Because I’ll try anything once, I decided to go camping in the Catskills last week. Not surprisingly, my fellow campers put me in charge of the food.
As I mulled over my grocery shopping list, I remembered a thought I had the first time I walked into an EMS store: you need a lot of stuff to live simply. The obvious choices—frozen burger patties, peanut butter and jelly, cans of beans and packets of oatmeal—were not appealing to me. I could make my own burger patties, and I could shut up and deal with the peanut butter and jelly, but I wanted to have one really good satisfying meal to follow the full day hike that was planned. What could I make that could survive three days in a cooler and be cooked in one pan?
Chicken cutlet parmigiana casserole. Friends, the disposable aluminum tray may not be the greenest option out there, but neither was the DEET required to keep the mosquitoes from consuming me like the 5:00 pm buffet on a senior citizen’s cruise. Bread and fry 10-20 (depending on the size of your group) chicken cutlets until golden brown. Layer in the tray pan, and cover each layer with mozzarella and tomato sauce. The final product will be baked right on the rack of your campfire. For vegetarians, try this especially good and simple eggplant parmigiana recipe.
Chilaquiles. Essentially a Mexican lasagna, layers of tortillas separate melted queso blanco, tomato salsa, and your choice of meat. I found this Epicurious recipe to work especially well.
Mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs! Initially, I contemplated a mac and cheese with a bechamel base, melted fontina and asiago cheese over celantani pasta, with a touch of truffle oil. I make that and it’s good. But I believe in knowing your audience, and the great outdoors are not the place for such hard to digest cheeses. Here’s my lowbrow, stick-to-your-ribs version perfect for warming up over a campfire.
Mac and Cheese for the Great Outdoors
- 1 box ziti rigati pasta
- One can Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup
- 1 8-oz. bar of Cabot cheddar
- 1 8-oz. bar of Cabot monterey jack (Cabot cheese contains no lactose so it’s friendlier for the camping tummy.)
- 5 kosher hot dogs (hot dogs are sketchy so I appreciate that whole we answer to a higher authority thing)
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 3/4 stick salted butter
Boil pasta for 8-10 minutes (or till al dente) in salted water. Drain and spread inside a 9 X 12 aluminum tray pan.
Meanwhile, warm the can of cheddar cheese soup in a saucepan. Cut the cheddar and monterey jack cheese into cubes and melt down into the soup.
Cut the hot dogs into 1/2-inch slices and stir into the cheese.
Once fully melted, pour the cheese and hot dogs over the pasta waiting in the aluminum pan, and mix well.
Finally, toast breadcrumbs in a dry pan for 2 minutes, add butter and stir until golden and crumbly. Spread breadcrumb mixture over the top of your mac and cheese. Let it cool, cover it up with foil, and stick it in your cooler. Leave room in your belly for s’mores.
Oh, and for those of you wondering how my camping trip went…well, let’s just say that I retain a firm belief that nature is best enjoyed when one can return safely to a HoJo’s at the end of the day.