Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Campfire Cookery: A Cookbook Review

Other than hot dogs and S’mores I can’t say I’ve ever taken advantage of a campfire for cooking. Although my husband likes to tell me stories of his Boy Scout days and all the great foods they used to make – biscuits, cobblers – he promises they tasted amazing.

It seems that the campfire cooking theme is big this summer so when I found out about Campfire Cookery: Adventuresome Recipes and Other Curiosities for the Great Outdoors by Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young I couldn’t wait to get a copy. If there is one cookbook that is not on my shelf, it is certainly one about campfire cooking!


This cookbook is all kinds of fun! You’ll learn everything you need to know about campfire cooking from splitting wood to the appropriate temperatures for cooking to suggested campfire songs. Then there are all the great recipes that are anything but your standard pork and beans. Proof is in the Scape Risotto with Cured Ham, Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Dates, and seven varieties of S’mores including Honeyed Chocolate Orange!

If you don’t think you’ll find yourself out in the forest for dinner anytime soon, no worries. There are plenty of recipes that don’t require a campfire and even those that do can be modified for kitchen cooking. However, if you have the opportunity to do any campfire cooking consider this cookbook your strongest ally.

When I turned to page 152, I could not wait to try Caramelized Tomato Tarte Tatin à la Clark. I have to admit, there were no campfires to be found or the opportunity to create one so I made this recipe in the kitchen in a 375 degree F oven. It would have worked well on our ceramic grill, though, too.



I know it’s hard to believe, but I don’t have a cast iron skillet. I know. It’s on the list. However, this recipe gave me the perfect opportunity to use my soap stone pot that I got in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It worked out so well and I was happy to put that pot to use.

This tarte tatin smelled absolutely amazing when it was baking. I knew it was going to taste so good. I used unbleached all-purpose flour for the crust and it turned out light and flaky. Our cherry tomatoes are just now coming on so I had a few of those, some San Marzano tomatoes chopped and I even threw in a couple tomatillos.

The tomatoes and caramelized onions are so sweet and there is just enough salty, buttery flavor from the crust to offset the sweetness. This is one recipe I will be putting to use all summer. Once our cherry tomatoes come on full force I’ll likely be baking it to take to friends as well. If I’m lucky, maybe I can do the real thing and try it at the campfire.

Caramelized Tomato Tarte Tatin à la Clark
Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books
Provides 4–6 portions

From the book: Our friend, the gifted food scribe melissa clark, inspired this dish. She prepares a similar version in the oven and tops it, decadently, with a puff pastry crust. Alas, fire cookery has its boundaries, and unfortunately, puff pastry pushes them. Here we’ve substituted her brilliant pie crust recipe, which is equally divine. When summer comes, and ripe, sweet tomatoes drip from the vine like gems on a countess’s décolletage, do not overlook this recipe. It is a worthy use for Nature’s bounty.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons plus 1 pinch Demerara or raw sugar
1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes (4 to 5 cups)
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 large pinch each kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
1, 10-inch pie crust (the book refers to Melissa Clark’s Pie Crust
Unparalleled, page 78)

Prepare a medium-high-heat fire, with the flames occasionally licking the grill grate. Let it burn steadily until it begins to form glowing, ash-covered coals and embers, about 45 minutes. Then use a coal shovel or like implement to scrape a bed of embers off to the side of the fire pit. Nestle the skillet’s lid into the flames to heat.

Place the skillet upon the cooking grate. Add the butter and melt completely. Stir in the onions and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are dark golden and caramelized, about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, in a bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, thyme, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Stir the tomato mixture into the skillet with the caramelized onions.




Quickly rake hot coals from the embers of the fire to form an even bed at the side of the fire pit (be sure to save some coals for one’s lid).

Place the skillet atop the bed of coals. Unwrap the pie crust and arrange it neatly on top of the tomato mixture, tucking the edges into the sides of the skillet. Using a knife, cut several vents in the pastry lid so that steam may escape. Remove the hot lid from the fire and place it on top of the skillet. Generously heap additional red coals onto the lid. It is important that the coals on the lid remain blazing hot during baking; should they cease to glow, heap on a fresh batch. Bake until the crust is golden and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat of one’s fire to high; Return the skillet to the cooking grate and let simmer until the juices beneath the surface of the pastry begin to bubble thickly through the vents and take on a jamlike appearance, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes in the skillet before slicing into wedges and serving, crust side up, or flipped, crust side down, onto a plate.







On a side note, can you believe this is my 500th post?!

Disclaimer: A review copy of this cookbook was sent to me free of charge. I was under no obligation to review it and received no compensation for doing so.

9 comments:

Joanne said...

I am so NOT a camping kind of gal...but I might turn into one if I had this cookbook! Awesome review!

Peggy said...

Congrats on your 500th post Lori!

I'm with Joanne, I'm not normally a camping kind of gal - I like my modern day luxuries =)

But I did go on a white water rafting trip with a group of friends and impressed them by cooking a chipotle bbq pork loin over the camp fire... but that's as fancy as I can get.

This tart sounds like the perfect way to use some of our tomatoes though =)

OysterCulture said...

How funny you have this after our Twitter conversation about camping.

I love the sounds of this dish, and having just roasted and stuffed some tomatoes, I will just have to content myself until my next batch.

kat said...

Oh that looks so good! My friend Amy loves that book for her camping menu too.

Corinne said...

I thought I recognized that pot! :) Recipe looks really good!

Marianne (frenchfriestoflaxseeds) said...

We used to make some pretty fun things when I would go camping as a kid, not just with brownies/girl guides but also with my family. We would bake cakes, make foil dinners, fondue, casseroles. Not totally gourmet, but it wasn't all hot dogs and s'mores, that's for sure :) Sounds like a fun cookbook!

Lori said...

Joanne - It will definitely show you how fun it could be! :)

Peggy - Thanks! Sounds like an awesome camfire meal.

OysterCulture - Definitely try it. I just finished ours off and I'm ready to make another!

Kat - It is a great book. Lots of recipes in there I want to try.


Corinne - Ha, ha! Yep, you helped me pick it out and it made the shipment back to the States in one piece!

elisabeth said...

I don't see in this recipe where you use the 3T of sugar. A very similar recipe in NYT says to caramelize 1/4 c. sugar in a layer at the bottom of the pie. Is this where the 3T sugar should have gone?

Lori said...

Hmm...I just copied the recipe from the electronic version I received from the publisher and I'm not finding it either. I always cut sugar back when I make recipes out of habit so I must not have noticed when making it. Maybe I can find out something from the publisher. What you mentioned seems logical.