"I think food is important and if you don't know how to cook, it's tragic." Julia Child
Breakfast has always been the best start of the day on a camping trip. Everyone is excited to get the day started but still tired from the late night campfire and conversation. The camp cook is already up and has coffee and orange juice ready for the first risers of the morning. The campfire is stoked and cutting the early morning chill as the sun lingers momentarily on the horizon. Camp cooks always find quick but delicious recipes to feed the campers and this one is no exception.
Frying Wild Game: Frying seemes to be a simple process of heating some oil and throwing some meat in. There is a little more to it than that if you want tender, juicy, and most importantly meat that is cooked through and through. So many times when people fry their game whether it be turkey, fish or squirrel the outside becomes golden brown and they serve the meat half done. Fish are a little more forgiving in that it is a white meat and will cook through quickly so it will be done just in the time it takes to brown the batter provided you cut the pieces into bite size morsels which is how I cook fish. If you fry your fish as a whole fish or fillet then read on as these tips will pertain to your fish as well.
My favorite way to fry is to listen to the sizzle. You can tell how hot your meat is getting based on the sound of the sizzle. It starts when you add the meat to the skillet. Never add so much meat that the sizzle diminishes too much. If you add the meat too fast you cool the oil and that causes the batter to soak up the oil causing your batter to take on an oily taste.
Add the meat while the heat is on high and maintain the sizzle. Once all the meat is in the oil and the oil has, what I call a fast sizzle, wait just a minute and then beginning with the first piece you placed in the skillet begin to turn your meat to allow the other side to brown. Once the sizzle comes back up to a fast sizzle turn the heat down and cover. The cover will trap heat and helps to cook the upside of your meat along with the bottom. Listen to that sizzle it will increase with the cover on the skillet so you will have to turn the heat down a little to maintain a slow sizzle.
Lastly be sure to check and turn your meat often. This allows you to monitor the browning process but more importantly it alternates the temperature applied to your meat and this helps to slowly cook your meat without burning the batter. The reason I prefer to listen to the sizzle is because the sizzle tells you the temperature of your meat. If the sizzle is going crazy that means your batter is hot and being the most fragile part of your meat you have to maintain a good temperature to not burn it before the meat gets cooked. I think that the biggest reason people talk about the toughness as well as the gamey taste of wild game is their cooking process. Either they cook venison too long or they cook squirrel and rabbit too quick and that can be the difference in a great tasting meat or a ruined meal.
ELECTRIC SKILLET OMELET
By Ken McBroom
For Rambling Angler Outdoors
I can remember my mom cooking with an old silver electric skillet. I can still feel the knob as I always wanted to set the temp. One of our favorite additions to our camper has been our electric skillet.
Its versatility is great and it saves expensive propane as well. We use our electric skillet for all sorts of recipes and one of our favorites and now somewhat of a tradition for the last morning of a camping trip, is the electric skillet omelet.
The ingredients are simply whatever is left in the fridge at the end of your camping trip. That half of a tomato you used for the grilled hamburgers on Friday night or the four slices of pepper jack cheese left from the ham sandwiches you've been lunching on all weekend I have even cut up hotdogs for my omelet but if you plan to share your omelet be sure the ingredients are to their liking. Deer liver didn't go over too well with my little girl. Liver is one meat that is hard to sneak past even the most unsuspecting individual.
Ingredient Preparation: I like to prepare my cold ingredients, to include the cheese and put them aside early on. This allows these ingredients to warm to room temperature as you prepare the meat. This helps keep the omelet hot longer but it also helps the cheese to melt inside before the egg burns on the outside. You also want to keep your meat hot inside the omelet. I use the electric skillet to cook the meat I plan to put in the omelet. I always brown the meat a little even if it is already cooked like that left over cajun turkey that never was eaten because you ran out of bread. Anything can go in this omelet so don't be shy.
After you have cooked your cold cuts, hotdogs or backstrap, from the fat doe you harvested the day before, set it aside, covered to keep warm and clean your skillet. After the skillet is clean add olive oil, vegetable oil, bacon grease or butter, whichever you prefer. Now set that dial to warm and let the grease heat up while you prepare the omelet.
Omelet Preparation: There is a couple different techniques to preparing your eggs for the electric skillet omelet so read carefully. I like to use five eggs in my omelet but three eggs will do. I keep it simple with a single fold over but this leaves the inside a bit under cooked with five eggs but some people, like myself, prefer it this way kind of like over easy as opposed to scrambled. It is just personal preference. Now whether you prefer it this way or not keep in mind others may not, especially the “newer generation” so the three egg omelet may be in order so here is the best way to prepare an electric skillet omelet with just three eggs. The five egg version is easy just whisk five eggs in a bowl and pour into skillet.
The three egg version requires a little more effort but for those that prefer the perfectly groomed omelet this is the better choice. Whisk three eggs in a bowl for 30 seconds. Add a little milk and whisk and then add the secret ingredient to a fluffy evenly colored omelet, buttermilk pancake batter. A tablespoon will do for three eggs now whisk the batter and any seasonings you might want, into the eggs.
Cooking The Omelet: Set the temp knob to 300 degrees and allow to heat up before pouring eggs into skillet.When the grease is hot pour the eggs into the skillet and spread them evenly across the bottom. The omelet will be thin using just three eggs but the secret is the way you fold the omelet once cooked.
The thing my family likes about this omelet is they can see that the eggs are cooked through and through and honestly it makes a great omelet I just prefer the easier and thicker five egg omelet. Once your egg has cooked and the top has lost its sheen and begins to firm up it is time for the initial fold. First fold over about an inch on two sides of the omelet then fold two inches over on one end. These folds help to keep the ingredients inside the omelet as the final folds are made.
After these first folds are made add the ingredients to the pocket formed by the folds. Once the ingredients are added you can begin the final folds. Carefully fold the omelet over the ingredients then continue folding to the end. The number of folds will vary by amount of ingredients but two or three should do it. Cook for a few minutes to heat all the goodies and melt the cheese and your omelet is ready.
The three egg omelet is a prettier omelet to some but I still like the big boy omelet in the photo with this article. Not everyone appreciates the old school omelet so I thought it appropriate to include the fancy three egg electric skillet omelet. Remember for the five egg omelet you make just one fold over and stuff loads of ingredients topped off with homemade salsa and sour cream.
COOKING WITH THE RAMBLING ANGLER
HENS ON A STICK
By Ken McBroom
For Rambling Angler Outdoors
This recipe is great for camping and overnight float trips or just in your backyard, nothing taste better than meat cooked over an open flame. I have never felt sorry for the cowboys that had to cook over their campfire at night and you won't either after tasting this great meal full of flavor.
Cornish hens are just the right size for this recipe and is just right so each member of the trip gets their own hen. The hens can be frozen and packed in newspaper to last up to a day in a canoe or kayak and several days in a cooler with ice. When packing them inside a kayak or canoe be sure to place them on the bottom so the cool water will help keep them from thawing too quickly. We have kayaked for 12 hours and the hens were still half frozen and probably could have made it until the second evening but we couldn't wait.
Hen Preparation: Your hens should be at least 90% thawed before cooking to be sure it cooked through. The best thing to do is unwrap your hens first thing so if they need to thaw a little more they can do so while the fire is burning down. You can tell if your hen is thawed by feeling inside the cavity. This is the last place the hen will thaw and if you find ice then it needs a little more time to thaw but it will thaw quickly once exposed to the ambient temperature. If the weather is cool or you keep your hens in a cooler, on a camping trip, then you might want to unwrap the hens well before dinner time or have them the second night.You can prepare a fancy rub for your hens but honestly I use absolutely nothing to season my rotisserie hens. Not even salt and pepper. Cornish hens are just naturally delicious or maybe I am just half starved after a long day of paddling. Either way feel free to create a rub to your liking as it is easy enough to take along and can add that personal touch to your hens.
Fire Preparation: It is important, when cooking over an open flame, to be sure there are plenty of red hot coals so start your fire early. The best way to get the proper amount of coals is to start a large fire and let it burn down leaving lots of hot coals. You never want to start the cooking process without enough heat or you will find yourself adding too much wood to the fire while the hens are in place and the resulting flames will burn the outside of the bird while leaving the inside raw. Not good! To test the heat hold your hand a couple feet from the coals and be sure there is very little or no flame just coals. If you can keep your hand there then you need more coals. Once the cooking begins you can add a stick at a time to replenish the coal bed but you never really want a full on fire when you are cooking, at least not directly under the hens.
Rotisserie Preparation: You can purchase rotisserie kits from camp stores or even rig the rotisserie from your grill to work over a campfire. If you are paddling and would rather not pack a rotisserie here are the steps to making your own. You will need two solid sticks to hold the rotisserie with your hens. You can assemble a tripod if you have some cord to lash three sticks together but I just use two forked sticks. Sharpen the end of the forked sticks and push or drive them on each side of the fire. Stack a few large rocks around these sticks to prevent them from falling over if you like. Now find a straight stick, preferably still alive, long enough to span the two forked sticks and peel or whittle the bark off for a cleaner spit. Two reasons for using a live limb for the spit, one is they are usually stronger with less weak points which could be disastrous if that weak point give up as you turned your delicious hens one last time dumping them into the fire. Not good! The other reason is that a green stick is less likely to burn through while over the heat resulting in the above mentioned catastrophe.
Once your spit is clean you can now skewer your hens. Sometimes the hens will turn with your spit but if they spin you can use cording to secure the hen to the spit or if you don't have any cording a simple stick stuck through the legs tight to the spit will be enough. Place the hen loaded spit onto the forked sticks and you are in business. Some say to set the spit to the side of the heat but with hens I place it directly over the heat. I think this eliminates the need for constant rotation.
Cooking Your Hens: Cooking your hens is easy, just watch and rotate the spit occasionally. Rotate frequently in the beginning to evenly heat the meat and get the process started. Once the skin starts to get shiny you can leave the hens in one position for a bit just watch and listen to your hens. The fat will begin to drip as the hen cooks. This helps you determine when to rotate. It all depends on the intensity of your heat. Cooking over an open flame takes a lot of instincts which improves with each attempt. If your hens aren't dripping fat within 5 minutes move the hens closer to the heat or add a couple sticks to make more hot coals. I usually leave the hens a few minutes after the dripping begins. This is in the initial stages then as the hens begin to brown you have to just keep rotating every couple minutes because the dripping may stop as the skin begins to brown and encasing the juices inside. A small Cornish hen should fully cook within a couple hours and that is taking your time and slowly browning your hens to perfection. Again it all depends on the heat intensity.
Enjoying Your Hens: Who says you have to rough it in the outdoors. This is a simple way to bring a delicious meal to your campfire and great times spent with friends and family. If you want to connect with your kids just start a fire and let them partake in the cooking process and watch how enthusiastic they become, it's amazing really. So on your next paddle trip or camping trip give this recipe a try, you won't be disappointed I promise. Nothing goes with hens better than vegetable medley in foil, another simple but delicious recipe for maybe the next issue of Tri-State Outdoors. YUM YUM and good times outside!