Enjoy a holiday feast no matter where you park.
DO YOUR RESEARCH. Before you go, check that your campground allows fires and you can bring in wood or buy it there. You’ll want large logs, twigs for tinder, medium sticks for kindling, a butane lighter, newspaper, grilling tongs and gloves, home charcoal grill grate, and paper towels and oil for cleaning grates.
TIME IT RIGHT. The perfect fire for cooking has low flames plus plenty of embers. It takes 1 to 11⁄2 hours to burn down to this stage.
BUILD THE FIRE. In a fire ring with cooking grate pushed away, make a log cabin with 6 large logs: 2 parallel to each other, 2 crisscrossed on top, and a third set like the first. Crumple newspaper into the center and add a handful of twigs. Make a tipi over the twigs with some medium sticks. Ignite paper. Gently fan fire until flames emerge.
START A FEEDER FIRE. Off to the side of the main fire, ignite a second, smaller one with just a few logs. Let fires burn.
ARRANGE AND ADJUST. Using tongs, spread a bed of embers with low flames under the cooking grate and in area needed for dutch oven cooking. As you cook, add fuel from feeder fire.
PUT IT OUT. Never walk away from a fire that’s still burning. When it’s down to cinders, spread the remains in the fire ring and douse with water.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Pine Nut Salsa Verde
This lamb recipe from Elias Cairo, head salumist of Olympia Provisions in Portland, picks up plenty of flavor in the cooler from the simple mustard marinade, and a nutty, herbaceous Italian-style salsa puts it over the top. If you like, serve it with grilled garlic scapes or green onions. You can also cook the dish over a camp grill instead of a wood fire. There are helpful instructions on how to make a sustainable wood fire below.
How to Make It
Make marinade: Mix mustard, parsley, and olive oil in a large bowl; add lamb and smear evenly. Seal meat in 2 large resealable plastic bags (you can also prep this before leaving for your trip). For salsa, rinse parsley and mint, and spin dry; wrap in paper towels and seal in a bag. Chill ingredients in a cooler until your ready to cook.
Set meat out and let it come to room temp (1 to 2 hours). If you plan to use a wood fire, build a fire and let burn until you can hold your hand 5 in. above firepit grate only 5 to 7 seconds.
Meanwhile, make salsa verde: Gather parsley and mint into a bundle and thinly slice. Put in a medium bowl and combine with remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with fine sea salt.
Season lamb liberally with fine sea salt and pepper.
Set a cooking grate over firepit, or prepare the camp grill. Grill lamb, turning often, until medium-rare (cut to test) or center registers 115° to 120° on an instant-read thermometer, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a board and let rest a few minutes.
Slice lamb between bones, arrange on a platter, and sprinkle with flake salt. Serve with salsa verde and lemon wedges.
*Frenched lamb racks have meat cut away from rib ends. Garlic scapes are tender young flower stalks of garlic plants; find them at farmers’ markets in late spring to early summer.
Vegetable Hobo Bundles with Parmesan and Herbs
How to Make It
In a firepit, build a wood fire about as wide as the cooking grate. Let it burn to low flames and embers (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
Meanwhile, put potatoes in a medium saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt and water to cover. Cover pan and bring to a boil on your camping stove of choice. Reduce heat and simmer until barely tender, 3 minutes; drain.
Lay a 12-in. square of heavy-duty foil flat on a work surface. Drizzle center with a little olive oil. Spoon about 1 cup potatoes and 1/6 of the onion and carrots on top. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside 1 tbsp. parsley for serving. Sprinkle vegetables with about 1/6 of remaining parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil.
Bring 2 opposite sides of foil together across the middle and fold to make a seam about 1 in. wide. Fold seam on itself again, then fold it flat on packet. Fold ends over themselves, tucking them into a compact packet. Repeat to make remaining packets.
Set bundles on grill and cook, turning with tongs every 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender and browned, about 15 minutes (open carefully to check).
Protecting hands, snip off ends of packets with scissors (or use a knife) and pour food onto plates. Sprinkle with about half the Parmesan and the remaining parsley, and tear basil leaves on top. Serve with more cheese on the side if desired.
Campfire Apple Crisp
How to Make It
Build a wood fire in a fire ring, and let it burn down to low flames and embers (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
Cut foil into twelve 1-ft. squares. Divide into 6 stacks of 2 sheets each and set an apple half on each, cored side up. In a bowl, mix flour, butter, oats, brown sugar, and cardamom with your fingers until evenly moistened with no chunks of butter. Mound an equal amount of topping in each apple cavity.
For each packet, neatly fold one stacked set of corners over an apple half, followed by the opposite set of corners; roll remaining corners snug to fruit to seal.
Using long grilling tongs, move logs from center of fire into a frame to create a flat bed of embers in the center big enough for packets. Remove any flaming wood chunks from ember bed. Set packets, topping side up, on embers. Cook 15 minutes, turning packets over every 5 minutes with grilling tongs and moving positions in ember bed for even cooking. Transfer a packet to a plate and carefully open to check for scorching; if you see any, adjust fire or positions of packets. Cook packets topping side down without turning until topping is lightly browned, 10 to 15 more minutes.
Open packets and let cool a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk whipping cream, crème fraîche, and granulated sugar until thick. Serve with apples.