How to Make a Nice Hunting Camp Dish

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hunting-camp_cHundreds of recipes plus modern packaging place tasty, nutritious meals within easy reach of camp chefs. With minimum effort and a little planning, anyone can turn out fine meals quickly and easily. And he won't have to stoop to cold spam, sardines, Vienna sausages or left over mystery stew.

By Bob Tonkin


Army food is notoriously bad but hunting camp dishes can be worse.

I've survived greasy, smelly, half-cooked camp concoctions that would turn away a starving coyote.

One awful example began as a pretty good stew, but we failed to empty the pot at the first meal. After that, whoever walked by added a can of corn, beans, squash, chili or whatever was handy, so at each meal we faced a mystery dish.

The pot was neither emptied nor refrigerated for days, so it became less savory and more questionable by the meal. However, we ate it and dodged food poisoning. But camp food doesn't have to be that bad.

Hundreds of recipes plus modern packaging place tasty, nutritious meals within easy reach of camp chefs. With minimum effort and a little planning, anyone can turn out fine meals quickly and easily. And he won't have to stoop to cold spam, sardines, Vienna sausages or left over mystery stew.

A hunting camp is no place for cooking time consuming, elaborate dishes, though, so it's best to keep menus simple and lean heavily on pre-prepared foods. They're good and save time and effort.

Also, some campfire-cooked dishes are simple but delicious. For a mouth-watering meal, steaks, chops, fajitas, or chicken grilled over mesquite coals and served with baked potatoes or onions and a lettuce and tomato salad make a dinner fit for a king.

Wrap onions or potatoes in foil and bury them in coals for an hour or place them on the grill covered with an inverted pot to retain heat.

Or substitute charcoaled young cottontails. It's a good idea to tenderize them by parboiling before grilling.

For a touch of outdoor elegance, broil doves or quail over coals. Wrap a bacon slice around each bird and pin it with toothpicks.

Meats may be marinated or basted if you choose. Save time by preparing basting sops and marinades at home, but avoid barbeque sauces with a catsup base. They char into an ugly, black crust that spoils taste and prevents meat from cooking properly.

A word here about cooking over coals. Build your fire away from the grill, then shovel coals under the grill as needed. This is an old ranch trick that controls heat perfectly, but the fire attracts idlers and onlookers. So chefs must learn to ignore barrages of unwanted advice larded with insults.

As for breads, corn or flour tortillas are great in camp. You can spoon up beans or chili with them or wrap them around beans, meat, cheese or sausage.

Also, make-your-own sandwiches offer a change of pace or, if you know how, you can make pan de campo, or skillet bread, which was a camp staple when I was young.

Curiously, the last I ate was cooked over a mopane wood fire in the African bush. The chef was a cultured English lady who lives in Zimbabwe. It was as good there as in the South Texas brush.

I'm ashamed I can't tell you the recipe.

Canned, pre-mixed biscuits go great in camp. Bake them in Dutch or other ovens and fix plenty because they disappear quickly. Pancakes also are easily prepared using prepared mixes. They add muscle to breakfasts.

Don't overlook pinto beans. They're tasty, nutritious, high in protein and easy to cook. I like to toss in a large onion, quartered, a clove or two of garlic and a few chile petins.

Go easy on the tiny chiles with the big bite, though. They're treacherous.

Hold the salt until nearly done and if water must be added, be sure it's boiling hot.

No hunting camp menu is complete without stews. They fill hungry bellies and earn kudos for camp cooks.

Here's a recipe from the Jack Daniels distillery called Lynchburg Lazy Man's Squirrel Stew. Don't knock it because there are no squirrels on your lease.

It's as good with rabbit or chicken.


Here's the recipe:

* Four squirrels or rabbits (or a couple of medium chickens) cut up

* Flour, salt and pepper

* Three tablespoons bacon grease or cooking oil

* One large onion, chopped

* One cup sliced celery

* One can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped

* Two cups canned corn

* Two cups canned lima beans or peas

* Four medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks

* Hot pepper sauce to taste.

Dredge meat pieces in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and brown in hot grease in large pot or Dutch oven. Stir in onions and celery and cook until onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add water to cover meat and simmer in a covered pot for 45 minutes. Remove meat pieces, strip meat from bones and return to pot. Stir in tomatoes, corn, beans and potatoes and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Makes four servings. Sliced mild, green chile should improve it.

Chile con carne is another camp standby with the virtue of giving chef's imaginations room to run.

Trim cubed meat of fat and brown the pieces. Then stew with red chile sauce or powder. Store-bought powder is easiest, but I'm partial to dried red chiles stewed, pureed and strained (at home). I think the flavor is better. You can add comino, oregano or whatever spices you find appealing. I like mine picoso enough to merit respect, with pinto beans and corn tortillas on the side.

I could list many other superb camp dishes, but I'm out of space and am getting hungry, too. So I'm off to the kitchen to put on a pot of frijoles, or maybe some chile con carne.

I already have the tortillas. They just need heating.


www.brownsvilleherald.com

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