Chattanooga Now Combining good food, the holidays and the great outdoors

Chattanooga Now Combining good food, the holidays and the great outdoors

November 1st, 2017 by Shane Foley in Get Out - Departments

There's a quiet joy to be found in cooking dinner over an open campfire. Nowadays, though, camping dinners are frequently pre-packaged meals you need only add water to, or simple meals like soup or hot dogs on sticks.

But what happens when you dream bigger? Thanksgiving-big, for example?

The concept of cooking a turkey feast over a campfire is not really so crazy if you think about it. Thanksgiving has been around far longer than the electric stove, after all.

Want to experience the holiday season like a true pioneer? Here are some recipes and tips to help you get back to the basics with a holiday meal that's anything but.

Your meal is only as good as your gear.

Good outdoor cooking tends to rely on a few tools that, while not necessarily expensive, are integral to cooking with hot coals or over an open flame. We recommend you pick up the following:

» At least one shallow cast-iron pan or skillet with a lid (roughly 2 inches deep will work)

» One cast-iron crock pot (at least 8 quarts)

» One lightweight stainless steel pot

» A campfire hook and stand to hang cookware over the coals

» Heavy-duty aluminum foil

» Tin plates, cups and silverware

Cast iron handles campfires very well, but anything acidic, such as lemons, tomatoes or cranberries, should be relegated to stainless steel. Acidic food ruins well-seasoned cast iron by weakening the nonstick surface, and can give your food a metallic taste. And leave the Teflon at home; it won't handle a campfire well. Simple heavy-duty aluminum foil will withstand the red-hot coals without burning or tearing. Tin utensils and cups are lightweight and easy to clean, and will hold up better than plastic silverware and paper plates.

Prepare in advance.

We swear this isn't cheating, but some preparation can be a pain when you don't have a stable cutting surface to work with. Roasting Brussels sprouts with white onions? Halve the sprouts and slice the onion ahead of time. Cooking with liquids that need precise measurements? Pack them pre-measured in small Tupperware. If it's time consuming, save yourself the hassle and do it at home.

Drinks are important.

An outdoor Thanksgiving dinner is the perfect time for spiced cider, hot toddys and other festive drinks. Bring a few fun drinks in the cooler with everything else. You'll be glad you have something warm to drink after the big meal.


Simple Cranberry Sauce

What you need:

» 12-ounce bag of cranberries

» 1/2 cup sugar

» 1 orange, roughly chopped

» 1/8 teaspoon cloves

» 1/4 teaspoon allspice

» 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

» 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

» 2 teaspoons minced ginger

What you do:

Heat the cranberries and sugar in a stainless steel pot over a fire or coals until the sugar starts to dissolve and the cranberries release their juices. Once brought to a boil, move the pot to indirect heat and stir in the ginger, orange and spices. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have all broken down and mixture is syrupy and sweet.

Pro tip: You can pack the ginger and spices together in one Tupperware package for easy transport to your site.

Roasted Turkey

Roasted Turkey

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Turkey (yes, really)

What you need:

» 1 whole, thawed turkey, trimmed and giblets removed (turkey should be able to comfortably fit in your cast-iron crock pot)

» 1/4 cup olive oil

» Salt and pepper to taste (but we recommend you cover the outside of the bird)

» Fresh chopped parsley, thyme and rosemary to taste

» 1 white onion, peeled and halved

» 4 peeled garlic cloves, crushed

What you do:

This is definitely one prep job best suited to before you've left the house. Cover turkey with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Salt and pepper the inside liberally as well. Rub parsley, thyme and rosemary inside the turkey, and stuff with the onion and garlic. Once at the campsite, build a fire and let the coals burn for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the embers are smoldering and red hot. Put a meat rack in your dutch oven to prevent the turkey from touching the bottom. Insert a meat thermometer so it doesn't touch any bones and hang the dutch oven on a low hook right over the coals. Cooking should take 2-3 hours, but the best indicator will be when the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees.

Good Gravy!

Good Gravy!

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


What you need:

» Leftover turkey juices

» 1/4 cup white flour

» Salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

Once you've removed your turkey from the fire, let it rest under foil while you put your dutch oven back over the fire. Toss in the flour and stir constantly until incorporated in the juices remaining in the pan, then let the mixture reduce and brown to your desired consistency and color. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add water if mixture becomes too thick.

Roasted Brussels sprouts and onions

What you need:

» 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved and washed

» 2 medium-size white onions, peeled and sliced

» 1/3 cup olive oil

» Juice of two lemons

» 1 tablespoon lemon zest

» 4 sprigs fresh thyme

» 2 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced

» Salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

Divide vegetables, garlic, olive oil, thyme, lemon juice and zest among four portions of aluminum foil, ensuring sprouts and onions are liberally coated with oil and juice. Season with salt and pepper, then wrap foil around the vegetables, folding the edges several times to seal the package. Set on the coals at the edge of a dwindling fire for at least 15 minutes. Sprouts may need a few more minutes depending on the intensity of the coals.

Gala apples

Gala apples

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Simple Apple Cobbler

What you need:

» 1 tablespoon butter

» 3 Fuji or gala apples, sliced thin

» 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

» 1 teaspoon kosher salt

» 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

» 1/2 teaspoon cloves

» 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

» 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

» 1 cup granola

» 2 ounces bourbon (optional)

What you do:

Heat butter in a cast-iron skillet until bubbling, then add sliced apples and sautee for several minutes until apples soften. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, brown sugar and bourbon, if using, to the pan and stir. Let sugar dissolve and apples continue to cook for around 7 minutes. Once apples have cooked to desired doneness, add walnuts and stir, cooking another few minutes before sprinkling over granola. Let stand 1 minute and enjoy out of the pan.

Pro tip: Leftover bourbon can be used for hot toddys and other warm cocktails.