Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Posts tagged “camping

Camping With Mojoe: How To Eat Well In The Woods

Way up north in the hither lands, in the remote forest primeval which abounds there, my bride and I made camp on the shores of this wild lake. A plot so far off the beaten-path, nary a soul was to be seen, nor man-made sound to be heard. The caustic drone of traffic on tarmac, and sirens and car alarms too, at last replaced by the ever-soft whispers of the breeze gently slipping through the Norway Pines. The lake, so cold and so clear, lapping at the pine-studded shore, whilst the heady serenade of loon song tugged on ethereal strings, that which seem lashed about the tender grommets of your soul. Yup, that’s the north country for you. Minnesota’s esteemed canoe country.  And we try to go up there as often as we can, naturally, if only but to hear the loons sing strong once again, and smell that glorious, pine-tinted air. And maybe, if the culinary fates will have it, to procure something tasty over the open flame. Let’s head back to camp, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s for supper, and how it went and came to be, patron to paradise.

We brought a little something along with us from the home pit, as you can see. The latest material brain-thrust from our friend, Cam, at http://www.mojoegriddle.com . We’ll admit it, we have pretty much fallen deeply, and irretrievably in-love with this 1/4 inch steel behemoth of a griddle, and like a puppy, we found it quite difficult to just leave it at home. I was craving a little sublime camp fire cooking, you see, and quite frankly, this griddle is too much fun in a campsite not to show you. In point of fact, and in retrospect now, I think this was the most pleasant cook over a camp fire I’ve maybe done…ever. Everything just fell perfectly into place. There is a definitive poetry where flame meets high-grade steel, and we’re here today to tell you about it. Thus, and over a crackling pine fire, the Mojoe Griddle came up to temp whilst I dutifully chopped a yellow onion in kind.

The trick to chopping onions, my wife says,  is not to get emotionally attached to them. I guess this prevents shedding tears or dramatic what-nots associated with onion cutting. I dunno, you take that advice as you will, whilst I plop a great matter of them over this freshly oiled griddle-top, and get about the business of making supper, here in the soft, dappled light of our northern encampment. I also chunked on a pound of 80-20 ground beef, where it sizzled alongside the sauteing onions in a perfect gastronomic union fit for a king or lumberjack alike. Mercy it smelled good in camp tonight! And a lone Bald Eagle soars just past a canopy top of ruby-red maple leaves, freshly turned against a gorgeous, blue, Minnesota sky.

From up in the birch trees, where the cool breeze gently fluttered the autumn leaves, a lone whiskey jack spied down upon us. The “camp robber” of canoe country, it was his territory we were in, and what aromas lofted his way, let’s just say he had a sense of bird entitlement or something, and perched there always, begging like the aforementioned puppy you can never leave behind.  We tossed him a scrap or two of tortilla shell, in between our other duties of stoking the fire, stirring the spoils, and listening to the loons warm up across the lake. I stood abreast the fire pit, hot tin cup of cocoa in hand, my red flannel shirt buttoned up, and mused for a moment how wonderful it was to tarry lake-side like this, and cook a simple supper over a flickering wood fire. I need to do more of this sort of thing, I thought. And I supposed also, that old Whiskey Jack in the tree yonder, he must see guys like me every weekend there, standing by the fire, all thinking the same thing.

When the hamburger and onions were complete, we dashed them over rather liberally with some taco seasoning, stirring it in thoroughly, whilst splashing some water in it to simmer it back down. When a sample tasted right, we banked the meaty goods, onions and all, over to the cooler side of the griddle, and placed a lightly oiled tortilla over the hot area. Loaded it up appropriately, including a pile of shredded cheese, and let it henceforth sizzle there like a Barry White song. Lay another oiled tortilla on top to complete this backwoods quesadilla of sorts. The crux move here, of course, is to flip the entirety of the quesadilla in a fashion resembling a bloke who knows what he’s doing. With that said, we may or may not have lost a few more scraps to the camp robber, but at the end of the day, our plunder speaks for itself!

So we made up one quesadilla for the two of us, and a few soft shell tacos to boot. That’s the privilege and simultaneous challenge of camp cooking. Your choices are indeed scant, and far removed from the convenience of a grocery store just down the road. In camp cooking, you get what you’ve got! But rest assured, the food is always wonderful, patron to the beautiful location, and the effort it took to get there. Even a humble, old, bologna sandwich is a triumph in food technology if consumed in the prettier places. Location is the spice! Camping folk will know from what I mean. Others will only presume.

Once again, we were enamored with the authority in which the Mojoe Griddle handled this field test. It was at home over the fire pit, like it was born to be there all along. We didn’t even need to use the three steel legs that came with it, tho that could have been an option too. You’ll have to examine the fire pit you’re working with, and use a bit of your brain to figure out the best move. This griddle is a versatile cooking surface. In our case this weekend last, we got away with placing the griddle right atop the fire grate provided by the forest service. Leveled with three small stones, it worked pretty slick too. We are able to swing the grate/griddle laterally, and clear of the pit, when ever we needed to tend the fire, and then just swing the griddle back over the fire when done. Wonderful! And we cannot discourse highly enough how luxurious it is to have such enormous cooking real estate when cooking over the fire. No standing in line for the frying pan when there is a Mojoe in camp. No sir. Having done a great deal of cooking for large groups in campsites past, boy how I wish I had one of these griddles then. But alas.

Author’s Side Note

Another thing we noticed with the griddle, and this may just be in our heads, but there seemed to be a notable lack of smoke and heat hitting your face when stooped over tending your vittles. This compared to doing the same thing with, say, a cast iron frying pan or something. Well, my working theory for this is the griddle is so large, that the very thing you are cooking with, also acts as a shield, blocking the intense heat from the camp fire, thus making your life a more pleasant place to be. The universal bane of camp fire cooking, smoke, also seemed reduced some what, or blocked by the enormous Mojoe disc. Like I said, it could be all in my head, but that’s what it seemed like. 

A little backwoods Mexican, people, pleasurably prepared and cordially consumed, fireside, with the Mojoe Griddle. I burped and wiped my chin, and sauntered down to the lake again, content with what I had done, and where I was and aimed be. I sat on the shoreline and once more gazed out over the shimmering water. The lake still lapped at my feet, and the breeze flirted through the piney woods. My tummy was tight, and for a moment, nay, much longer than that, all the world seemed gracious to me, and deliciously right. And another eagle rose on the thermals. Amen.

*To see more how Cam Stone, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle himself, does some camp firing cooking, here is a good link for that.  http://www.mojoegriddle.com/mojoe-cooking-on-your-campfire/


Soaking in the Heat: Spicy Chicken Quesadillas

I like to walk. Or maybe it’s more of a stroll that I fancy. If not that, then to surely to mosey about with no particular destination is what I have in mind. Regardless, there is a quiet pleasure in routine sorties like this,  that which strafe  the neighborhoods and townships of our lives. And if you make a habit of it, you not only get a modicum of exercise, but you’re also privy to the seasons as they slowly ebb in the pastel light of your daily jaunts afield. And I like that. I like that a lot. I was puttering about in the Mississippi watershed the other day, watching the people come and go, and thinking of those same things. We are in the token last days of summer now, where the sun is still warm, and the trees and fields, are still to a word – green. What a privilege to sally forth on my evening walkabouts, camera in hand, and to try for a time to remember these waning days of summer bliss. For this temperate land we know, and all too swiftly,  shall be long-encrusted again in wintry shards of snow and ice. That’s just the climatic facts of Minnesota. Nor is there anything we can do about it, save for to sidle down to Ecuador or something, and tarry by the eternal poolside there. But today it is still summer. The hours are resplendent, and warm. And oh how the people revel now, and delight in but one ray of the sun’s golden light. 

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It was a good stroll, by and by, as most strolls are, but I suppose I ought to tell you about supper too. My wife was in the mood for Mexican, you see, which isn’t abnormal in our household. Something south of the border. Something with a wee bit of spice in it, just enough to tickle you a little behind the gills, if you know what I mean. The venerable spicy chicken quesadilla should do nicely, I wagered.  Well it just so happens we have the premiere instrument in stock for cooking such a thing out-of-doors – the Mojoe Griddle. If you’re looking for something slick for your next back yard grilling party, this griddle is it. Or a nice gift, perhaps, for your resident pitmaster. And do take our word for it, they will love this griddle. Anyways, grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let’s get to cooking some quesadillas shall we!

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On the hot, oiled griddle, we plopped on a few boneless chicken breasts, cubed appropriately, and set to sizzle aside some chopped onions just because. Nothing is quite so fine on a waning summer’s day than to hear the sizzling satisfaction of protein coming of age before you. The aromas of chicken and spice and onions mingle with the soft summer breeze, and the tweety birds all rejoice from yonder tree tops, perching there for the last slants of an amber light. The soft clouds parade silently above. And two mallards mill about at the pond’s edge, neath the dappled shade of the old cottonwood tree. This is backyard perfection. This is why we cook outside, people. This is why we do what we do. Glory!

Now we’re tickled to tell you that the seasoning tonight was kindly provided by one of our readership, from the good folks at Miners Mix. They chimed in a few IMG_6872posts back and mentioned to us that if we wanted to try a “real rub” some day, to just let them know. Well naturally we did. And here it is. Wholly Chipotle! You gotta like the wordsmithing in this one. The ingredients aren’t too shabby either. No preservatives. No MSG. No flavor enhancers. Just a flavor symphony of the right stuff.

We found their motto one to appreciate too. “If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here!”

These chaps also know how to Q! Here is a link to their blog if you feel so inclined. https://minersmix.wordpress.com/

Thus, we dashed a good bit of this “real rub” over the chopped chicken breast, and set it to sizzle henceforth on the good old, Mojoe Griddle. And like I told you, the aromas on the patio tonight were off the charts. Everything was singing in tune. I didn’t even have gas, and that’s a wonder in it’s own right!

Whence the chicken and onions were done, we henceforth scooped a pile of them onto a lightly oiled tortilla, and suitably topped it with enough shredded cheese to make a Wisconsin man grin. I weren’t from Wisconsin, but let me tell you I grinned anyhow. And my slobbers gathered in queue.

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Man! We formed the quesadilla reminiscent of a big taco, folding half of it back over on itself. Then toasted it gently on each side, until the it’s cheesy bosom irrigated the spicy ensemble unto every corner, and the tortilla was at last crispy to bite. I stood posted by the humble weber kettle, spatula in hand, lovely beverage in the other, just flipping quesadillas for a while, and quite frankly, savoring the last light of another summer day.  Because one day soon here, the leaves will turn and fall. The nights will grow long, and the days will become cold without end. And yes, we will still grill outside. But for now I tarry patron to the pit, content, with a smile on my soul, for the sun that which illuminates my face. And maybe after supper here, iffin the light should abide, I’ll go for another walk afield and be glad in it. Amen.

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Spicy Chicken Quesadillas courtesy of the pit. Yum! A special thanks to Mojoe Outfitters for developing a fantastic griddle. It can do a lot of things really well, and as for making a mess of quesadillas, I cannot divine anything doing it any better. And another tip of the hat to the folks at Miners Mix. Thanks for sharing with us a real rub. I gotta say, Wholly Chipotle Rub may have put on a couple more hairs on this old boy’s chest. Yup, that’s a good rub, mate! Real good indeed.


Review: Breakfast With The Mojoe Griddle

I have a superpower. I’m probably not supposed to disclose this, but it’s true. Kind of like you see in the superhero movies that are popular these days, though milder I suppose, but yeah, I’ve got one of those sorts of powers. Some dudes can levitate metal objects. Others can read and manipulate minds. While still others can run faster than a speeding bullet. Well, I can’t do any of those things, but what I can do, and astoundingly well I might add, is break stuff. I can take your perfectly functioning automobile, for example, drive it once around the block, and return hither with the muffler dragging, wipers that won’t shut off, one head light out, and furthermore, get out of the car and hand you the blinker lever too. And most days, I can do this without even trying. My elder brother sometimes refers to me as “Lo-Tech”, which sadly, and off-hand, would be my super hero name. Iron Man wouldn’t stand a chance against me, as all I would have to do is lay hands on his suit of many gizmos, and, well…That’s my superpower. I break stuff.

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Thus it was with a raised eyebrow, when, Cam, from http://www.mojoegriddle.com, hooked me up with one of his steel griddles specifically designed for a variety of heat sources, and stated that henceforth, this thing could not be broken no how. Clearly he doesn’t know my powers, or he wouldn’t have bellowed such folly. For many things have come and gone out of my life, claiming to be unbreakable. And most of those things reside now at the bottom of a dump heap somewhere, a sad shadow of their gloried past. But this here griddle looks to have a different fate. And I knew this as soon as I heaved it from the box.

THE LOW DOWN

Nearly 24 inches in diameter. 1/4 inch thick hot rolled steel. Weighing in at 35 pounds of pure cooking satisfaction, I tell you this griddle meant business the very moment I muckled onto it. We have never seen another griddle on the market so well endowed. It’s quality and it’s craftsmanship are top-notch. It’s cooking area, in a word, sprawling. They are also made in California, I learned, which in our opinion, makes it all the more better. But enough talk, let’s get to testing this beast out, shall we!

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The Mojoe comes with a very nice set of steel handles that grapple onto the griddle with ape-like ease. They seem well made, not that you will be moving the griddle very much once in place over your heat source, but when you do, the Mojoe is one hot & heavy entity, and bless it’s maker for including a couple of good handles with it. Now lets take a gander at the underside.

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It’s simple looking under here too, however, there is more going on than meets the eye. Note the obvious – the three steel bars welded on edge. This is what holds the griddle off the top rim of your kettle grill, by about an inch, and furthermore promotes air flow for the fire below. And it works, people. It works exceedingly well. These bars also enable you to place the Mojoe on a variety of heat sources, like propane burners. These same bars also help re-enforce the griddle from warping due from extreme heat traumas patron to the pit. And the 5/8th inch nuts you see welded under here, well they’re for the galvanized steel legs to screw into, for say, if you wanted to cook over a campfire and such. Love it! Simplicity is always the best design, and this whole Mojoe experience is an example why.

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With a deft fire catered in coals, we placed the griddle over the fiery bosom of the old kettle grill. The two merged together like old friends. Like they’ve been doing it all along. And it didn’t take long for the Mojoe airflow system to kick in, cranking up that fire good and hot. *Splash a little water onto the griddle, and if it dances about in a sizzle, it’s hot and ready to rock.

SEASONING THE GRIDDLE
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Of the first order, they say, is to season this puppy. And it’s real easy to do too. On a hot griddle, sprinkle it over with some table salt, and splash it with a little cooking oil. Lastly smear the works about the entirety of the griddle surface. The salt acts as a food grade abrasive, and make sure you wad up a good bee hive worth of paper towels in your hand before engaging in this activity. We were done with this process in about 30 seconds. They say to do it again after your meal is done. Kind of like book ends to your cooking. My pleasure. It kind of engendered the same, satisfied, feeling you get when you wipe down your favorite sports car after a Sunday drive. Leastwise I think that’s what that feeling was. I dunno. I don’t have a sports car. Anyways, how about some breakfast!

FIRST COOK

Have you ever been on those sorts of kicks where you just want breakfast food all the time?  Well IMG_6726that’s been the case for things around the pit lately. And the Mojoe Griddle certainly supports such gastronomic whimsy in the human spirit. I didn’t fight it either. So we diced up two large potatoes to uniform size, and tossed them on the freshly oiled griddle. They sizzled henceforth to life, as we in turn, dusted them over with some all-purpose seasoning. With a lovely beverage in hand, we escorted the spuds about with our steel spatula as per the promptings of our pit master instincts. Very pleasant. Reminiscent of cooking on one of them fancy griddle tops you see in restaurants and cafes.  Very much like the one you see at the Mongolian stir fry places. After a time, we added in some chopped onions and bacon to the ensemble. Man, the aromas bellowing about the patio could have tipped the nose of any black bear within a twenty and one mile radius. And I suppose it would have, iffin there were any black bears in the suburbs of Minneapolis. But there weren’t. And I still don’t have a sports car.

Now I was told that the surface of the griddle was nearly non stick, and I’d say that by and far, this was an accurate statement. The more you use it, and season it, the better it gets. The first cook here hardly anything stuck, and if it did, it wasn’t bad. The onions, in point of fact, slid about a little too happy-go-lucky, like you were engaged in a game of competitive air hockey or something. I even lost a few morsels over the edge, and if it weren’t for the griddle lip accessory, I probably would have lost a few more to the tall grass residing below.

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The griddle lip, or metal strap, arcing around the back of the griddle, proved to be quite useful for us sloppy backyard chef types. You can take it on or off, by popping it into the same holes used for the handles. The lip was a real potato saver for this patron of the pit, and in general, a very good idea we thought. When the spuds were done, we banked them accordingly against it, to keep them warm there, and to open up room for the rest of our breakfast feast. Man! I love breakfast! Can you smell it yet!

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Here is one of the other simple pleasures of the Mojoe Griddle – no edge lip or grease trough. Thus allowing one to sweep his spoils directly onto his dinner plate with aplomb. No edge around the griddle also makes clean up poignantly swift! As Cam from Mojoe Outfiitters coined, “Clean up is a snap!”. I like his thinking!

There is something therapeutically right which impresses upon the emulsion of your soul, when you cook out-of-doors. Sure we could do this sort of thing inside, whilst the TV flickers in the background, under artificial lights, and processed air, but why. For what blue skies yonder do we miss then, and the bird song too, and the sweet summer breeze which flutters the green leaves just past our outdoor kitchen. And the sun, how it sweeps in a golden trail across a beautiful blue sky, and the cloud shadows which drift silent over the land and the sea. This is why we cook outside. The food is only half the reason.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A beautiful product. We really enjoyed our maiden cook on it. It’s almost, but not quite, non stick. It sports vast acreage of cooking space. At 35 pounds, it is a bit heavy for ye types of scant muscle mass, but we reckon you’ll be able to manage. If you can lift a chubby toddler you can lift this griddle just as well. The craftsmanship is excellent. The handles are very nice. The legs were simple, but effective. We also liked that you can cook a lot of food at once on it, which makes it worthy for back yard parties, group camping, or even tailgating. Or maybe you just like to eat! The griddle lip accessory is wonderful too. If you get one of these griddles, you’ll probably want to pick up a griddle lip. We liked the option of being able to pop it on and off at our discretion. The only hit against this griddle we could find really was the price point. $264 is enough to make most wallets groan a little, but at least you only have to buy one of these. Ever. It’s not like we are going to out live the thing. Shoot, these griddles will probably still be around after the third world war has re-arranged the posture of the planet.  High grade steel is like that. Over all, though, a rock-solid, versatile, large, nearly stick free, enjoyable cooking surface built to last the ages. Your grandchildren’s grandchildren will inherent this griddle.  And in this disposable society in which we tarry, say what you will, but that’s money well spent. And yes,  try as I may, my superpower was all but ineffective against the Mojoe. Indeed, I couldn’t break this thing, no how. And I like that. I like that very much.

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WHERE TO LEARN MORE

When you get a chance, go check out http://www.mojoeoutfitters.com. Cam Stone, the man in charge over there, we found to be a kindly, salt-of-the-earth, engaging chap, with a sense of humor as durable as his griddle. A griddle 8 years in the making he said. Much tinkering in overland campsites, cooking for his trail mates. He said he got disgruntled with his little frying pan trying to cook for 4 to 5 people, that eventually he found himself a surplus steel disc, propped it up over the camp fire, and was “blown away” by the performance. He was able to cook for 5 people in about 20 minutes. Thus the Mojoe Griddle was conceived. And the world is just a little better place now, because of it. Go check it out if you please!


Something From Nothing: The Art and Privilege of Camp Cooking

It may be noted, at least from time to time, that we do like to get away from it all here at this blog. To pack up a modicum of supplies, and strikeIMG_6082 off for the distant bush lands of Minnesota’s northern most tier. A locale rich in quietude, and resplendent in its sky-tinted waters and vast elbow room for the soul. Canoe country. A million acre outdoor theater where the lonesome wail of the Loon echoes with impunity through the forest primeval. Where the whispering breezes murmur sweetly amid the lofty, Norway Pines; those magnificent wooden spires that which thrust high into a wild, blue sky. Canoe country. Where the slap of a beaver tail on still waters is heard over a quarter-mile span. Where a nap in the hammock whilst the pine-scented breeze whistles through your toe pits is at last your loftiest ambition for the day. Well you can see why we like it up here. And why it is we very occasionally aspire to get away from it all.

Feeding one’s belly is one of our favorite activities whence in the hither lands. And how you go about it, and what you get out of it is solely up to you. Somethings spoil fast with out the advantages of refrigeration, and those things you probably ought to ingest the first day out, or not bother to bring along at all. Chocolate, for example, melts like a cheap nuclear reactor, and bread flattens finer than an Iowan interstate. After a few trips afield, you learn rather well what works and what doesn’t.

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In between naps in the hammock, we partook in a little culinary tinkering courtesy of the Joy for Cooking – the namesake of a little back woods chuck box spawned from many a camping trip spent on my haunches, cooking on the ground. There comes a time in Bushman’s career where the notion of a kitchen counter top is a highly appealing affair, and one worth pursuing if not for any other reason than because he can. So I did. You do not realize how good you have it at home until first you go with out.  So I came up with this little creation years ago, for to better and more effectively cultivate my joy for cooking whilst encamped in wilder places. It has been a treat indeed.

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Camp cooking is always an interesting summit to scale. It’s like a back pack, in that you only get out of it what you put into it. So if you didn’t bring a certain ingredient, then you don’t have it. And there is no running to the grocer either, this side of paradise. Well you could, I suppose, but by the time you get back it would be the next day, and your dinner aspirations would fall way of the dodo bird. So you work with what you’ve got. And usually that ain’t much. But in the same breath, that’s what makes camp cooking kind of fun; getting the most you can from a scant simple grub bag. Here we did up a plate of buttermilk biscuits/bannock, fried potatoes and onion, and a nice ration of sautéed summer sausage to round out the proteins. A hodge-podge conglomerate, if you will, of the better things I could rummage up from the recesses of the food bag. And let me tell you, after paddling the day long, with an appetite stoked from the freshened air, living a simple but deliberate life, this was a plate fit for a king. Under the circumstances even, I couldn’t think of any place better to eat. Nope, I had arrived. As any realtor knows, it’s all about location.

FullSizeRender (2)What a pleasure it is to round off a weekend in the wilderness, with a belly well fed. To lean against an old Cedar tree, hot cup of tea in hand, left leg crossed over right, and gander westward over still waters to a setting sun. To hear the loons softly sing through a land so silent, and to smell the air sweetly tinted in pine. It’s been said that time spent camping is not deducted from your lifespan. Well, I don’t know know if it’s true or not, but even so,  it would explain why we so often go afield, and why even now, at this cluttered desk back in the city, why mine heart hastens to be back there once again. Amen.

 


Two Swans, Two Blokes, and a Pie Iron: Smoked Sausage Campfire Sandwiches

The slow-ebbing curtains of night draped down from the heavens, as the salmon-colored sun waned in the western sky. Coyotes chortledIMG_5764 from distant fields, whilst Venus peaked out in the fading light, and portly bull frogs warmed up their singing voices in the shoreline reeds. An owl yonder takes his chair also in the wilderness orchestra, hooting it up like owls do, it’s otherworldly hoots piercing the forest hollows, and the tender skin upon your soul.

I wiggled into my down sleeping bag, like a snake putting back on his skin, and listened to the night. What a delight it was. Doing a little camping the weekend last, my cronie and I, out way of the hither lands, and far removed from the ever-bustling hubbadee hub of the city mire. It’s not that we don’t like the city most days, it does have a lot going for it. But it’s rather that we like the bush veld a whole lot more. Oh to pitch a tent where the earth meets the sky, and for a good while there, tarry in quiet eddies of wilderness sublimity. This is what we do from time to time. This is who we are.

Long about sunrise, I stirred violently in my sleeping bag, awoken by our resident alarm clocks – the Trumpeter Swans. These large-winged goof balls have no moral fiber, let me tell you, when it comes to being courteous around sleeping campers. But then again, this pond was their home, and we were visitors there. And lo, if they wanted to strut their trumpet-like name sake at the crack of day, well who were we to tell them otherwise. So they honked out some tremendous notes that would have sent a high school music teacher straight for his ear plugs. I’m sure they sounded beautiful in their mother tongue of Swanese or what ever, but early in the morning, through the foggy window pane of your dreams, hark, they sound akin rather to a Wookie who just got his favorite parts snipped off.

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One of our favorite things to do whilst camping is to eat. And eat often. Turns out our feathered room mates were on the same wave length. And you just got to admire how they go about their business: nonchalantly sticking their head into the water, and flipping their big white butts up in the air – humbly exposed to predators and shutter bugs alike. Their black bills rummaging through the aquatic muck with the refined deftness of a salty French chef’s ladle. Plucking out what wondrous morsels of goo that one might find sunk in the mud. I dunno. But they were making us hungry. Powerful hungry. And here then is what we did about it, and how it came to be.

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I’m sure you all have seen these things before. The venerable cast iron pie iron. Their usual publicity caters to images of molten apple pie filling between two carbonized, and very black pieces of white bread. But that’s only if you screw it up. In the hands of pie iron Jedi, it is quite a different story. Pie irons are not just for apple pies, they are for sandwiches also. And maybe some of the best sandwiches you’ll ever sink your teeth into. They’re real easy to do too! Simply butter both halves of your pie iron in a rather liberal fashion, and assemble thus your culinary brain thrust of the hour. Today, we favored the smoked summer sausage with an obscene about of Munster cheese. Oh man! Pop your cholesterol pills people, this one is out of the park!

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Over a quaint bed of embers we placed the assembled pie iron, sandwich and all, for to roast a spell there, beneath a gorgeous, blue Minnesota sky . We kicked back in our chairs, doing what comes naturally to a patron of the pit, even way out in the boonie lands. With a manly beverage in hand, and left leg crossed over right, we loitered with great effect. We thought about the bumper-to-bumper traffic back in the city, the sirens, and the honking horns of rush hour. We thought about it only for a little bit tho, and then we let it go. The heady magic of sandwich cooking seemed more important now, and so did the tweety birds which darted headlong across the sky.

The secret to pie iron cooking is to routinely monitor your plunder. To pull it from the fire and check in on it every two minutes or so, is not nearly as annoying as finding that your beautiful sandwich has morphed into a square-shaped blackened meteorite fit for the trash pile. So check in on the booty often, and flip at your pit master instincts. You can do this!

Oh man. Pulling that sandwich clear of the heat, and taking a gander at the Munster cheese oozing forth from its molten lair of sausage and crust, mercy, this was a sandwich fit to satisfy. A few of which, between the two of us, were thus consumed in a semi-savage sort of way, gobbling them down like two, unshaven, cave men, whilst the puffy white clouds idled over head. I wiped my chin and belched accordingly. All was right with the world. And the two swans sang of its glories. Amen.

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Camp Fire Cooking: Smoked summer sausage and Munster cheese sandwiches hot off the coals, courtesy of pie iron immortality.

 

 


How to Grill in a Monsoon: Smoked Meat Loaf Sandwiches

It has been a soggy few days in paradise. I know the monsoon season has never even heard of Minnesota, but here lately I tell you, you would have been hard pressed toIMG_80301 enlighten me otherwise. Flash floods, and torrents of falling water. Gales like Joshua’s trumpets. Lightening bolts the shape of Idaho. Thunder so loud you swear mother earth had just split at the seam. Everybody, even the resident ducks, were to take cover from the tempest, huddled in our respective shelters, listening to the rain drum over the roof like pitch forks and hammer handles. Magnificent weather, to say the least. You cannot deny. But a might challenging, shall we say, in which to go outside and light the BBQ. What’s a pit jockey to do! Eventually tho, and mercifully, all the flags suddenly went limp, and a golden shaft of light pierced down from a gray sky. Water gently dribbled off the roof, and the tweety birds burped back to life. We all emerged from our holes, every living thing, scratching our collective heads, and admiring a world so fresh and anew. So wet and green and clean. And countless pools of standing water where water ought not stand.

It wasn’t over yet, however. A glimpse at the Doppler radar revealed the bitter truth. That yet another green blob was advancing fiercely from the West. The short of it was we had but two, possibly three precious hours of semi-damp respite in which to frolic accordingly before the first, fat, rain drops spattered on the ground again. One hundred and twenty minutes or so, give or take. Well, under those circumstance, that was just long enough I figured,  for a Patron of the Pit. Just long enough indeed, for a smoked meatloaf sandwich hot off the grill. Here is how to do it effectively!

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Truth be told this started out as a simple round of hamburgers, but after mashing about the ground beef a bit, you might say inspiration struck. I quickly cracked an egg over the meat, and added about a cup of bread crumbs. Squirted some ketchup in there, then some garlic and onion. An envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. And maybe a few other things. You all have your own kinks for your meat loaf I’m sure. Do henceforth what moves thee. Anyways, I shaped the obscene looking meat muck into the relative dimensions resembling that of a wayward bun I had sitting about. I had an orphaned hoagie roll you see, one that I didn’t know what to do with. It was all alone, and frankly wasn’t reaching its potential. So why not match the meat to fit the bun, its common sense really. I ended up with an oblong loaf of meat about an inch thick, of which I dusted over in some Cajun seasoning just because. This was carefully placed on tin foil and put opposite the hot coals to tighten up there.

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After the meat has tightened up enough to safely pick the loaf up without destroying it, go ahead and get that tin foil out of there. You might be able to forego the tin foil stage altogether if your loaf is sturdy enough, but that is up to your pit master instincts to decide. Anyways, the sooner you get the foil out of there, the sooner then you can commence with the infusion of smokey goodness. The smoke, after all, is what will set this meatloaf sandwich apart from any other. With eyes on the skies, we smoked this hunk of meat for a good hour in a continuous parade of curling oak wood smoke. And it was glorious. An entire hour in which to sit by the pit and do nothing at all. As usual, I was up for the task. Up for the undeniable attributes of not cooking in the rain. Like not wondering where the next lightening bolt may strike, or fighting a stormy gale. The way of course to grill in a monsoon is not to fight it, but to patiently hold your charcoal, biding your time. Like a adventure climbers who bandy together on the flanks of Everest, waiting on a small window of weather in which to assault the summit. And so it is today, and between the tempest,  that we strike!

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Checking in on the plunder is OK. You may wish to turn the meatloaf from time to time, for even cooking. But always keep it tucked back, opposite the hot coals. When in doubt, go indirect people. Ten minutes from the end of the cook, we plunked on a naked corn on the cob, and roasted it over direct heat. Rotating it often with the tongs. A little butter and salt, man, is there anything better! And lastly we toasted up the orphaned hoagie roll, to add that extra touch to a meal well executed. And whilst we dressed the bun in mayonnaise and ketchup, we put a few globs of every one’s favorite ghetto cheese on the meat to melt. Mercy!

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Oak Smoked Meatloaf Sandwiches on a toasted hoagie roll. Oh buddy!  It don’t get more comfort food than this! Just the ticket for what ails you, between the storms, and under fair skies.

 

 


Smoked Philly Spaghetti and Garlic Bread

How to bring your spaghetti to the next level with a little smoke and cream cheese

So it was, under beautiful blue skies and amber shafts of light, that the last snow flake melted out by the pit today. And all the ice on the IMG_21081pond dissolved over the last few days, the last of it, today, into a cold, watery soup. The ducks dutifully reveled, of course,  swimming to and fro in the pond’s lush water ways, whilst the resident tweety birds darted fiercely about the naked alders, all of which eagerly await the bounty of spring. Have we Minnesotans finally made it around the dark side of moon? Is this light yonder we see spanning into the evening hours really meant for us? Is it possible the barnacle-like grip of ice upon this fair land has at last and finally relinquished? Oh I believe so. For I have seen my shadow on steely blades of semi-green grass, and heard the call of the American Robin for to greet the morning hours. Spring has arrived. And all the northern pit keepers rejoice.

To usher in the milder season, and on the pit today, something a little different. Leastwise amid the grilling circuits it is. Smoked spaghetti meat sauce with a Philly twist. If you’re not a’feared of carbohydrates, you’re going to fancy this one. So grab yourself a manly beverage and I’ll meet you out by the pit.

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Over a lovely bed of mature coals, in the old black iron pan, we browned up the ground beef as per the usual tactics to making spaghetti sauce. I know what some of you new to this site may be thinking. Why the heck is he doing this on the grill? To which I must reply, why wouldn’t I! This is a BBQ blog, and by golly, this is what we do! And let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can do on the kitchen range can not only be equaled out on a good pit, but in many cases improved upon, courtesy of the smokey goodness inherent there. Not to mention, it’s just plain beautiful outside tonight. You gotta cook supper regardless, so why not do it some place pretty.

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Nothing quite so fine as the fresh spring breeze mingling with the aromas of sizzling beef. After a fashion, after it was cooked brown and drained, we added the sauce. Now you can use what ever sauce makes you happy. Make it home-made if you please, or do like we did, and use a jar of something we picked up at the grocer. It’s all good on the pit. So we pulled the pan to the cool side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and then added a chunk or two of apple wood to the fire for to secure smokey custody of this classic supper time dish. Yes, smoke is the first of two secret ingredients here, that will set this spaghetti dinner apart from any you’ve ever had. If you’ve never done your meat sauce up on the grill this way, well, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. Like the sunbeams that which slant upon the green grass, it is worth our attention, our time, for to articulate a tasty path towards a higher culinary ideal, patron to the pit.

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Whilst the meat sauce simmers in turn, we prepped some French bread with a simple:

 garlic butter

(1 Clove finely chopped and 1/3 cup of softened butter)

Wrapped the loaf in foil, and placed it likewise, opposite the hot coals. Oh yes!!!

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Put the lid on, establish a draft, and thus engage in some lengthy and protracted smoke watching. This is the portion of the cook where we grill jockeys are in our element. Or more truthfully, in our man chairs, pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand. Legs perhaps crossed like a gentleman of leisure, hat tipped just so, to thwart the low hanging sun, and scads of sweet time in which to just sit there and do nothing at all. To watch the clouds idle in a pastel sky, and the song birds yonder warming up their little throats for to sing of their glories anew. To observe the gentle wake and science of duck propulsion on the pond. Or, if need be, even to close our eyes, and doze peacefully amid the aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. Glory!

Speaking of, every 5 minute or so, lift the lid and stir the meat sauce, for to infuse more of that patented smokey goodness into it. Also flip the bread over when you think of it, for even baking, and be mindful of your pit master instincts.

Lastly, and before we declared this meal complete, we added the final, secret ingredient to the meat sauce. At my bride’s suggestion, we added 1/4 cup of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Indeed, I was hesitant, but adventurous this night. She saw some one do it on the TV, and thought it would be tasty. So, and with the common sense of a gestating lemming, I  gave it go. Stirring the glob of cheesy, white goo, into the beautiful meat sauce until it melted kindly away. The result hence escorting the smokey sauce unto yet another level seldom found in conventional spaghetti sauce. The result – a much creamier, full-bodied meat sauce that which sported a quaint smokey tint. Oh man!

Once the cream cheese is diffused to your specifications, plate up and commence with what you do best!

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Smoked Philly Spaghetti and Garlic Bread. If you’re looking for a little something different for your next BBQ,  definitely give this one a try. Man!

 

 


A Hint of Warm: Jalapeno Poppers

“The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Late morning sunbeams sparkle over the pond, long since frozen in time, whilst a cool, February breeze mingles though the pit-side Spruce treessun and snow and over the wintry land so callused in ice and snow. The first wisps of igniting charcoal waft quietly from the Weber Smokey Mountain, as it slowly comes up to speed. Black capped Chickadees dart playfully about, from spruce to feeder, and from feeder back to spruce again, nary holding still for the benefit of photographers. I didn’t mind. I was inside anyways, standing at the kitchen counter stuffing peppers with cream cheese, and enjoying how the amber shafts of sunlight fell into the house and warmed me there. It’s been a while, a good while indeed, since I’ve felt the sun on my face. It is rather remarkable when you consider, like Galileo did, that the sun is some 93 million miles away, and we only receive a small sliver of its energy, yet, in the same breath, it can make a bloke’s day when its unassuming light greets his window pane and lands warm upon his face like it had nothing else in the universe to do. The simple pleasures indeed. But then, its been a very long and cold winter, and I do tend to dwell on these things. Anyways, I should probably get along with the business of telling you what’s going on the pit today, and how it went and came to be. I think you’re going to like it.

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Atomic Buffalo Turds. Yup, that’s a fact. That is what the under ground grilling community calls them anyways. Now I can’t quite figure out why they call it that, for I have on occasion made the acquaintanceship of a buffalo, and I can assure you that their back end tokens look nothing like what we’re about to cook! But who cares I guess. The name is catchy if not down right deplorable. And it is kind of fun to serve up a plate of declared buffalo turds and see how your guests thus roll their collective eyes. You might, I suppose, be better off calling them by their politically correct name, jalapeno poppers. In the end, it doesn’t matter I guess, because good is good, and these things are fabulous if you haven’t had the opportunity. Cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon and smoked on the pit. Glory! Lets get after it!

You will need the following:

  • 10 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 block of creme cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • teaspoon garlic salt
  • teaspoon pepper
  • 1 package of bacon
  • 1 cup ground Italian sausage

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Stir together in your favorite bowl

First order, and whilst the pit is coming up to speed, is to brown up some ground Italian sausage. Some folk use the little cocktail weenies. And some blokes just skip this part altogether. At any rate, once the sausage is browned, mix it all together with the packet of cream cheese, shredded cheese, garlic salt and pepper. Thus your tasty filling is alas ready for deployment. After this, you’ll want to slice the peppers in half the long way, or down their length. Some people like to leave them them whole, but slicing them in half is a salute to the higher powers of mathematics you see, and essentially doubles the appetizer output for the same price. So why not. Once sliced in half, if you’re a sally-tongued Swedish pansy like myself, you’ll most certainly want to clean out all the seeds, less you regret your life a few hours hence. And believe me the burn can come back to get you, no buffaloes required, if you know what I mean. But if you like that sort of thing, well then by all means, live the dream! But it is well to scrap the seeds out, and hence cast aside any jalapeno fears you might harbor, for the longer the peppers cook, the milder they seem to get. In the end they are a fraction of their fiery selves. A beautiful descendant and a hint of warm. And I’m OK with that.

Next, and with an artist’s hand, stick a good creamy glob of the filling onto each pepper halve, and then cloak them in a beautiful strip of bacon. Tooth picks are the secret here to keeping the bacon corralled and in place. And a half strip of bacon is just enough to aptly swaddled the handsome jalapeno, provided you are rationing your pork candy. That’s it. Time to bring these delectables out to the pit!

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It only took about an hour on the smoker, running around 275 before the bacon had browned up and they were done. But an hour is just enough time, turns out, to procure a lovely beverage ice box and take up residence in one’s man chair, feet propped towards the fireplace. Just enough time to watch plenty of smoke curl out way of the patio door. And just long enough, off-hand and by-the-way, to pull up something interesting on the public television station, tug your hat to your nose, and promptly doze off there, that is iffin you have a mind to. And I might have. And whilst the hickory smoke gently curled from the pit with the aromas of bacon afloat in the air, and the tweety birds all resumed feasting again in my absence, the sun also swung into position as if on heavenly strings, it’s soft hint of warmth descending upon shafts of gold, kissing the window sill that which flanked my humble easy chair. A soothing, unmerited warmth oozed over me like soft peanut butter on a hot slice of toast. And I fairly reveled in it, like a lottery winner, my body like a sponge for the sun. Indeed, the old astronomer was right, there really was nothing better in the universe to do. Feet by the fire. Free solar heat massage. PBS induced nap. Man! This is the high rigors of BBQ people. You gotta work up to it! Amen.

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Hickory Smoked Jalapeno Poppers. AKA, the Atomic Buffalo Turd. Cheesy, bacon-swaddled awesomeness on a peppery transport sure to be the hit of your party or get-together. *No buffalo were offended during the making of this appetizer.


The Simple Life: Biscuits & Gravy Sandwiches

A hard rain drummed over the tent fly, and the tempest howled through the pines. Rain, and a good amount of it, beat over the land in aafterfocus_1378088476699_edit0 relentless onslaught, like pitch forks and hammer handles, and then, after reconsidering, up and went side-ways for a while, courtesy of the gales. My camping crony and I were held up in the tent, as if we had anyplace else to cower at such times, trapped deep in the wilderness. The lightning cracked through the heavens, and exploded like warheads all around us. And the thunder rattled the very earth upon which we hunkered. It was getting a little sporty out there.   Just another day camping in Minnesota’s Canoe Country. It wasn’t always like this though. Why, in point of fact, just a few minutes ago, we were enjoying a rather lovely supper over a crackling, jack pine, fire. It was pretty good too, by camp fire standards. So grab yourself a manly beverage, get comfy, and let me tell you about it.

It started as a simple respite, fire-side, frying up a pound of Jimmy Deans Italian Sausage. You can do it in a frying pan, or even wrap it in foil, and place it in the coals to cook. Whilst the sausage was arriving on the gastronomic front, we started up the biscuits over the campfire. It’s real easy to do too. As any camp fire gourmet knows, you do not need an oven to bake a biscuit. For reasons of simplicity, and patron to the lazy-camping arts, we procured one of them cans of biscuit dough from town. You know the kind. The kind that you peel open a bit, waiting for it to suddenly pop into submission. And we packed the frying pan full of them, and put it over direct heat.  Mean while on the camp stove, we set on two cups of water to boil. I looked up from the fire pit, and the lake reached like glass for the furthest shores. A pair of loons floated serenely out there, and wailed a lonesome, eerie song, which echoed through the forest prime evil, not to mention the very chambers of our souls. This was living. This day, this camp fire, this lake in the woods – pristine, and untouched by the wages of man. Glory!

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Time to flip the biscuits. All of which were done with a flip of the wrist, like a fine French chef, sending all six biscuits up into the air simultaneously, rotating in amber shafts of sunlight, and remarkably all landing as they ought to, back in the frying pan. My eye brow raised. I was expecting one or two maybe to exile for the ground, and roll happy-go-lucky through the forest duff, and topple on down into the lake, but every once in a while, we are mistaken for food ninjas. And we keep our mouths shut when we are, and nonchalance is at once or closest ally.

Sunbeams suddenly faded, like the turn of a dimmer switch on the dining room wall. Like the man upstairs was standing at the light board of life, pulling the sliders down, and raising some others, queuing the thickening clouds. A wisp of wind curled through the campfire. Thunder bellowed in the West. The water on the camp stove was boiling now. Time to add the gravy mix.  The easy kind of gravy you get from a packet.  One cup of water per packet. Nothing fancy in the hinter regions today, leastwise when a brooding storm gathers in the distance. Why must it always happen at supper time. Anyways, in short order, it all came together well enough. The sausage, the biscuits, and the gravy. And here is the trick to save on washing some dishes. Forego the plates and forks altogether, and instead, split a biscuit, lay some Italian sausage in there, and spoon in a couple globs of savory gravy, just because. A sandwich fit for a hobo. Or a king.

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Glory be, but they were tasty! We gobbled them all down, like hungry lions to a fallen wildebeest.  Each sandwich inhaled progressively swifter, as the rain drops began tapping like Beethoven over the land and the lake.  A hot-white lightning bolt suddenly splits the sky in two, and the rain increased, dousing our cooking fire, mercifully after the deed was done. We dash for cover of the tent, tucked into the forest hollow. And the tempest commences. But we are content. Well, as content as two fellows caught in severe weather in a little tent in the middle of the woods can be I guess.  For our bellies are at least full, having done that which we fiercely love. And if we were going to perish by lightening bolt today, we figured,  at least we would be well fed.

The storm eventually passed, like all storms do. We emerged from our little tent like two, unassuming ground hogs to assess our world. And it was beautiful. Washed clean, and renewed. The lake was like glass again, with a deep reflection of its wild shores. Rain drops tenderly cling from fragrant pine needles, and the loons serenade again, from across the bay. I wanted to mutter something profound, but that would only spoil the tranquility.

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Biscuits and Gravy Sandwiches, made over the open fire, under wild skies, patron to paradise. Man! The simple life, people. And how I long to be there once again. Amen.


Every Now And Then : Keeping it Simple

A couple of weekends ago, deep in hither lands, and way up north in the Superior National Forest, of which precise coordinates I shall not utter here, 20130607_193312_edit0my bride and I for a time, lingered in paradise.  Balsam Firs and Black Capped Chickadees abounded.  Downy woodpeckers pecking. Endless blue skies aloft.  And our hammocks strung in a peaceful respite. Backpacking into the remote areas like this at once ushers an inherent quietude and tranquility not soon privy the city dweller. A stillness of earth and soul, and the waters there, oh how they run so delightful and clean. Tumbling through the mossy, forest crags, as if just to be lovely that way, and to nourish the fevered palates of those weary foot travelers who happen upon it. Folks like us. We liked it so much in point of fact, we set up our camp, and we stayed there a while, as patrons to paradise.

A lovely place. A place I couldn’t help but to recollect some, whilst tending to old kettle grill this evening last, on our home patio back in the city. I get like that every now and then. Reminiscent if you will, with pit-side reflections. And I can’t help it. Lighting the grill, and seeing the fire cordially lick for the sky, and tasting the aroma of the rising wood smoke,  well, in a flip of a heartbeat, I am harkened back to other campfires in other places of enduring beauty. Places that I have once pressed a tent stake in, upon which earthy soils I have slept so soundly. I am smitten I guess, for the prettier places

Places where the star fields glitter, suspended in the blackness above, and the lonesome wail20130607_213730_edit0 of the Timber Wolves echoed through the forest hollows. Places amid the whispering pines, where if you want a good dinner, you had better have packed it in, or barring that,  possess an adeptness of procuring sustenance from the field and stream.  For to live simply, and deliberately, and not to be bothered by much else is the goal here. To reduce life’s endless complexities to a few scant items, and stow them neatly away in our backpacks. And for a while at least, to be gone with everything else. To flex our muscles up the cardiac switchbacks, and breathe in that freshened air. To catch fish, climb rocks, and build campfires. To be 10 again, in the Sherwood Forest, and sport a quiver with but one crooked arrow.

Back in the city again, tending supper over this old pit, I leaned back in the BBQ chair, watching the smoke curl some. Still reminiscing whilst crescent moon dallied over the Spruce, and a growing family of mallards floated serenely out on the pond. It’s kind of pretty here too, I thought.  Tongs in my hand, the aroma of Cheddar stuffed Polish sausages and hickory wafting from the pit. Glory! But I think of the hammock I strung up recently, in my quaint, northern sanctum – my Shangri-la in the woods. Hung nicely between two fluttering Aspen 20130607_135927_edit0trees. A location I became much acquainted with in my stay up there. For I took not one, nor two, but three lengthy naps there, in dappled sunbeams,  and beside burbling streams. Whiled away most of the afternoon in such fashion, harboring not a morsel of guilt. It was a lifestyle, by and far, that I could get used to. If only I could get my Weber Grill out there, I thought, in this land so remote. I think I should never again return.

The aromas of supper snapped me back to the present. Back to the city. I rolled the sausages about on the old grate. Onions were already diced. Ketchup and mustard at the ready. I toasted up a couple buns for my bride and I, and assembled this most basic of grilling endeavors. Grilling Polish sausage is about as simple as they come I guess, and yet, satisfying in a round about way. They taste good, but more over, it gives us pit keepers another excuse to play with fire. To smell that smoke wafting. And I guess just to be outside. And to this cook anyways, a porthole to a bevy of memories wrought over the open flame. Reminders which rise with the wood smoke,  of good times,  in pretty places, where the breeze blew sweetly through the trees. Something we like do every now and then. Keeping it simple. Like a good Polish Sausage. Amen.

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Good Bye Winter: Artisan Pizza on the Grill

It was one of those vintage, gorgeous Sunday afternoons here on the 45th parallel, if you can call 38 degrees gorgeous. Minnesotan’s I think can, because we love the spring. We love it because for a time, we were rather convinced it would never make our acquaintanceship again. For long was the winter, and eternal did its icy bonds adhere, not only to our driveways, and our favorite lakes, but unto the tender skin of our souls as well. Persistent ice and cold, well, it has it way of getting to some people, like barnacles on the buttocks of our lives. Even so, we kept a positive attitude, and we endured.  But most folks I know of are done now with the winter, throwing up their middle fingers along with their shovels in a quiet contempt,  dis-satisfied with its once frosty allure, for they are ready again, for the vibrancy of spring. Emboldened by the sun on their shoulders perhaps, and ready for action.  Like for instance my ducks.

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Our pit faces a pond you see, and these ducks, oh how they like to strut around the place, with their little chests puffed out so proud. Many a time I will be lighting up the grill, and I don’t know if it’s the smoke or the resounding clang of the enameled lid, but they more often than not come hustling up out of the pond to see whats for supper.  And I tell them. I have to tell them you see, or they get mad at me. I have to assure them that this too is not their kin they smell cooking under the lid. They always show up as such, and always in the nick of time it seems, making things just a little awkward, as if they have every right to. And maybe they do. Some day I may just have to get it over with, and smoke a duck, and watch them all tout about, and field their penetrating glares. I don’t know. Regardless, and on the menu tonight,  we’re making a backyard pit favorite – artisan pizza on the grill. So get a hold of your inner Italian, and let’s make a pizza pie!

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If you’ve been paying attention in this blog over the last month or so, you will recall a write-up, How To Impress A Woman: Bread. You should also remember, because there was sugar involved,  that the same bread dough we used for that, was also used to procure some rather amazing caramel rolls off the grill, in How To Impress A Woman Again: Caramel Rolls. These two culinary triumphs are not without a third.  For we have subtly been holding your hand, here at the pit. Ask for but one strand of golden hair from an elvish queen, and she may give you three. Indeed, and henceforth, tho we ain’t no queen,  here then is the third installment towards a higher carbohydrate utopia; a cheesy salute to an all-time favorite, and yet another use for this amazing dough. Sure to impress women and men alike, and maybe a couple of ducks too. If you need to refresh your memory on how to make the dough, just refer back to the links above. But here is memory nudge, none the less.

Master Recipe

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

You can use what ever pizza dough you wish of course, and many of you already have your own systems for pizza in place, which is great,  but the whole point of this article, and the two previous blogs under the bread umbrella, as linked above, is to show you the utter versatility of this fantastic dough. From fresh bread, to pizza. To caramel rolls for dessert. Its real easy to do too.

Simply roll out the dough to a uniform 1/4 inch thickness, add what ever toppings you fancy, and transfer it to an oiled pizza stone, which has been preheated on the grill. Charcoal arrangement should wax reminiscent of a smoldering doughnut, sure enough about the diameter of your pizza stone, and the lid on for an oven-like atmosphere in the cooker. If you’re using a Weber kettle, vents should be wide open. Grilling pizza goes against everything we have taught you about the hallowed virtues of going low and slow. It is hard for us to utter such words, but hot and fast is your motto here. Thus for you a speedier rendezvous to your quintessential pizza nirvana. Whence the crust is of a golden brown, plate the pie, and offer it in good stride to your people. Oh, make haste with it.  Plop it down on the table in front of them, with the steam still rising. And watch the molten cheese ooze over the sides whence you peel off a slice, appreciating for a moment how your people foster flattering notions for thee, as their pit master most cool, and bequeather of the beloved Artisan pizza pie. Yum!

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Artisan Pizza hot off the grill. Man! Yet another culinary gem from the such a versatile dough, and even better of course,  patron to the pit.


Winter’s Ambition…and mine too.

Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.

Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!

2012-03-04 17.42.31In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. – William Blake


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Here and There: The Smoke That Binds Things

two island panorama

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Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines.  My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.

Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song,  whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.

Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the Savory_Ribs_edit0stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment,  we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill;  and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there.  Amen.


Fire and Ice: The Rise of the Snow Weber

Over a steaming cup of tea, I glance out the window at the pit, watching spindrift swirl off the house in a fashion suitable maybe, for the weathered,  icy,  flanks of Everest. The mercury gauge read a sporty 5 degrees F, but the weather man said it felt more like minus 15, and I guess believed him. You kind of have to believe him I concluded, when it feels like your parking brake is engaged when you back down the driveway in the morning, only it isn’t  Yeah, it was cold out there alright. A vintage January day in Minnesota. The kind of day where you put on two or three shirts in the morning, and then you go about the business of getting dressed. I curled my toes in my warm socks, fingers cradling the hot, porcelain cup , and after a dash of consideration, I decided to do the only sensible thing I could think of – to go outside naturally, and ignite the Snow Weber!

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The Snow Weber, that’s what I’m calling it at least, is the tactile end result of our latest BBQ brain thrust. A frozen monument if you will, erected in a semi-stately homage, symbolic to all the keepers of the grill out there, who do not, and will not, save for a trip somewhere with a blue tag on their big toe,  take the winter off.  The faithful remnant possessing the macaroni to lay meat to flame whence the jaws of winter hath conspired against them. Carry the flame proudly brethren, for this is our story. A tale of fire and ice.
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Robert Frost postulates in his poem the virtues of world destruction either by the fire or by ice, figuring either, if we had to, would be pretty nice.  I wonder tho if he ever grilled in winter, or knew that the two forces could harmonize together for the betterment of his tummy. Because they can. And so it was, with pork chops in hand, I stepped out onto the wind-swept patio, and at once my left eye lid seared tight from the keen northern wind. I love it! Tenderly I placed the two chops on the hot grate, and admired them there for a spell.  The previous owners of which I’m sure knew each other back on their farm. Perhaps routinely getting together for morning slop, to discuss their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Maybe they even aspired to make it on to this blog one day. Hmm. I shook off the thought, and dusted the chops with some Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun Seasoning instead.

After a while, and maybe even longer than that, I felt the compulsion to put the lid on, and go think about my life. Nothing quite so fine as repairing out in the yard with a 15 below cross-wind, whilst two pork chops sizzle on the snow grill. Glory! The art of winter grilling, if your wondering, is not to fight it. But to embrace it. To make the proverbial glass of lemon aid out of it. To meet it on it’s terms and not your own. That, and a degree of lunacy doesn’t hurt none either.

And supper is served, courtesy of, and inspired by:

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

-Robert Frost


Bean Muck!

MUCK       /mək/

Noun

Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.

Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.

There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.

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We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation.  We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.

Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.

**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…


Testament of a Grilling Geek

I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants.  I pushed the meat over indirect heat,  paused, and thought about it for a while.

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The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites  beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees.  Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time,  lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.

Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.

Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal.  Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.

That, and I like to eat! Amen.


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Meat Poetry: An Ode to Smoke

If memories are linked with smell, and we believe this to be so, then there are a lifetime of them every time we light the grill. The charcoal grill that is.  Not to be snobbish or disrespectful to you gassy people out there, your way is fun too, for at least you are out there, putting meat to flame, but less you plunk a tatter of wood upon thy burner, you simply will never know the joy of smoke. Nor achieve that true smokey flavor that real BBQ is known for.  That’s half the reason we grill in the first place, for the smell of it. For the sheer wafting ambiance of wood smoke floating over a quiet pit. Ducks milling on the pond. Gophers dashing across the back forty. The waning golden rays of sun a’wash over your tranquil patio.  And the smell of smoldering mesquite in the air there, whilst your prized rump roast sizzles in the cooker. Ah yes, the ambiance. And the smoke, for better or for worse, is a part of that.

People often dash the charcoal grill for the speed and convenience of the gas units. We do not understand. Why would you take something you love, like grilling, and try to speed it up. For let it be said, because it’s true, anything that is worth doing in this life, is worth doing slowly. There is a pleasure in the process of lighting the coals, of watching the fire slowly come to life, and the puffs of smoke ascending to the heavens. To grill over charcoal is to say to yourself, and who ever else is looking, that you’re in no hurry. Such action confounds your peers, and grabs the sun by the tail as it were, and pauses it there in sky, extending the moment for the moment’s sake. And all the Brethren of the Smoke rejoice. Indeed, there is a simple joy residing with the charcoal and wood cookers, patron to those who choose the scenic path, and the smoke which rises there. Amen.