July 27, 2019 (120 Days Old)
Waffles in the Wilderness
Thinking about camping food evokes a sense of rustic simplicity, ingredients crudely combined and grilled over hot flames, charred or under-cooked, rarely delicate, and never sophisticated.
Of the four families with whom we frequently camp, all cook breakfast
outside
not inside
W.R.T. camping, this means NOT in a trailer, camper, or shelter.
.
We boil some water for a strong, pressed coffee.
Oatmeal is simple, and can be upgraded with a dash of brown sugar and some berries, or my favourite, maple syrup and almonds.
Invariably someone has a pan full of bacon sizzling away somewhere and a collection of greasy pan-fried eggs and some sort of
hash
dish
Definitely not the drugs. A pan of diced meats, potatoes, and veggies cooked together.
containing potatoes, onions and some spices is sure to make an appearance.
An yet among this early morning cook-off, no one expects a plate of perfectly cooked waffles peppered with fresh cut strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.
More Season than Iron
I learned the meaning of good seasoning trying to make the perfect camping waffle.
Incidental cookware purchases happen infrequently in my life, but the Rome-brand cast iron waffle iron caught my eye while were were shopping for other more lightweight backpacking gear at the local Campers Village store.
Raw
waxed iron
for protection
Unseasoned cast iron is often sold with a layer of wax to prevent rusting. This can be washed (or better) melted off... but it makes a mess if you melt it.
when I took it to the till, I paid about twenty-five bucks for my simple
hook-hinged
mechanism
One rod plus one u-shaped hook form a hook that hinges and allows mechanical opening and closing of the two pieces.
waffle press.
No fancy stands, rests or swivels: just two waffled griddle pans that close together to seal in the cooking greatness to come.
When I bought any of my Lodge-brand pans in the past they come with a base-seasoning, ready to cook, though benefiting from a few weeks and months of seasoning TLC.
Instead, the waffle pan required a little more work: I cleaned-off and melted the wax layer, oiled and baked, repeated twice, and even looked to my gas grill for some flame-on-iron action to get the seasoning layer ready for my first waffle attempt.
Un-Stick-Able
Two years later and hundreds of waffles summoned into existence (and then immediately eaten) my waffle iron remains one of the pieces in my collection where I continue to immediately
humble-brag
attitude
Oh... really... it was nothing. I just cooked a five star breakfast over a burning log. Anyone could do that! How's your oatmeal?
without shame upon use: really, if you only knew how tough it was to create that perfectly light and fluffy, delicately-browned, crispy-but-not-dry breakfast pastry (in the wilderness no less) you would look in my direction in awe and wonder and you would tip your rain-soaked hats to my cast iron prowess.
Or, jealousy.
Because, most everyone loves a good waffle.
My Fav Waffle Blend
Of course, a pre-mix is the easy way to go while camping, but making great waffles is super simple with a simple recipe.
One and a quarter cups of FLOUR.
Two teaspoons of BAKING POWDER.
A dash of SALT.
One tablespoon of SUGAR.
One and a quarter cups of MILK.
Four (or up to six) tablespoons of vegetable OIL pus some for intermediate seasonings.
Two EGGS.
The Camp Method
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another bowl.
If you are feeling ambitious and the coffee has fully kicked in, you can separate the eggs first, and reserve the whites to beat into stiff peaks to add in after you combine the wet and the dry.
Combine the wet and the dry, stirring until just blended (over-stirring gets that gluten way too wound up for fluffy waffles).
Obviously you’ve heated your cast iron waffle grill already, but if not, now would be a great time to rest it over a medium-high camp-stove flame or on a grate above some red-hot campfire coals.
Oil your hot grill (and again after every second or third waffle) gently rotating it to get the precious lubricant on all those waffly surfaces.
Batter meet pan (but not too full, maybe a centimetre from the edge of the pan) and cook on both sides, rotating every minute or so to keep the pan hot.
When the steam slows and the waffle releases easily, you are done.
Serve hot with almost anything.
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July 20, 2019 (124 Days Old)
Sourdough Grilled Double Cheese Sandwich
Grilled cheese may be a simple sandwich, but I occasionally find that even simplicity can become delicious complexity with just a few simple additions.
Cheese, bread, butter: what could be simpler? But better tools and better ingredients can lead to better results.
Readers of this site will already realize that any cast iron obsession will quickly lead to a secondary fascination: sourdough bread.
Sourdough, a day or two after baking, when it's just on the edge of stale is great (as it turns out) for elevated grilled sandwiches.
I've been working towards the lofty goal of gratuitously elevating many sandwiches, sometimes with mixed results, but the sourdough grilled double cheese is definitely a winner.
Ten-and-a-half
My flat pan -- skillet -- Lodge calls it a griddle, but it does not have the
ribbing
ribbing
Raised lines on the cooking surface of a pan that elevate the food from cooking directly on a flat surface. They also make pretty stripes on your meal.
I'd normally associate with a griddle -- is a perfect, multipurpose pan.
It joined my collection as a
crepe
crepe
Thin, flat French-style pancakes, usually more egg than flour, and served with sauce or whipped creams.
maker -- a long post-worthy story that links back to me volunteering with a
local food festival
local food festival
Research the Edmonton Heritage Festival, a three day food extravaganza with hundreds of thousands of people enjoying foods cooked by about a hundred local cultural groups.
-- but has seen much more action than french pancakes since then.
In fact and for a while this simple, round, shallow skillet lived almost permanently on our stove-top.
The ten-and-a-half is my go to for
grilled cheese
grilled cheese
A simple sandwich usually consisting of pan toasting two pieces of bread and some cheese... any cheese.
: it heats up quick and even, is simple to wipe down after, and lets me dive in with a spatula for easy, precise sandwich flips.
The Pieces
Two Slices of SOURDOUGH bread.
BUTTER or MARGARINE.
A handful of grated CHEDDAR.
Half a handful of grated PARMESAN.
The Heat
Butter one side of the sourdough and slap it butter-side down onto a hot cast iron pan or skillet.
Toss the grated cheese into an even mix, and then place on the unbuttered side of the bread already on the skillet.
Add the second piece of buttered sourdough (butter side out) to complete the stack.
Cook until bread is toasted golden and the cheese has started to melt.
Flip and repeat: and enjoy.
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July 18, 2019 (126 Days Old)
Communal Campfire Nachos
Gathered around a pile of smouldering logs is one of those human experience activities that transcends rational explanation and instead digs deep down into the bedrock of our very genetics.
Campfires are the primeval television set, a flickering light from which comfort and stories and companionship swirl outwards and make us feel part of a group.
I had noticed that along with the distribution of beverages, and a few moments reprieve from salty snacks while the kids constructed sickeningly sweet
s'mores
s'mores
A popular campfire treat where a sandwich of chocolate, roasted marshmallow and graham cracker are constructed over a fire and consumed in a hot, sticky mess.
, much of the food that came to the fireside, while shared, was individual.
Cookies appearing from tupperware bins.
Campfire pies (perhaps in a future post).
Marshmallows burned to a crisp on steel rods.
We rarely created a group dish -- a dish to share as a platter of communal munchies.
The Share Plate
I recently had the pleasure of spending a guys-night-out with some friends, and one of our regulars brought along a visitor who was in Canada but called Hong Kong home.
Our evening adventure landed us in a small, local bar, the kind that sells draft beer (and only draft beer) and the comfortable selection of crunchy, fried, cheesy foods that go so well with a
Molson
Canadian Beer
A popular brand of popular large-batch lager in Canada.
brew.
Our new pal had, or so he told us, never tried nachos, but from his Asian-perspective the concept of a plate of food that was shared with the group was a way of eating that was so deeply ingrained in him he thought we were the oddities for ordering individual meals.
It occured to me that the sharing of food, and more so, the sharing of food around the campfire is far from a curiosity: it's an instinct we cannot deny.
That's probably why my communal campfire nachos were such a hit on a recent camping trip.
Simple Ingredients, Epic Results
A BIG CAST IRON skillet (I used my 12 inch).
One bag of plain TORTILLA CHIPS.
One handful of shredded CHEDDAR CHEESE.
A selection of toppings to taste: ONIONS, JALAPENOS, OLIVES.
A selection of dips: SALSA, SOUR CREAM, GUACAMOLE.
The Build
Hot skillet, meet chips.
Chips meet cheese and whatever toppings you choose to add.
Top shelf your skillet over the campfire in the dying light of a warm summer evening while friends and family are gathered around.
As the cheese starts to melt, invite all to tuck in and enjoy.
Repeat until everyone is full and content.
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