Campfire Corn Roast

My foray in to roasting vegetables over the fire veered into more traditional territory this afternoon after picking up a few ears of fresh corn from the grocery store.

Step one was to remove the silk while leaving the husk as intact as possible. This is done by carefully peeling back each fibrous layer one at a time without breaking them off. When the final layer of husk has been pulled back, the hair-like strands of silk can be pulled away easily… tho getting those last few is a meticulous process. Then reversing the husk peel, each layer is folded back up around covering the kernels again.

Step two involves a long soak. I’ve read online that some people soak their corn for hours or even overnight. Time was pressing so mine got a deluxe ninety minute bath in ten centimeters of cold tap water in my kitchen sink. The point of this is to introduce a lot of moisture to the ears helping to (a) slow burning and (b) induce steaming.

With nearly an hour left in my soak I got to work chopping wood for step three which was, as the title of this post implies, building a roaring fire to create a bed of hot, crackling embers over which the corn could be roasted. I suppose if one wanted to settle for a charcoal barbecue or even a gas grill I would not object. After all, corn over a flame, whatever flame, is always better than a simple cob dropped in a pot of boiling water.

Step four was that point in the corn-fire relationship where the two really got to know each other. Wet corn sizzled and crackled over the glowing red coals at the base of my fire pit. I started the cook with a lot of careful clock-watching, letting the ears cook for a solid five minutes before turning them (even if it was tempting to intervene on the blackening, charring results.) After each five minutes per side, the black bits that had been rotated away from the flame flaked away exposing more unburnt husk, which in turn cooked and burned and shed. As I neared the end of the cook, the tips of the ears had burn away and the kernels at the tip charred a bit.

The whole family helped with step five which as one might guess involved some butter, salt and pepper and a whole lot of sweet, fire-roasted corn. Delicious.

Crispy Campfire

As much as I’ve been spending time fine-tuning my campfire cooking skills, I’ve been thinking about all the small ways that effort has translated into a bit of backyard humour, too.

Having a teenage daughter helps. She often and candidly points out all my shortcomings. Free of charge. “I’m embarrassed for you, dad.”

Or more recently, “The ribs are burnt, dad. I can’t eat this.”

They we’re not burnt. They were crispy.

So it goes that in episode two of Gaige and Crick I tried to do what I always do when I write up a script for a new comic: take a dash of real life and salt it heavily with a bit of exaggeration.

Perhaps you too have spent some time cooking over a hot flame recently. Watching the professionals barbecue juicy meats over sizzling coals looks like knowledge that should be baked into our genes, locked into the primal ancient skillset possessed by every human on the planet. If I need to grill a hunk of flesh over a fire, darn it, that is my legacy as a participant in the human race. Right?

The hot grease that dripped from my slow-cooked ribs was hardly the ignition source for a mushroom cloud, but it sure felt that way when my meticulously prepared coals and carefully laid plans turned into a small inferno a few seconds into the grilling process.

Gaige is in over his head, it often seems. He so desperately wants to be a professional. He so eagerly wants to build himself up as a something he is not. Luckily Crick’s head is a little closer to the ground.

Backyard Canadian Tacos

What do you get if you cross a campfire cooking enthusiast with a suburban Canadian stuck at home during a pandemic craving some southern-spiced fare?

Maybe …you get an experimental campfire taco recipe.

After grilling up the vegetable platter that would become a fire-roasted homemade salsa, I kept the fire stoked for some marinated flank steak that served for some makeshift pseudo-barbacoa filling for my Saturday supper plans.

The Marinade

1 little lime juiced
1 medium lemon juiced
6 glugs of olive oil
1 dollop of salt
1 nudge of ground chipotle chiles

I mixed all that together in a bowl, emulsifying the oils with the citrus, and poured it over the steak to marinate.

The meat and marinade rested for a ninety minutes before I got down to the business of cooking it low and slow over a bed of campfire coals.

The result was delicious.

The meat was seasoned enough as to not overpower the flavours of the salsa or roasted peppers I’d added, but held its own sliced thin and wrapped into toasted shells.

Next time I may go with a thinner cut of meat as bringing up the internal temperature over the hot campfire coals left a bit of a drier, chewier crust to form on the outside.

And folks who like spicy food will definitely want to amp up the pepper or chili quantity in their own version.

All ’round, not a bad Mexican-style substitute for a Canadian backyard lockdown, and a taco recipe I will be building on and from as the summer rolls on.

Campfire Salsa

I’ve been looking for an excuse to break away from the purely carnivore approach I’ve thus far taken with my backyard firepit culinary experimentation.

I may like my fire-grilled meats, but I’ve also had some great vegetarian fare that partook of the smoke and flame. And here I’m thinking well-beyond the starches like wrapping a potato in some aluminum foil to sit in the hot coals or pan-frying some mushrooms atop the heat. Both are excellent, of course, but I was hoping to branch out and be a little more adventurous.

Inspiration struck from a variety of sources, but the mere notion of getting some peppers over a bed of charcoal got ramped up to a full-blown idea when a Youtuber I watch spun up a wicked salsa recipe over the fire in his backyard.

A trip to the local grocer found me with the following fresh ingredients:

4 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 head of garlic
1 medium white onion
1 large spicy pepper
1 sweet yellow bell pepper
2 limes
1 bag of locally made tortilla chips

The Roast-ening

The ultimate plan was to cook up some seasoned flank steak that could be chopped up as a kind of psuedo-barbacoa taco filling and to make a full meal centred around that same theme. The salsa would be the side dish and filler, and a necessary one for tacos some might say.

I got a fire ready and let the wood burn down for a good hour before I dared put any actual food on it. I’ve learned some tough lessons over the last month when it comes to being too anxious to get your grub on the flames.

I will admit I got a little cautious with my yellow pepper and pierced the skin with a knife as it sat among the other sizzling veggies. The bell pepper seemed to have a life of its own, rocking to and fro on the cast iron grills. I’d just watched a video last night about food bursting explosively from overheating so I was feeling nervous as my blackening pepper seemed to hiss and crackle over the coals.

Fire roasting vegetables, by the way, smells amazing. I didn’t think I’d notice much, but the heat brought out the scents of the garlic and the onions and the tomatoes as I hovered nearby tending and turning them. Yum!

When it was all done I brought them inside to cool and finish the preparation.

(Garlic stays really hot, I will tell you. Even after ten minutes when I accidentally touched the core of the garlic stem I burned the tip of my finger!)

Char scraped, seeds scrapped, and stems sidelined, all the good roasted bits went into the food processor with some salt. I squeezed the roasted limes in too, and even put in a bunch of the pulp which flowed eagerly out of the rind. Pulse blend magical.

Result… a mild and delicious salsa.

Were I not cooking for a spice-hesitant family, and were I not (surprise!) allergic to jalapenos I may have spiced it up a few notches. I like my spice but the fam does not. The flavour, though, makes up for the lack of spicyness … and you could, of course, add as much spice as you wanted to bring up the temperature.

My only mistake was not doubling the recipe and jarring some of the extra.