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.

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.