If one was to read my previous posts on this blog, one might think that I am obsessed with outdoor cooking and aluminum foil. One might be right. I do love to camp, and I do hate to wash dishes (especially while cooking), so cooking on grills and using aluminum foil is a regular part of my routine both at home and in camp.
On a recent camping trip to Idyllywild (soon to be written about at Greene Adventures, our family blog), I did dinner for seven, which consisted of tri-tip (recipe previously written up here), grilled corn-on-the-cob, beans, and garlic bread, none of which required a single dish other than the tongs and utensils I used to handle the food. And none of which were complicated at all, but they made a supremely tasty outdoor feast without a lot of work.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
The most complicated (and only because it had the most steps) was the corn on the cob. There are a dozen ways to do corn, and I won’t tell you any one of them is wrong, but what has worked well for me and my fellow campers is this:
Pull the husks down to the base, without removing them. Strip the silks off. At this point you can either use a stick of butter (damn right I’m using real butter) or dip a paper towel into a container of butter, margarine, or other spread of choice. Coat the corn with a good helping of butter (or lame butter substitute), and then sprinkle all over with your favorite seasoned salt. With the butter as a bonding agent, it will stick quite well. I’m currently using Louisiana Brand Cajun Seasoning, but I’ve also used Cholula Mexican Seasoning, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, and a host of other seasonings over the years.
Re-wrap the corn in the husks (if they fell off in the peeling process, you can just re-wrap it in a layer of loose husks), and then wrap the corn and husks together in the aluminum foil. At this point, you can put the corn on a grill, directly on (or adjacent to) hot coals on the campfire, or on what my Bakersfield buddies and I refer to as a “greasy grate,” which is my personal preference. The tri-tip was on my main charcoal grill, so by putting the greasy grate over the campfire (low fire/hot coals), I can add significantly to my available cooking space, and get the job done well. At a medium heat (3-5 seconds using the hand test), you can cook the corn in about 15-20 minutes, rotating the corn every five minutes or so. If you’re using the foil and the husks, it will be very difficult to burn, so even after 20 minutes, you can move the corn to a cooler part of the grate and keep it warm while your other dishes are finishing. Peel the foil and the husks and eat with no further need for seasoning or improvement!
The other sides are so easy to do, you might not have considered it, or at least not the cooking method I employ.
A large can, or two smaller cans, of good beans (I currently prefer Ranch Style’s Original or Jalapeno Pinto Beans, depending on your group’s tolerance for heat) can be cooked directly within the cans in and adjacent to the fire itself without using pots. Set a good bed of coals (again, no high flames), and open the cans 90 percent of the way, leaving the lids almost entirely covering the beans to protect against flying ash, but with space for bubbling liquid and steam to escape. When the beans start to boil, turn them (with tongs or gloves) 180 degrees, so the cool side of the can is now on the side where the coals are. With pre-cooked beans, all you need to do is warm them, so after both sides have started boiling, you can move them a bit further from the fire to keep them warm while you wait for the rest of dinner to be ready.
The bread is even easier. Pick up a good loaf of bread at the grocery store or bakery. I happen to like the whole garlic clove sourdough loafs, but any of the heartier, crustier breads will hold up to being thrown in the back of the truck with the camping gear without being squished into nothingness. I prefer to slice it lengthwise down the middle and pre-butter the bread, and then re-assemble it, and wrap it in foil. Again, you can just place it on the greasy grate near the corn, but over a cooler part of the coals, to avoid scorching the bread. It will only take 10-15 minutes to warm through and melt the butter in the middle, but remember to rotate the bread every few minutes. Because you are essentially grilling the bread, it is only being heated on one side at a time, unlike sticking it in an oven where you can forget about it and it is heated on all sides at once.
All of these are tasty, easy, quick, and (as is obvious from the pictures) can utilize the helping hands of any kids in the camp while you concentrate on not screwing up your tri-tip or ribs main course!