July 27, 2019 (85 Days Old)
Waffles in the Wilderness
Thinking about camping food evokes a sense of rustic simplicity, ingredients crudely combined and grilled over hot flames, charred or under-cooked, rarely delicate, and never sophisticated.
Of the four families with whom we frequently camp, all cook breakfast
outside
not inside
W.R.T. camping, this means NOT in a trailer, camper, or shelter.
.
We boil some water for a strong, pressed coffee.
Oatmeal is simple, and can be upgraded with a dash of brown sugar and some berries, or my favourite, maple syrup and almonds.
Invariably someone has a pan full of bacon sizzling away somewhere and a collection of greasy pan-fried eggs and some sort of
hash
dish
Definitely not the drugs. A pan of diced meats, potatoes, and veggies cooked together.
containing potatoes, onions and some spices is sure to make an appearance.
An yet among this early morning cook-off, no one expects a plate of perfectly cooked waffles peppered with fresh cut strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.
More Season than Iron
I learned the meaning of good seasoning trying to make the perfect camping waffle.
Incidental cookware purchases happen infrequently in my life, but the Rome-brand cast iron waffle iron caught my eye while were were shopping for other more lightweight backpacking gear at the local Campers Village store.
Raw
waxed iron
for protection
Unseasoned cast iron is often sold with a layer of wax to prevent rusting. This can be washed (or better) melted off... but it makes a mess if you melt it.
when I took it to the till, I paid about twenty-five bucks for my simple
hook-hinged
mechanism
One rod plus one u-shaped hook form a hook that hinges and allows mechanical opening and closing of the two pieces.
waffle press.
No fancy stands, rests or swivels: just two waffled griddle pans that close together to seal in the cooking greatness to come.
When I bought any of my Lodge-brand pans in the past they come with a base-seasoning, ready to cook, though benefiting from a few weeks and months of seasoning TLC.
Instead, the waffle pan required a little more work: I cleaned-off and melted the wax layer, oiled and baked, repeated twice, and even looked to my gas grill for some flame-on-iron action to get the seasoning layer ready for my first waffle attempt.
Un-Stick-Able
Two years later and hundreds of waffles summoned into existence (and then immediately eaten) my waffle iron remains one of the pieces in my collection where I continue to immediately
humble-brag
attitude
Oh... really... it was nothing. I just cooked a five star breakfast over a burning log. Anyone could do that! How's your oatmeal?
without shame upon use: really, if you only knew how tough it was to create that perfectly light and fluffy, delicately-browned, crispy-but-not-dry breakfast pastry (in the wilderness no less) you would look in my direction in awe and wonder and you would tip your rain-soaked hats to my cast iron prowess.
Or, jealousy.
Because, most everyone loves a good waffle.
My Fav Waffle Blend
Of course, a pre-mix is the easy way to go while camping, but making great waffles is super simple with a simple recipe.
One and a quarter cups of FLOUR.
Two teaspoons of BAKING POWDER.
A dash of SALT.
One tablespoon of SUGAR.
One and a quarter cups of MILK.
Four (or up to six) tablespoons of vegetable OIL pus some for intermediate seasonings.
Two EGGS.
The Camp Method
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another bowl.
If you are feeling ambitious and the coffee has fully kicked in, you can separate the eggs first, and reserve the whites to beat into stiff peaks to add in after you combine the wet and the dry.
Combine the wet and the dry, stirring until just blended (over-stirring gets that gluten way too wound up for fluffy waffles).
Obviously you’ve heated your cast iron waffle grill already, but if not, now would be a great time to rest it over a medium-high camp-stove flame or on a grate above some red-hot campfire coals.
Oil your hot grill (and again after every second or third waffle) gently rotating it to get the precious lubricant on all those waffly surfaces.
Batter meet pan (but not too full, maybe a centimetre from the edge of the pan) and cook on both sides, rotating every minute or so to keep the pan hot.
When the steam slows and the waffle releases easily, you are done.
Serve hot with almost anything.
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July 20, 2019 (89 Days Old)
Sourdough Grilled Double Cheese Sandwich
Grilled cheese may be a simple sandwich, but I occasionally find that even simplicity can become delicious complexity with just a few simple additions.
Cheese, bread, butter: what could be simpler? But better tools and better ingredients can lead to better results.
Readers of this site will already realize that any cast iron obsession will quickly lead to a secondary fascination: sourdough bread.
Sourdough, a day or two after baking, when it's just on the edge of stale is great (as it turns out) for elevated grilled sandwiches.
I've been working towards the lofty goal of gratuitously elevating many sandwiches, sometimes with mixed results, but the sourdough grilled double cheese is definitely a winner.
Ten-and-a-half
My flat pan -- skillet -- Lodge calls it a griddle, but it does not have the
ribbing
ribbing
Raised lines on the cooking surface of a pan that elevate the food from cooking directly on a flat surface. They also make pretty stripes on your meal.
I'd normally associate with a griddle -- is a perfect, multipurpose pan.
It joined my collection as a
crepe
crepe
Thin, flat French-style pancakes, usually more egg than flour, and served with sauce or whipped creams.
maker -- a long post-worthy story that links back to me volunteering with a
local food festival
local food festival
Research the Edmonton Heritage Festival, a three day food extravaganza with hundreds of thousands of people enjoying foods cooked by about a hundred local cultural groups.
-- but has seen much more action than french pancakes since then.
In fact and for a while this simple, round, shallow skillet lived almost permanently on our stove-top.
The ten-and-a-half is my go to for
grilled cheese
grilled cheese
A simple sandwich usually consisting of pan toasting two pieces of bread and some cheese... any cheese.
: it heats up quick and even, is simple to wipe down after, and lets me dive in with a spatula for easy, precise sandwich flips.
The Pieces
Two Slices of SOURDOUGH bread.
BUTTER or MARGARINE.
A handful of grated CHEDDAR.
Half a handful of grated PARMESAN.
The Heat
Butter one side of the sourdough and slap it butter-side down onto a hot cast iron pan or skillet.
Toss the grated cheese into an even mix, and then place on the unbuttered side of the bread already on the skillet.
Add the second piece of buttered sourdough (butter side out) to complete the stack.
Cook until bread is toasted golden and the cheese has started to melt.
Flip and repeat: and enjoy.
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someone smiled to read this
July 15, 2019 (94 Days Old)
Brad's Balsamic Broccoli, Version 1.0
Holding court over a third of my gas grill stands the first cast iron skillet I ever owned.
It migrated to permanence atop the outdoor flames because — as a no-name skillet that had been replaced by worthier branded pans — it was either take up residence there, or gather dust in the dark corners of some storage cupboard.
As it turns out, even the cheapest of pans can evolve into something worthy with enough time and diligence: hundreds of grill cycles, always just there and smouldering over the flames, sometimes with a few vegetables, or a pan of potatoes, or mostly just oiled and empty, that cheap little pan has become so perfectly seasoned that it has serious lessons to teach the other iron knights.
Little wonder that on a quiet Sunday evening it was called to duty to roast a pan of greens to compliment dinner.
The Ingredients
Two cups of BROCCOLI chopped and washed.
Two tablespoons of OLIVE OIL.
Three tablespoons of BALSAMIC VINEGAR.
SALT to taste.
The Build
Heating the oil in the pan over a hot flame is probably a key step.
Like anything cooked on cast iron, a hot pan is your friend: too cool irons and you’re cruising to soggy town.
If you’ve bestowed a permanent skillet to your grill or barbecue, your general pre-heat should cover the warm up, but if not, bank on 10 to 15 minutes to get things sizzling.
The rest of the recipe is just as simple: oil in pan meet broccoli, salt and vinegar.
Toss, coat, cook, gill until those florets have a hint of browning on the tips — which is gonna be tough to tell because you covered everything in brown vinegar: but you’ll see it, trust me.
If you’re clever, you’re also gonna time this so it comes of the pan, into a serving dish, and then into your belly without much delay.
In other words, don’t prep this one ahead.
The Serve
We complemented this dish with a side of peppered rice and a simple peanut grilled chicken.
The flavours are not delicate, be warned.
This is as much a feature side dish as it is a handy way to liven up your greens.
The balsamic adds a rich tang to the vegetable that clings between the flowers and can surprise you if you bite in just the right place.
I could see how this would also pair nicely with a baked potato or some mediterranean-style pork dish.
Give it a try and let me know how you improve it.
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