Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Foil-less Hobos for Eight

With several weekend nights suitable for outdoor cookery already in the books this year, we've been practicing some of our favorite camp recipes.  One of our all-time favorites is what we've always known as "foil packets" or "hobos."  Evidently named after those migrant workers who moonlighted as professional campers and camp chefs, hobos (the food) are hard to beat for simplicity and flavor.  The dish is just a delicious pile of root veggies, seasonings, butter, and ground meat (if you got it), sealed up (generally in a folded sheet of aluminum foil) and cooked slow over a campfire.

The only thing we find disagreeable about hobos the food is the soiled foil that must be disposed of after the meal.  The foil is hard to reuse because it tears easily, and it's hard to recycle because there's often times caramelized bits of food stuck to it.  Fortunately, we can do better if we hypothesize that our hobo friends (the people) could have come into some cast iron cookware in which to prepare their food.

Dutch oven hobo fire configuration
Our foil replacement in this case will be a big dutch oven.  It turns out that brick spacing required for sap boiling pans is also about right for a full-sized grill grate.  Sorry we didn't get a picture before cooking commenced--we just tossed in cubed potatoes, carrots, and green onions, a stick of butter, a pound of ground venison, and seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and basil.  The green onions (Egyptian onions--thanks Anna!) were something we hadn't tried before, but they worked great!

Hobo cooking in dutch oven
The lid of the dutch oven makes enough of a seal to bathe the ingredients in steam during cooking. The steam is released like a flock of doves when the lid is opened.

Caramelized veggies
Ideally, there is a thin layer of caramelized veggies along the bottom and sides, and a bit of excess butter to keep things from really cooking onto the surface.

Hobo with cheese and toast
If we also hypothesize that our hobo friends (the people) may have some cheese (and a cheese grater) on hand, our hobos (the food) become a food fit for kings.  Finally, if we hypothesize that our hobo friends (the people) have some bread, we can make some toast on the fire, the crumbs of which are suitable for politicians.  (Also, it's a scientific fact that bread toasted over a campfire is at least ten times better than bread toasted in any other way.)

What's your favorite way to make hobos?

This particular iteration used the following recipe:
11 medium potatoes, cubed
10 medium carrots, cubed
0.25 lb green onions
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons each pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and basil
0.5 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 stick butter
1 lb ground venison

Toss everything into a 12-quart dutch oven, crumbling the venison on top of the other ingredients.  Set over a hot campfire for 30-40 min, depending on how hot. (Setting the pot directly on the coals will probably cook the bottom too quickly.)  When it starts to smell done, check on the meat and veggies near the top of the pot.  If they are close to done, put the lid back on and let it go another 10-15 minutes.  If they are not close to done, stir the pot such that those pieces will be close to the bottom.  Check frequently to ensure that an appropriate amount of caramelization happens on the bottom.  When done, scoop into bowls and top with cheese (or ketchup, if you must).  Best eaten outside with a glass of homemade wine while watching the sun set over the garden.

1 comment:

  1. Looks wonderful! There are lots of variations to keep you busy cooking all summer! (Chicken, with green beans, mushrooms; fish, with zukes, dill. What ever is ready in the garden, basically!)