I must impress the family
May 10, 2008 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Our family is going to be reuniting at the historic cottage in St. Donat, Quebec. The agreement is that each person will cook dinner for all on their night. I have set myself (and my daughter) the challenge that we will cook everything that day on an open fire. Please help me.

I'm not thinking barbecue (which my brother can do), but rather something like my braised-lamb-cooked-six-hours recipe. I was inspired by the Alton Brown "Power Out" segment, in which he used a Dutch oven over coals to make bread etc. Ideally I don't have to buy any new pots but I will if necessary. What I need from you, fellow mefites, is suggestions for recipes and cooking methods that will let me, and Claire, impress the family.
posted by Turtles all the way down to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There is nothing as good as a cast iron dutch oven for cooking over an open fire. If you had two, you could do a main course AND dessert at the same time, with very, very little effort. Something like a braise or stew for the main course, and a fruit cobbler for dessert....yum!

Heck, with three, you could bake a fresh loaf of bread. But thats a bit much, probably.

In your shoes, I would buckle down and buy the Dutch oven. Practice at home once or twice, and you'll knock their socks off.
posted by griffey at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2008

There's a historic cottage in St Donat?? Where? My family had a cottage on Lac Sylvere for years. Of all the things I left behind when I moved to Vancouver, I miss the cottage near St Donat the most.

On to your question - have you thought of a pig roast? Alternatively, you could roast some small small hens, one for each participant (the entire hen is like a quarter of a chicken).

Regarding the dutch oven, you might want to make an apple cobbler or some other treats. Add some ice cream (there's a house with a fridge, right?) for the kids.

Back to the dutch oven - you can easily make a tourtiere in it, as well.

Funny you ask this - the hens and the cobbler in the dutch oven were on my camping menu last winter when I went to the Olympic Coast. We hike well, and eat well over here ;)
posted by seawallrunner at 7:00 PM on May 10, 2008

If you're going to do the Dutch oven thing, and don't already have a ginormous Dutch oven, don't wait, and plan on taking a new one there with you. You need to get one (or, if cooking for a crowd 2 or 3) and get started cooking in it/them, to build seasoning on the iron.

Next thing to gut check is whether or not the fireplace you'll be working with is equipped for cooking. Cooking fires are usually built to burn long but only medium hot, with lots of coals. Energy wise, cooking in a wood fire place is a long process of feeding a fire, poking it, and spreading ash. If the fireplace has a big set of andirons, a grate, or a shallow firebox, or worse a coal fireplace for heating, cooking on the fire in Dutch ovens is likely to be tough, if not impossible. Not every fireplace is big enough to cook in, for crowds. If you want to pursue this with a dinky little fireplace, you can use foil to roast things in, efficiently; works well made into packets with fish, chicken and small vegetables. Finally, if the fireplace is really set up for cooking, it will have swing arms and hooks for hanging pots.

But presuming you've got big Dutch ovens, a suitable fireplace, plenty of firewood, and gumption, boiled dinner in one oven, and baked brown bread in another smaller one, with baked beans, is great.

Ever I see a swing arm in a fire place, I think, "Pot o' beans."
"... On Sunday Colonial families ate baked beans. The mother of the family would start baking the beans on Saturday night. She would put molasses and a piece of salt pork, along with the beans into a pot called a bake kettle. She would leave the beans in the fireplace all night. In the morning they were ready to eat. ..."
Apple pan dowdy (and vanilla ice cream) for dessert.
posted by paulsc at 7:02 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey, seawallrunner (and fellow vancouverite), if you're going north through St. Donat, in about five minutes you reach a point where you can turn left onto a bridge toward Tremblant or right onto a smaller road. Keep veering right on the dirt road and you'll eventually reach our place, on Lac Des Aulnes.

Sounds like we should meet for a beer, no?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:04 PM on May 10, 2008

Response by poster: Back to the dutch oven - you can easily make a tourtiere in it, as well.

Oh, man, given my mother and the other elders that might be there, I WOULD NOT DARE!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:06 PM on May 10, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, paulsc! And something I should have made clear is that the fire will be outside, so it can be as big as necessary and burn as long as necessary.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:08 PM on May 10, 2008

Weiner roast! Why not? It's tasty and fun.
posted by Class Goat at 7:14 PM on May 10, 2008

Baked sweet potatoes - wrap whole sweet potatoes in foil, mound hot coals over them, let them roast for 45 minutes-1 hour or until soft and cooked through. Unwrap and split tops open. Top with butter and brown sugar, or, for more exotic tastes, sliced almonds, scallions, soy, and honey.

Google "Dutch oven cooking" and "campfire cooking" for loads of suggestions, tips, and how-tos.
posted by Miko at 7:14 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Baked sweet potatoes here's a little campfire cheat for you - pre-nuke the potatoes three or four at a time for five minutes in the microwave oven, so that you don't need to cook them for nearly an hour in their foil/fire. Your potatoes will not be completely cooked out of the microwave oven, but half of the cooking will already be done. Then season a la Miko (gosh I can't wait for my upcoming camping trip now)
posted by seawallrunner at 8:51 PM on May 10, 2008

Best answer: If you do go dutch oven style, I can't think of anything more appropriate than:

Pudding Chomeur (I mean, come on, really!)

1 1/2 cups maple syrup
3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cup flour
1 cup butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk

Mix maple syrup and water and boil for five minutes. Mix other ingredients together to make a dough, put into dutch oven. Pour maple/water mix over dough, cover dutch oven with coals and bake for about 30 minutes. You can do the toothpick test to see if it's ready.

Best of luck!
posted by furtive at 8:59 PM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

You know those metal sandwich makers for use over fires? I like to use those to make breakfast. Line each side of the sandwich maker with refrigerated biscuit dough, crack an egg in it, put some cheese and ham or bacon, close it up and cook over the fire until done. It takes a little while as the dough needs to bake through and you want the egg to be cooked through, but OMG, this is the best breakfast I've ever had!!
posted by All.star at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2008

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