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Play with fire

I’m passionate about tasty meals for family and friends, and it doesn’t matter if I’m in my kitchen or stuck out in the woods with nothing more than pine needles and matches.

Good food doesn’t come about because of the latest and greatest appliances or culinary tricks. It occurs when you start with high-quality ingredients and the tools at hand. In this case I had a stack of firewood, aluminum foil, and a sturdy cast iron skillet and griddle at my disposal. 

For my family’s first night in the forest, we built a fire and dined on Certified Angus Beef ® burgers. I had packed frozen ground beef in the ice chest. By the time we made camp and watched a blazing fire burn to hot coals, our ‘grill’ was hot and our burger meat thawed and ready for pressing into patties.

A few minutes on each side, a freshly-toasted bun with homemade pickles and a slice of cheese, and we dined like burger queens and kings.

The weather was ideal for fishing. Day two yielded fresh-caught trout — of the brook and brown varieties.

That’s when my trusty cast iron skillet came in handy.

If ever I was forced to choose just one kitchen implement to keep, it would be my aged and beloved pan. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is a girl’s best friend. Maybe not as sparkly as a diamond, but definitely more useful!

There’s no denying it. Day three was a feast of flavorful foods. While neighboring campers consumed hot dogs and potato chips, we kicked it up a notch with a truly amazing meal.

Our philosophy? If we’re going to the trouble of building a fire it might as well be for some good cookin’. And not to play favorites with flat iron steaks, but we took several of these tender cuts with us on our woodland adventure.

We were feeding a crowd of hungry hikers, after all.

While the beef grilled to a delightful medium doneness, we sliced a sweet onion and tossed it in a sauce pot with butter.

Camping, you say? Yes, indeed. In a wild, wonderful, woodland kitchen.

Who needs a king-sized grill with 50,000 BTUs, or charcoal and lighter fluid for that matter? In a pinch — or the outback — you can have your fine dining and eat it, too.

With ambient lighting from sunset filtered through hemlock, the sound of rushing river in our ears and the scent of fresh pine on a pleasant breeze, we enjoyed slices of steak with caramelized onions, fire-baked potatoes and fresh peaches — which, looking back now, we should have grilled with a hint of brown sugar. Next time. 

The point is … a fine meal can be enjoyed just about anywhere.

You just have to make up your mind — and gather a few meager tools — to get it.

Happy grilling … happy Labor Day … happy dining in the great out … wherever you are!

Published by

Jennifer Kiko

Jennifer lives on a rural route with her husband, kids, horses, cows and faithful Labs, Cash and Carter. She's an aspiring foodie and enjoys making good food for great friends. She lives next door to a winery, plays the piano, and admits to growing too many tomatoes.