Fun with Foil on the Fire

Cooking with foil in Anza Borrego

I love to camp. And I love to eat well.  And I hate to wash dishes, especially while camping.  And I don’t believe those three things need to contradict each other.

It is like a personal challenge to me to make the best possible food with the least possible dishes while camping, and I’ve largely been successful.  My old high school buddies and I go camping every summer, and we each take a night to cook dinner, which has turned into a sort of competition.  Those who don’t make good dinners, don’t get chosen for a night the following year, so the pressure is on!

Aside from my favorite main courses while camping (tri-tip, ribs, jerk chicken, etc., which I will cover another time), I have found that I can do all sorts of excellent side dishes that are tasty, nutritious, and don’t require any messy pots and pans at all!

In my most recent camping trip out to Anza Borrego State Park with Colleen, I cooked two dinners, which added up to a grand total of one knife, one cutting board, a set of skewers, and one pair of tongs to wash, without a single hot dog on a stick to be found!  Day one was foil free, with jerked chicken, grilled pineapple chunks on skewers, and black beans cooked in the can, but dinner number two was ribeye steaks with some awesome veggies and potatoes that I did up foil-style.

Here’s what I did:

Marinated Veggie Foil Packet for Two

1  Yellow Squash, cut into bite sized pieces

1 Zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces

1 Red Onion, chopped into large pieces

1 Anaheim Chile, slided into 1″ X 1/4″ slices

1 Package of Cherry Tomatoes

1/2 cup of balsamic italian dressing (or regular italian dressing, or other vinaigrette)

After chopping up all the vegetables, I place them into a gallon ziploc and add the dressing (the measurement is an estimate, basically just enough to coat all the veggies).  After coating all the vegetables, I pour them into the middle of a 12″ by 24 ” square of aluminum foil (or whatever size your eyeballs tell you is needed), and then fold the edges to make a sealed pocket, all the way around the vegetables.

At this point, you can put the packet on a grill, or on a “greasy grate” over an open fire, or even right on the fire’s hot coals directly, if you’re in a pinch.  Once you can hear the juices bubbling in the pouch, turn it over every five minutes or so for a total of 20-30 minutes.  Open the pouch and serve the veggie goodness onto your plates!

Cook’s Note: Obviously, the amount and type of vegetables you use can vary with the number of people eating and their personal preferences.   I sometimes add mushrooms or asparagus or eggplant, or leave out the peppers, but the basics remain the same.  The veggies can also be chopped in advance and put into ziplocs if you want to speed the process up even more.  Chop enough veggies to feed the crowd, and pour enough dressing to color the veggies, and put in a pouch big enough to hold the veggies!

Red Potatoes, Green Onions, Garlic, and Butter in Foil Wrap for Two

6-8 Red Potatoes (depending on size and appetite), chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 bunch of green onions, sliced into 1/4″ lengths

3 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced

1/2 cup (1 stick)  butter

Seasoned Salt (Emeril Essence, BBQ Rub, Steak Seasoning, Cajun Seasoning, etc.) to taste

Assemble the chopped potatoes, sliced green onions and garlic into a 12″ by 24″ foil piece.   Slice the butter into chunks of a tablespoon or so and scatter around the potatoes.  Season with your favorite spices, and seal the foil into a pocket around the potato mixture.

Like the veggies, you can put the packet on a grill, or on a “greasy grate” over an open fire, or even right on the fire’s hot coals directly.  Once you can hear the butter bubbling in the pouch, turn it over every ten minutes or so for a total of 45 minutes or so.

Cook’s Note: Adjust amount of potatoes and onions and garlic to match the number of eaters and their appetite.  Potatoes and onions can be chopped ahead and put into ziploc bags to reduce the amount of work necessary at the campsite.  It will cook better in a longer, flatter pouch than a big round ball of a pouch (if you had the XL sized foil).

With both of these meals, the downside is that it is hard to check on the doneness of the food.  Once you’ve opened the pouch, you are more or less committed to eating it.  The good news is, it is easier to undercook it than overcook it.  As long as you can hear it bubbling, and as long as you aren’t smelling a scorched smell from the packet, it is hard to burn the contents of the pouch.  If you pull it off the fire as soon as you catch a whiff of burned food, you are still likely to be okay.

In the two examples above, we have healthy, tasty food, with almost no cleanup to be done afterwards, all of which make me a very happy camper!

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