closely so it doesn’t scorch. Serve on hot flour tortillas with grated cheese.
The basic ingredients in this recipe can be used for making everything from tasty Mexican soup to guisado to enchiladas and it begins at home with your smoker and some slow smoked wild pork, venison or domestic meat. I use my Smokin Tex electric smoker set on 190 degrees with hickory wood in the fire box. A couple hours before bedtime, I place a roast or quality cut of meat (game meat or domestic) in an aluminum pan and season liberally with Fiesta fajita seasoning and give the meat a coating of olive oil. I toss in a few chipotle (smoked jalapeno) peppers and add some apple juice to the pan for moisture and smoke, uncovered for a couple hours. After the meat has been flavored by the smoke, wrap the pan with foil and allow the meat to slow cook overnight. Next morning while drinking my coffee, I go out and turn the smoker out and allow the meat to cool. Then, I chop the meat, garlic and peppers together and place in a cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and one medium chopped onion. The meat is already very tender but heating in the skillet with the other ingredients allows the flavors to blend. I then freeze my basic Tex-Mex “stock” in freezer bags and I have the beginning of several tasty dishes.
When I am ready to make say, green chili enchiladas, I simply defrost the seasoned meat, place In a skillet and add a few Hatch chili peppers. Then, taste test my enchilada ingredients for flavor and add salt, cumin, garlic, etc. to taste. Making the enchiladas is easy, simply spoon the mixture onto flour or corn tortillas, add a bit of cheese and chopped onion or pico, fold and stack in a pan. I usually sprinkle a bit more cheese and chopped onion and jalapeno on top and top with some green enchilada sauce. Bake until the cheese melts and you have some of the best enchiladas imaginable.
There are many ways to prepare guisado but this basic recipe of smoked meat with ingredients is a good start. Just add chopped tomatoes, possible a little celery and chopped carrots and cook down to a thick consistency. Serve on hot flour tortillas and you can be eating tasty guisado in a matter of minutes after a busy day on the water or in the woods.
You can use this same “stock” to make great tasting Posole or Mexican soup with veggies. For Pozole, just add Mexican hominy, chopped tomatoes, a little chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and a little shredded cabbage and simmer until the veggies are tender. If you prefer a basic tasty Mexican meat/veggie soup, leave out the hominy and add some cubed new potatoes, celery, chopped onion, carrots and yellow or zucchini squash, cilantro and cabbage. Serve on hot buttered corn tortillas. Slices of fresh avocado add the finishing touch to either pizole or Mexican soup. Of course, pico de gallo makes an excellent garnish for any Tex-Mex dish but a good picante sauce can be substituted. Prepping veggies for pico takes some time and we are talking about quick and easy camp recipes here.
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via www.catfishradio.org .