So J and I were lucky enough to join J’s parents for a blissful week in the Colorado Rockies. They found an RV park that served as Kamp Comfort in National Lampoon’s Vacation, where rustic log cabins with stunning views of the river sat next to rows of RVs. All of this is nestled next to a branch of the Rio Grande where “campers” could fish and the rest of us could read a book and stare at the water all day. While J’s parents stayed in their well-appointed RV, they were kind enough to book us a cabin.
Before we actually talk about cooking, staying is the Rockies has its pluses and minuses. The pluses – some of the most stunning landscapes you will ever see. There’s a vastness to the mountains and meadows that not even the Sierra’s can match. The downside – the dryness and altitude. I could definitely feel it wherever I had to go uphill (and doing my usual run entail the feeling my heart was going to leap out of my chest). Where I felt it the most was coping drinking vast quantities of water and the resultant need to pee every five minutes. It took a couple of days to acclimate.
We ate out (which J will handle) but for the most part we cooked at the campsite. We were able to cook three different ways. The first was using the antiquated electric stove at the cabin. The stove had no actual numbers attached to the knobs so cooking was an act of faith. The second was a charcoal grilled right on our balcony. What I learned about charcoal is to let the coals go 75% gray (which is when they are hottest) before you put the meat on the grill. The other is to pile up the coals in on part of the grilled to create a hot part and a cooler part.
And the third was using a dutch oven. Now this isn’t your stovetop Le Creuset. This is a camping instrument that allows you to braise AND bake using hot coals as the heat source. This is what a dutch oven looks like. It has legs so that you can pile the coals below the dutch oven (which can act as a pot or frying pan) and a lid you can pile hot coals above the dutch oven (which turns the dutch oven into an oven. Most dutch oven recipes will tell you how many coals to put on the top and bottom to regulate the temperature.
So a few meals that we made this week were:
Eggplant parmigana in the dutch oven – fry bread slices of eggplant in the dutch oven, remove the fried eggplant from the oven and put tomato sauce above and below the eggplant and top with mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese has melted).
Sauteed spinach – on the rickety stove
Mustard chicken – marinate chicken in lemon juice, mustard, honey, salt and pepper for at least 2 hours. Pound until ½ inch flat and dredge in flour. Fry for about 5 minutes on each side.
Mexican chicken salad – Marinate chicken breasts in lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, chili powder, cumin and garlic for at least 1 day. Sear on the hot part of the grill for about 4 minutes a side. Then put on the cool part of the grill and cover the grill to let the chicken cook through for about 15 minutes. Serve on top of lettuce, grated cheese, tortilla chips, chopped red pepper, chopped green onions, and a lime vinaigrette (lime juice, EVOO, cumin, honey, salt).
Fried trout –freshly caught by my father in law and dredge in egg and cornmeal and fry in an inch of oil for 6 minutes a side.
Cauliflower mash – made in the rickety stove and mashed using a potato masher.
Green beans with bacon – on the rickety stove
Cornbead – made in the dutch oven.