• HOW TO COOK THANKSGIVING DINNER… ON A CAMPFIRE?!

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    Everyone loves Thanksgiving! It’s all about food, friends and giving thanks for the wonderful things in our lives. We plan, prepare and cook to our heart’s content. So this year, while you plan your #OptOutside adventures, you might consider getting a jump on nature by having Thanksgiving dinner outside as well!

    Thanksgiving outside might sound daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Stick with the basics, focus on friends and success is inevitable. Here’s a menu that is a sure winner and best of all, most of the ingredients can be picked up at the grocery on your way out to the great outdoors.

    CAMPFIRE THANKSGIVING DINNER FOR SIX

    • Applewood Smoked Turkey Breast
    • Dutch Oven Stuffing with Sausage and Sage
    • Smashed Sweet Potatoes
    • Cranberry Sauce with Ginger and Orange
    • Green Bean and Pea Casserole
    • Tarte Tatin (Upside-Down Apple Pie!)

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    INGREDIENTS

    • 4 cups applewood chips
    • 1 boneless turkey breast
    • 36 tablespoons butter (about 5 sticks)
    • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
    • 4 tablespoons thyme
    • 1/2 pound of sweet sausage
    • 2 onions
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1 cup (diced) celery
    • 1/3 cup chopped fresh sage
    • 14-ounces dried bread stuffing
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 5-6 small sweet potatoes
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
    • 3/4 cup of half & half
    • 1 can cranberry sauce
    • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
    • 2 teaspoons orange zest
    • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
    • 8 ounces mushrooms
    • 1 pound frozen cut green beans
    • 1 pound frozen sweet peas
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup apple cider
    • 1 lemon
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 6 honeycrisp apples
    • 1 sheet puff pastry
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    DIRECTIONS

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    Cooking a whole turkey, over a fire, can be a lot work and also time consuming. (We’re sure you’d rather spend your time on the trails.) But smoking a turkey breast is just delicious, quick, and surprisingly easy. There’s no need for a fancy smoker—with a little imagination, a smoker can be made out of a myriad of kitchen pots and pans. A traditional New England steamer, used for steaming open soft shell clams can easily be transformed into a smoker. Once the spigot is removed, you have a smoker that can sit over an open fire and slowly cook a turkey breast.

    THE FIRE

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    The trick to “open-fire” cooking is heat, used judiciously. A fire pit, covered with a strong grate (an oven rack works well) is your best option for cooking. First, make a generous fire using good-sized logs. The goal is to gain enough heat in the ring while burning down the logs to smoldering coals. Place the “smoker” on the grate with the hot coals six inches below. The chips will begin to smoke after 15 minutes or so. If they don’t, stoke the fire and add more wood to get it hotter. It’s ok if there are some flames, but don’t let the fire engulf the smoker. The internal temperature of the smoker should be between 375F and 425F. This can be monitored with the help of an oven thermometer inside the main chamber.

    APPLEWOOD SMOKED TURKEY BREAST

    Cook time: 120 minutes

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    Place four cups of applewood chips, soaked in water overnight, in the bottom of the steamer while the breast cooks in the main chamber. (Remember to cover the pot to keep the smoke inside!) The boneless breast is best prepared by rubbing with butter, lemon zest, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper. Make a make-shift pan out of foil, turning up the edges so to hold the juices from the breast. It should be slightly larger than the breast itself. Set this into the main chamber. Depending on the size of the breast, it will take around two hours to cook.

    DUTCH OVEN STUFFING WITH SAUSAGE AND SAGE

    Cook time: 50-70 minutes

    While the turkey is smoking, you can prepare and cook the rest of your dinner. The stuffing is best prepared in a four-quart cast iron Dutch oven. Place the Dutch oven on the grate to pre-heat.  Once hot, add one-half pound of sweet sausage meat, mixing it to cook evenly. Add one diced onion, cooking until soft. Toss in two minced garlic cloves, one cup of diced celery, one-third cup of fresh chopped sage, two tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme, and eight tablespoons of butter. Cook for a few minutes, then add one 14-ounce bag of dried bread stuffing, one-and-a-half cups of chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Top with four tablespoons of butter. Cover the Dutch oven and keep it close to the hot coals, approximately six inches. Turn the Dutch oven every 15 minutes to heat it evenly. It will heat throughout and get crispy and crunchy on the top and sides in about 45 minutes to an hour.

    SMASHED SWEET POTATOES

    Cook time: 20-30 minutes

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    In a two-quart pot, place five or six small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes. Cover the potatoes with water and season with salt. Place it on the grate and bring the water to a boil. Simmer until the potatoes are soft. Hold a spoon or whisk on the edge of the pot and pour off all of the water. Using a potato masher or a firm whisk, smash the potatoes. Add one-half a cup of heavy cream or half & half and one stick (eight tablespoons) of butter. Season with salt and pepper and whip together. Cover the potatoes and set them to the side to keep them warm.

    CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH GINGER AND ORANGE

    Cook time: 0 minutes

    With some slight doctoring, it’s easy to create an improved version of canned cranberry sauce. Take the sauce, mix in one tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, two teaspoons of orange zest, and one-fourth a cup of fresh orange juice. That’s it! Fast and delicious.

    GREEN BEAN AND PEA CASSEROLE

    Cook time: 25-35 minutes

    The last savory dish is a stove top rendition of a classic green bean casserole. In a four-quart pot, melt one stick of butter (eight tablespoons). Add one medium onion, cut into one-fourth-inch matchsticks. Sweat the onions until soft. Add eight ounces of sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook through. Add one pound of frozen cut green beans and one pound of frozen sweet peas. Add three-quarters of a cup of half & half and cook down by half. Season with salt and pepper. Once thickened and hot, it’s ready to go.

    TARTE TATIN (UPSIDE-DOWN APPLE PIE)

    Cook time: 50-55 minutes

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    The dessert can also be made right on the open fire using a 12-inch cast iron pan. Add three-quarters of a cup of brown sugar, one-fourth a cup of apple cider, juice from one squeezed lemon, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of cinnamon to the pan. Place on the grate over the fire and cook for five to ten minutes. This will bubble but do not let it burn or over brown. Add six tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time, incorporating it into the glaze with each addition. Decoratively arrange six apples (I recommend honeycrisp) into the glaze, rounded side down. The apples should be peeled, quartered, and cored. Cook for 20 more minutes. Lastly, place a sheet of puff pastry—cut into a round shape the same size diameter of the pan—over the apples, tucking the sides down into the pan. Cover the cast iron pan with another 12-inch cast iron pan. Place the pan six inches above the hot coals and spoon hot coals onto the top of the cast iron pan. Bake it like this for 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden, puffed, and done. Pull the pan from the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Cover the pan again with the other 12-inch cast iron pan and flip the it over, inverting the tarte.

    And there you have it… Thanksgiving! Enjoy your dinner and your beautiful surroundings.

    This post was created in collaboration with REI’s Adventure Project

  • How to Pair Wine to Backpacking Food

    Let’s daydream for a moment. You just finished setting up camp on a sandy bluff above a gorgeous pine-fringed meadow, the golden hour just beginning its sexy, Instagram-worthy glow. You’re here with that special dirt-caked someone and want to make a good impression, so you gently lay out your best bandanna, then line up your sporks, unscrew your bear canister lid, and begin to boil some water.

    It’s time to get your backpacking grub on.

    Stirring electrolyte packets into filtered glacial melt might do the job if you’re sitting down to a sad dinner of sun-warmed tuna and string cheese, but when partaking in more inspired backcountry cuisine, you might consider classing up your beverage game with a delightful glass of wine. Lucky for you, I engaged in a round of deliciously extensive research and worked my way through a full stomach, gentle buzz, and slight hangover to help you navigate the wild world of grapes on the go!

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    STEP 1: SELECT YOUR VINO

    Since my oenophilic knowledge is firmly rooted in the esteemed schools of  “Does it taste like wine?” and “Is it on sale?”, I figured it was best to turn to Good To-Go’s co-founder and chef Jennifer Scism for some expert suggestions. According to Jen, wine simply “tastes better with food than whiskey,” and that’s more than just her opinion – she’s actually a certified sommelier who earned accreditation with the American Sommelier Association (“one of the most difficult tests I’ve ever taken; my college finals were nothing compared to that test”) and spent a decade selecting bottles for the Greenwich Village restaurant she ran with former business partner Anita Lo. Says Jen, “The part I loved most was finding wines that would pair really well with the food. There were always the standards that you had to have on the list, but then there were the gems that tasted amazing – and with the food, it was like they were made for each other.” Here are her tasty suggestions for Good To-Go’s four flagship meals:

    Classic Marinara With Penne

    Jen suggests pairing this with a Chianti Classico, a Sangiovese-based wine that features a “good balance of high acidity and earthiness.” While the word “Chianti” might immediately conjure images of Anthony Hopkins and fava beans for some, this is actually one of the most Italian of Italian wines, and begs to be partnered up with savory, equally acidic tomato-based dishes, like this comfort food classic.

    Smoked Three Bean Chili

    Jen’s pick is a rosé from the Bandol region of Provence; the full-bodied fruit lends a balance to the smoky, warm, “just off the fire flavor” of this dish. The wine also provides a relaxing atmosphere that allows you to believably blame any resulting flatulence on the altitude.

    Herbed Mushroom Risotto

    Here, Jen prefers a Sonoma Pinot Noir. This may seem odd to wine nerds, considering “there’s a belief that since risotto traditionally is served as a first course it should be paired with a white wine,” but since this creamy, earthy dish will probably serve as your main, this smooth, rich pick is a heavenly match. This pairing felt especially dreamy to me…until I opened my eyes and realized that I still had fifteen miles of trail crusted underneath my fingernails. Yum.

    Thai Curry

    Jen suggests uncorking a Riesling Kabinett, since this “slightly sweet wine” serves as the subtle yin to the spicy yang of this beautifully complex, aromatic dish. In my mind, it’s also a bit like having dessert with your dinner…although I’m an advocate of saving an extra glass for after dinner, too.

    STEP 2: GATHER YOUR TOOLS

    Most backpackers try to shed weight from their packs, not add to their loads, so carting around a bottle of wine often seems like an unnecessary (and heavy) luxury. However, all you have to do is think outside the bottle – sure, you can cart along a boxed wine, but companies like GSI and Platypus make lightweight bladders that up the portability factor even more. The containers can also be used as extra water reservoirs once they’re empty – important, since you don’t want to get dehydrated on your trip, especially if you’re hanging out in high altitude. Plus, if you want to earn real hardcore backpacking points, you can even inflate a reservoir and wrap it with a piece of clothing to use as a pillow while you slumber away in wine-soaked bliss. Note: I’ve never actually tried this, but it seems plausible.

    While you’re welcome to wrap your paws around the box or reservoir of your choice and chug away, the more civilized thing to do is pour the goods into a drinking receptacle of sorts. Here, the options are limitless: you can pull double duty on your coffee mug or Nalgene, tote a fancy camping-specific wine “glass,” or even slurp out of your cooking pot if things get desperate. Speaking of desperation, I recently shared a campfire with a guy drinking wine out of an empty Pringles container. He seemed pretty happy.

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    STEP 3: LET THE MAGIC BEGIN

    Now that you’re inspired and informed, it’s time to hit the trail! When packing your wine, keep the container close to the middle of your pack, near your back, to ensure the weight is centered. If you’re heading out on a hot day, you might also want to keep it chilled – my favorite method is to fill a Nalgene or Platypus container halfway with water (never more, or you’ll risk the whole thing bursting as it solidifies) and freezing it overnight; in the morning, I fill the rest with water, then place this next to or on top of my wine container. Whatever you do, just keep it out of the sun – hot wine isn’t nearly as exciting as hot chocolate. Trust me. Once at camp, I like to stake out my tent, start my water boiling, then settle in with a glass under the stars while my food rehydrates. My feet may be dirty, my shoulders may ache, but the feeling while sharing wine with friends under a canopy of stars is one of true happiness.

    Salute!

    written by: Shawnté Salabert

    photo credit: Shawnté Salabert