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New West Test Kitchen: Campfire Bundles

Montana in the late summer and early fall is all about being outside. And let’s face it, it’s the most beautiful weather we have, so we have to savor it. But I figured, since we’re all doing all this camping, it might be fun to try something you could theoretically make outside on a campfire. Kristy tried one recipe, and I tried another. Both are from the community cookbooks.

Hobo Dinners (Beckatron)

Of course, the really interesting part about this recipe, for me, was that there really wasn’t much of a recipe. The extent of it was: potatoes, carrots, meat – put in foil with pat of butter and cook 30 minutes on a grill.

Well, you know me. I can’t help but experiment. After hearing Kristy’s results, I wondered if it would help to have any different kinds of vegetables. So I tried all kinds of different things. I did one batch as it says (just potatoes, carrots, and meat, with salt and pepper and a pat of butter). Each additional batch, I’d add another vegetable, until the last of the bundles had all six of them. Those, of course, took the longest to cook, but minus the parsnips, they were also the best.

The carrot/potato/meat was, of course, the least flavorful. Although I made the bundles again a second time and instead of regular butter, I used one of those compound butters that Kraft sells now, as a recipe starter. That ended up being the best tasting of them all. Must have been the extra herbs.

The most flavorful of the first batch was the one with potato, carrot, celery, onion, and meat (which, from a culinary perspective, makes complete sense). For some reason, the addition of the parsnip and turnip just didn’t do anything for me. But generally speaking, the hobo dinners were not an immediate success. They were much better the next day.

Here’s the best of what I did:

2 carrots
1 medium onion
2 red potatoes
2 stalks celery
1 lb. hamburger
3 T. butter

Chop vegetables into similar size pieces (just a bit smaller than bite-size is the best). Layer them in a piece of heavy foil, then top with 1/3 lb. of meat. Top with 1T. butter. Close foil and put on campfire (above direct heat) or on a grill. Check at 30 minutes if on grill.

 

Campfire Bundles (Tistylee)

I was interested in this recipe for camping purposes.  To date, we have never made it past one night out with the kids.  But someday we do hope to last longer, so we’ll need stuff to eat other than pork and beans!

 

Here’s the original recipe:

1 lg. sweet onion, sliced
1 each, lg. green, sweet red & yellow pepper, sliced
4 med. Potatoes, sliced ½” thick
6 med. Carrots, sliced ½” thick
1 sm. Cabbage, sliced
2 med. Tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. fully-cooked Polish sausage, cut into ½” pieces
½ c. butter
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

Place vegetables in order listed on 3 pieces of double-layered heavy duty foil, about 18×18 inches.  Add sausage, dot with butter.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold foil around the mixture and seal tightly.  Grill, covered, over medium heat for 30 minutes.  Turn and grill for 30 minutes longer, or until vegetables are tender.  Yield: 6 servings.

First I got carried away and cut ALL the vegetables and put them together in a big bowl. My husband doesn’t like a lot of peppers, so I subbed in some mushrooms for the green pepper.  I also increased the percentage of potatoes and carrots, and reduced the cabbage and onions to my family’s tastes.  I mixed them all together thoroughly in the bowl, and then realized I was supposed to put them in the foil in the order listed.  Oops!  Next, I cut the sausage and tomatoes, keeping them separated (like I was told!). Once everything was cut, I put the veggie mix onto my (not heavy duty) foil, with the sausage and tomatoes, pat with butter and finally salt & peppered. Due to the large amounts of veggies, I ended up with 6 huge foil wrappings.

For fun, I cooked half of the packets on the grill and half in the oven.  The grilled packets took about an hour over medium heat.  When they were finished, the sausage was deliciously done.  The veggies took on a bit of its flavor and everything had a nice roasty char on it. By comparison, the packets from the oven were not as good.  I baked them at 350 F for an hour and 20 minutes.  Everything inside was cooked, but the butter hadn’t cooked off at all.  As a result, the veggies were soggy and bland.

In the end, both packets were met with dissatisfaction from my test subjects.  They did not like the veggies very much, nor the sausage itself.  If I ever made this again, I would purposely repopulate the veggies with family favorites.  I would try to find a spice mix I liked in order to increase the flavor.  And I would grill them exclusively.  At this point, I’m doubtful that this will ever make it onto my camping menu.  But perhaps some inspired version of this could appear down the road a few years.

So, what about you? Have you ever made a campfire food like this. What did you think? How would you re-make these campfire bundles?

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