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3 Cozy Campfire Recipes for Cold-Weather Cooking in Delaware

Adobe Stock/zoryanchik

Delaware chefs serve up belly-warming soup and stew recipes to savor outside, whether you’re cold-weather camping or cooking out in the backyard.

After a day of hiking, paddling or fishing on the lake, nothing tastes better than hearty fare, but a campsite meal doesn’t have to be boring. These soups and stews deliver the goods with ethnic flare—and they’re good for you too.

Fireside Moroccan Chickpea Stew

(Serves 4)

Lisa Scolaro’s prepared foods are a hit at HoneyBee Seasonal Kitchen & Market in Trolley Square, known for its plentiful plant-based offerings. This fragrant stew is vegan and heart healthy, she says. Serve with pita bread toasted over the fire or flatbread.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) or garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, curry powder and smoked paprika
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, strained and liquid reserved
  • 1 large sweet potato, skin on, diced
  • 1 25-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 large zucchini, diced into large pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced into large pieces
  • 1 cup each of raisins and chopped dates
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a cast-iron soup pot over the fire. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Stir, cooking until the onions are translucent. Add spices and brown slightly. Stir in chickpeas, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and add cauliflower, zucchini and bell pepper. Simmer until tender.

If the stew becomes thick, pour in some of the reserved chickpea liquid. Finally, stir in the raisins and dates and simmer for 5 minutes more. Taste, then shake in salt and pepper as needed.

Campfire Ramen

(Serves 2)

Mark Schaeffer doesn’t need to go camping to perfect his caveman skills. He practices in his backyard. “Cooking over an open flame brings us back to the foundation of cooking,” maintains Schaeffer, executive chef at Lewes Yacht Club.

His ramen recipe is “a perfect example of how things were cooked before we had fancy kitchens,” he says. “Noodles are the ultimate comfort food, and what better way to enjoy them than under the stars?”

Prep the chicken and mushrooms at home. You could use canned broth, but what fun is that? If you make it from scratch, start a fire in the morning and get the broth going at lunchtime to give flavors time to develop. 

Adobe Stock/aigarsr

For the stock:

  • Chicken wings and body from a whole chicken (see below)
  • 1 white onion, cut in half
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 ounce ginger root
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
  • Shiitake stems from 1 pound of mushrooms (see below)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 gallons water

Place the leftover chicken parts, onion, celery and carrots in the coals to char. Once everything is charred, carefully use tongs to place them in Dutch oven with the remaining ingredients. Add 1 gallon of water and cover. Place the pot over the coals, and simmer for 3 to 5 hours, adding additional water if needed.

For the ramen:

  • 1 whole chicken broken down into 8 pieces (reserve the wings and carcass if you’re making the broth from scratch)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black garlic powder to taste
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 packs soba noodles
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and saved for broth
  • 2 heads baby bok choy, cut in half or chopped—your preference
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 ounce of Thai basil

About 30 minutes prior to mealtime, season chicken with sea salt and black garlic. If you made fresh stock, use tongs to pull the vegetables from the hot liquid and then add the chicken legs and thighs. If you are using boxed stock, heat it over the fire and add chicken.

Heat a cast-iron pan over the coals. Add enough oil to coat the pan. Gently add the shiitake caps, bok choy and the chicken breast, skin side down. Get a hard sear on everything and add an ounce or 2 of broth. Cook until done.

While the chicken is cooking, crack a hole in the top of the eggs and place them, hole side up, in the coals. (If you do not make a hole, the egg will explode. Schaeffer learned this the hard way.) Cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Once cool, peel the eggs. (You can also boil the eggs or fry them sunny side up.)

When the chicken is completely cooked, add soba noodles to broth. Cook until soft. Ladle the noodles, broth and chicken into bowls. Slice the chicken breast and fan the slices over the noodles with bok choy and eggs. Top with Thai basil and serve.

Adobe Stock/zoryanchik

Chicken Curry

(Serves 2)

James Beard Award nominee Matthew Kern is in love with his Dutch oven. Certainly, the chef and the pot have spent a lot of quality time together. At least four times a year, Kern camps with friends in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.

For this dish, he prefers a 10-inch Dutch oven, which he places on top of evenly distributed coals. “When cooking over fire, coals and embers are your friend,” Kern says. Don’t forget to keep your clean Dutch oven dry and seasoned when you’re done.

He recommends pairing the curry with a “fine Bota Box Pinot Grigio.”

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 “knob” ginger, minced
  • 1 pouch StarKist chicken
  • 2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package of Shin Ramyun spicy soup (available on Amazon.com) or 1½ tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 package of microwaveable par-cooked basmati rice
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced
  • 1 cup or two small heads of baby bok choy or Napa cabbage, sliced thin
  • ½ bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • lime

Place the Dutch oven on a 3-inch bed of hot coals away from the open flame. Add oils and wait until they are lightly smoking.

Toast shallots, garlic and ginger until they’re lightly brown. Add chicken and mushrooms and coat with the olive oil and aromatics.

Deglaze the pan with the coconut milk and water. Add the soup mix or curry paste and simmer. Once the mushrooms are soft, add the rice and remove the pot from the heat.

Portion into 2 bowls and finish with cabbage, sliced jalapeños, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Tips & Tricks

Chef Matthew Kern plans ahead when he wants to rough it. His tips:

  • Premix your recipes’ dry ingredients, such as spices or dried herbs, and put them in a wax paper sachet.
  • Place vegetables in a brown bag that later can serve as a fire starter.
  • Freeze meats for the trip.
  • Select produce with a long shelf life, such as potatoes, beets, cauliflower and broccoli.
  • Forage when you can. Kern picks fresh mint for a bourbon and river mint “smash” with maple syrup.

Not a chef? Follow Russell Tuckerman’s lead. The Trolley Square resident and camping aficionado brings freeze-dried meals, Cliff Bars and homemade granola on the trail.

As for tools, here are both campers’ suggestions:

  • A spork (a spoon with fork-like tines)
  • A good Dutch oven (keep it dry)
  • A camp stove and fuel
  • A hand towel nearby for quick cleanups
  • Tongs, a sharp knife and cutting board
  • And, most importantly, a bottle opener

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