How to be a Campfire Gourmet

You’re sunburned, riddled with mosquito bites and your shoulders can’t paddle another kilometre — this doesn’t mean you can’t get a little gourmet game going on at the end of the day. Fire, tinfoil, a skillet (maybe don’t try this one on a 20-day trip up the Coppermine), and voilà, you have tartiflette! Ok, perhaps it’s not quite that simple. But there’s no need to stick to roasting wieners.

We asked a couple of chefs around town for some creative wildness cooking ideas. As expected, the most common response was the classic “shore meal:” catch a fish, wrap it in tinfoil and toss it on the fire. Twin Pine Diner chef Robin Wasicuna added some pro tips: if you cut the fish down the middle and splay it out, you can throw it directly on the coals, and the scales will act like protective tinfoil. You can also get creative, he adds, and build yourself a little rack of crosshatched sticks; lean it up next to the fire pit, but not close enough to to catch fire; splay the fish out on the rack and let the smoky heat do its work.

For those keen to broaden the horizons of their wilderness cuisine, here are a few more ideas from local chefs:

The Australian Sweet Damper

Think bannock, Oz-style. Luluz chef Jason Kirby grew up cooking this recipe in the Australian outback. “The beautiful thing about damper is you can flavour it with anything,” he tells us.

Ingredients

4 cups of self raising flour [400g]

1 tbs of ground cinnamon

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1 tbs of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

75 grams dried cherries

75 grams raisins

2 tbs of butter

200 ml Milk

1 egg

Instructions

Add all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix. In a separate bowl, whip the egg into the milk, melt the butter and stir into the milk and egg. Slowly whisk the liquid into the dry ingredients and then knead by hand, up to a 100 kneads. If the mixture is sticky, add a little more flour — the dough should hold together well without breaking up. Wrap in greased foil and bury under hot coals  for 35 to 45 minutes. It’s ready when golden brown. Serve hot with butter and add syrup or jam to taste.

Do prep work on these smokey beef tacos before you set out

Smoky Beef Tacos

This one’s from Etienne Croteau, who’s getting into the Yellowknife food game this fall with a new meals-to-go, chef-at-home and catering service Flavour Trader/Saveurs de L’Artisan, opening in the Breakaway Fitness building. It’s for the shorter, Hidden-Lake-for-a-Friday-night kind of trip, as preparation is key and you’ll have to pack in some sort of grill. But nothing’s stopping you from starting marination on Thursday and loading up a few Tupperware containers.

Ingredients

Beef

500 grams beef (from a steak or flank)

5 chopped garlic cloves

1 small chopped red onion

3 tbs olive oil

2 tbs lime juice

Spice Mix

1 tbs cumin seed

1 tsp cinnamon (1 inch from a cinnamon stick)

1 tsp black peppercorn

1 tsp Pasilla D’Oaxaca chili flakes

2 tsp ancho black chili flakes

Other

2 yellow peppers

6 Serrano or Jalapeno peppers

1 garlic bulb

12 corn tortillas

Instructions

Start prep 24 hours before your trip and then keep it in a container in a cooler.

Cut the beef into strips, add chopped garlic and red onion to the beef. Add olive oil and lime juice. In a pan, heat the spices and the chili flakes. In a mortar with a pestle (or in a coffee grinder just for your spices) grind the spices and chili flakes; mix the beef and the spices in a bowl and keep the results cold in the fridge for about 24 hours.

At the Campsite: Heat the peppers and the garlic on a grill on the fire; warm the tortillas on the grill. Heat the meat with peppers and chop the garlic; roll it all together in a warm taco; add cherry tomato and black bean salsa for some extra flavour!

Melted Mini-Potato Medley

Tinfoil-wrapped potatoes are a campfire staple, but if you want to get a little cheesy, try this second recipe from Etienne.

Ingredients

2 small bags of mini red potatoes

2 packs of smoked applewood bacon

12 garlic cloves

2 red onion

1 tbs black peppercorn

350 grams Reblochon or Champfleury cheese

Instructions

On a small cutting board, slice each potato into four pieces. Wrap them in three layers of aluminium foil and place in a corner of the fire pit for about 45 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves, keeping them whole, slice the red onions and the bacon, and cut the cheese into one-inch cubes. In a cast iron pan on the hot embers, fry the bacon until almost cooked, remove some fat and add the whole garlic, the red onions and the peppercorn, letting everything fry for about five more minutes. Add the potatoes and the cheese cubes, letting the mixture melt together for about 3-4 minutes; remove from the embers and let it cool down. Eat it with your friends straight from the pan!  

Ethiopian Lamb Tibs

To do this classic Ethiopian dish properly, you need a Tibs Cooker — a small ceramic oven-like device heated by coals which keeps your meat warm after cooking. These, unsurprisingly, are hard to come by in Yellowknife. But this tibs recipe from Dinku Tadesse, who runs Zehabesha, can be done in a pan over the fire. And the best part: no cutlery needed — you just nab the delicious strips of lamb with your fingers.  

Ingredients

1 pound of lean lamb (this recipe also works with beef)

2 medium onions

2 sweet peppers

6 cloves of garlic

2 tbs of minced ginger

A few pinches of rosemary

A few pinches of salt

Ethiopian butter (or regular unsalted butter)

2 tbs of olive oil

A handful of fresh chili peppers

Instructions

Heat the oil in a pan over the fire; cut the lamb into half-inch strips and cook in the oil for five minutes; add sliced onions and cook for seven minutes; add mashed-up paste of ginger and garlic and cook for another five minutes; cut peppers into strips and add, along with several pinches of rosemary; cook for three minutes; toss in the butter and fresh chili peppers at the end; let it cool down a bit, pop it on a plate, and dig in with your hands.

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