11 May 2013

Weekend Cooking: Campfire Cuisine by Robin Donovan

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Wait a minute! Get your finger off that mouse. I know what you're thinking: you don't camp, so why do you need to read about Robin Donovan's Campfire Cuisine. Because I said so? No. Because if you ever go on a picnic, have a cookout, grill out on the deck, or spend the day at the park and long for something besides hotdogs and chips, then you need the recipes, advice, and tips Donovan provides in this terrific little cookbook.

Everyone knows that food tastes better when cooked and eaten in the great outdoors, especially after a day of hiking, swimming, or playing ball. But for some reason, even the most avid at-home foodies seem to fall apart when it comes to cooking outside. After an eye-opening (or should I say tummy-satisfying) camping trip with friends, Donovan began developing classic recipes "that are not only easy enough for camping but delicious enough that you would be proud to serve them at home."

Granted, the type of camping Donovan is talking about is what I call car camping, meaning you are not too far from your vehicle so you can pack coolers, a camp stove, and other kitchen supplies that would be impracticable for the backpacker. Her recipes work for any kind of outdoor cooking, from wood fires to charcoal and gas. And the majority of them also include instructions for making the dishes at home in your air-conditioned and mosquito-free kitchen.

I love the size of Campfire Cuisine (about 7 inches by 5½ inches), which makes it easy to slip this gem of a cookbook into a tote bag or kitchen-supply box.The clean green and brown color scheme with easy-to-read fonts and pencil drawings make the book a joy to use, and the tips and variations have their own special design, so you won't miss any of Donovan's good advice. The paper is heavy enough to withstand outdoor reading but not so heavy to make the book unwieldy.

So what will you find in Campfire Cuisine? Both useful information about cooking outdoors and delicious recipes you'll use even when at home. Part one is devoted to introducing us to the notion of camp cooking. Donovan talks about equipment, food safety, cooking techniques, do-ahead tricks, menu planning, and shopping. She even gives us instructions for building a fire, whether we're using wood or charcoal briquettes.

I particularly love the charts and lists. The two most useful are the food storage chart, so you can see at a glance how long eggs and meat will last in a cooler, and the cooking times chart, so you can feel confident about how long to cook that chicken.

One very clever thing that campers will appreciate: Donovan's recipes require only two types of pans: a 2-quart lidded pot and a 10-inch lidded skillet. How's that for keeping your packing simple? Of course, you'll likely want to bring along some of the suggested extras, such as a grilling basket, but you can make do if you're a minimalist.

On to the recipes, which are what you've all been waiting for. As I mentioned, the recipes are designed to provide maximum flavor with minimum fuss, which is what you want when camping or cooking at the park. Do-ahead ideas, such as mixes, and quick and tasty sauces and marinades are just some of Donovan's tricks. Here is the breakdown of the chapters:
  • Salad Dressings, Sauces, Marinades, and More: Besides what's listed in the chapter title, you'll find spice rubs and condiments; the Greek marinade and chipotle aioli both look good.
  • Breakfast: Eggs and French toast are nice, but fresh-baked scones, breakfast wraps, and polenta with sausage are nicer.
  • Sandwiches, Salads, and Such: The curried chicken sandwich, couscous salad, and gourmet grilled cheese variations are my top picks from this chapter.
  • Snacks and Appetizers: Here you'll find salsas, crostini and bruschetta, dips, and even savory s'mores.
  • EntrĂ©es: Donovan supplies recipes for fancy burgers but also includes recipes for stews, jambalaya, barbecued duck wraps, shrimp, vegetarian quesadillas, and meats of all kinds.
  • Cooked Vegetables, Grains, and Other Sides: From simple grilled veggies and baked potatoes to cheesy biscuits and roasted beets, this chapter provides easy sides to round out your dinner.
  • Desserts: There are only a few desserts here, but the cooked fruit, hot chocolate, and magic pie all sound yummy.
I don't know about you, but we practically live on our deck from the first warm days of spring until the cool temperatures of late fall finally drive us back inside. Summer is going to be a lot tastier this year with Campfire Cuisine at my side. In fact, I'm wondering if I should buy an extra copy to keep with the camping gear.

Bourbon-Glazed Chicken
This is the perfect excuse to bring along a bottle of bourbon for a late-night warm-up. You can substitute red wine, port, sherry, or balsamic vinegar for the bourbon. Or use flank steak instead of chicken.
Serves 4
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • ⅓ cup bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
Place the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and pound to flatten to a thickness of 1 inch. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Pour into the bag with the chicken. Seal the bag and place in a cooler to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. When ready to cook, place the chicken on a grill over high heat, reserving the marinade, and grill for 5 to 7 minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, pour the leftover marinade into a pot and bring to a boil on a camp stove. Boil the marinade for at least 5 minutes (for food safety). Continue to boil until the sauce reduces and thickens. Spoon a little of the glaze over each chicken breast. Serve immediately.

Buy Campfire Cuisine at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Quirk Books, 2006
ISBN-13: 9781594746284
Rating: B+
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright 2013 cbl for www.BethFishReads.com


caite 5/11/13, 6:06 AM  

no, I don't camp. the older I get the more I agree with my SIL who says 'roughing it' means a hotel with room service and a bar.

but still, yes, this book sounds useful. I do BBQ...

jama 5/11/13, 6:45 AM  

How did you know I don't like to camp? :D Your great review convinced me to be open-minded about this cookbook. The bourbon chicken marinade sounds yummy, and since the operative words with these recipes are "minimum fuss and equipment," I'm sold!

Tina 5/11/13, 7:05 AM  

I haven't camped in a long time but love it. Tents, travel trailer and then we stopped for awhile. Now we are wanting to get a RV so when we can take longer vacations, bringing the dogs.
Your bourbon chicken recipe is a great example of the good meals you can dish up without a conventional kitchen. I want this book too!

rhapsodyinbooks 5/11/13, 7:06 AM  

I wouldn't dream of putting my finger on the mouse (in any sense of that phrase) even though you would NOT catch me camping. But you would catch me loving camping food, biking food, all that stuff. LOVE portable food!

Too Fond 5/11/13, 7:21 AM  

I love camping, although I prefer to mobile home kind of camping to sleeping in a tent. I'll definitely have to check out this cookbook if I get the chance.

Sandy Nawrot 5/11/13, 7:48 AM  

We are definitely a camping family, at least we were until the kids' schedules got crazy during the weekend. Even before we had kids, my husband and I would camp for a week at a time for our vacations. And we cooked baby! But we could have used this. This is awesome.

bermudaonion 5/11/13, 8:22 AM  

We're not campers but Carl does love to grill. That chicken sounds delicious. I'll have to look into this cookbook.

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/11/13, 9:01 AM  

One thing I miss about living in NYC is grilling outside. We used to grill all summer long, and it just isn't the same grilling on the stovetop.

Esme 5/11/13, 9:17 AM  

this sounds like a fun book for summer. even if you are not camping you could probably improvise on the recipes for a summer picnic or bar b que.

Unknown 5/11/13, 10:06 AM  

I don't camp often, but my family does have a cabin. The range is tiny and not easy to light, so we often cook on the grill outside. We also have a fire pit. So this would be a great cookbook for me!

Patty 5/11/13, 10:07 AM  

(First, sorry for the double inscription) I live in a part of the world where it rains 3/4 of the time - so, this is a book for wishful thinking...

JoAnn 5/11/13, 10:57 AM  

LOL! You read my mind...I'm not a camper, but it sounds like I NEED Campfire Cuisine anyway!

Peaceful Reader 5/11/13, 11:42 AM  

Oh, my husband would love bourbon chicken! I'll have to save this one for Father's Day!

When I camp I can pretty much survive on s'mores!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 5/11/13, 2:08 PM  

Thats fun! I love to camp but never know what to cook so I usally just bring stuff like egg salad for sandwiches :)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) 5/11/13, 2:34 PM  

I love that the physical design of this book actually complements what it's meant to be used for! You'd think it'd be obvious, making it a book suitable to take outside etc., but I think that kind of thing gets overlooked far too much.

This'd be a great book for the cottage, that's for sure.

Definitely going to try the chicken dish - not that we have a BBQ or even any outdoor space aside from a balcony, but the grill in the oven would work fine I reckon. Thanks for the substitution tips!

Shannon (Giraffe Days) 5/11/13, 2:44 PM  

p.s. my link keeps disappearing! I've entered it three times and it'll show, then as soon as I reload the page it's gone again.

Sorry if everyone else is seeing all of them and it's just me, but if not here's the link to my Weekend Cooking post for Cranberry Swirl Bread: http://www.giraffedays.com/?p=16498

Carole 5/11/13, 3:35 PM  

Bourbon glaze - yum!

Anonymous,  5/12/13, 11:31 AM  

Although I can remember camping trips where I wished my neighbors had left the bourbon at home, this looks like a delicious chicken recipe.

Gilion at Rose City Reader 5/12/13, 2:18 PM  

I like to think I'd enjoy camping as an adult, I just haven't gotten around to it . . .

Maybe I need this book to inspire me!

Becky 5/12/13, 10:09 PM  

I haven't gone camping in a long time, but we always used to cook out in our back yard. This looks right up my alley! :) Who says we have to sleep in a tent to get some of the great food?

Julie P. 5/13/13, 10:20 PM  

Camping is a dirty word for me but I do like the sounds of that recipe!

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