Just a few minutes after unloading our gear, we could hear large splashes in the surrounding lake at Crane Prairie Reservoir. It was still light out and apparently feeding time for the ospreys as they plunged in succession while they hunted for trout. I sat patiently by the lake’s bank watching the birds as they launched downward with their talons firmly clenched in front, with their wings turned towards the back on the way down to the surface of the water.
Soon thereafter a perched giant eagle, either a golden or a baby bald eagle, flew right by us on the way to a different spotting area. This was going to be a great trip.
The ride to the reservoir was well worth the trip, and incredibly varied in geology given the topology and elevation around the Cascade lakes. The volcanic make up of the area provides for diverse flora and amazing scenery.
Upon arriving to our site I noticed that the first fire ring was filled with trash by whomever had stayed there last. They had used every opportunity to inexplicably litter the area around us. As frustrating as this was on so many levels, I had no choice but to pick up their garbage and started a new fire ring by reconstructing a nearby old ring almost from scratch. It was actually great practice so in the end I didn’t mind as much.
Sun-dried tomato ricotta gnocchi with pesto and toasted pine nuts
There is nothing like fresh home-made pasta, so for the first night’s meal I made gnocchi right at camp. It is incredibly easy to make as long as you bring all the necessary ingredients. One can also prepare the dough ahead of time before shaping and slicing the gnocchi during prep time.
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Pack some more for rolling
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ cup of fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp of nutmeg
- 4 tbsp of pine nuts, toasted on a skillet
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the pesto ahead of time or use the store-bought kind.
Cover the sun-dried tomatoes with water in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, remove from the heat and allow to rest for a few minutes until it softens. Drain, squeeze any excess water and chop the tomatoes into small pieces.
Allow the skillet to heat up before adding the pine nuts, then toast them for less than 5 minutes depending on the intensity of the fire. Once browned, set aside. Fill a pot with lightly salted water for the pasta, and let it come to a boil.
In a large bowl, mix in the flour, egg, chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp of salt, pepper, nutmeg, and mix throughly until all the ingredients are fully integrated as it takes shape into a loose dough. Don’t add all of the chopped tomato as you’ll want to use some of it for later. Taste the dough to make sure it’s seasoned properly.
Cut the dough in half and transfer one of the halves to a lightly floured flat surface (in my case the top of our cooler). Roll each half into a ¾ inch diameter log and cut the dough into ¾ inch thick slices. Do the same to the second half.
Add the gnocchi slices to the boiling water, and move the pot to a part of the fire with less heat so they can cook until they become plump before floating to the top. This should take about 5-7 minutes at most. Remove the gnocchi with a spoon (ideally a slotted one) and transfer to a colander to drain. In the past if I didn’t have a colander handy, I cut one of the ends of a large ziploc bag (not large enough for them to fall through) before dropping the gnocchi right into it so the water could drain out of the bag.
Place a skillet right on the fire, once hot, add the butter and olive oil in the pan and heat up until the butter starts to brown. Add the gnocchi, salt to taste and a pinch of pepper. Allow to brown on all sides while tossing occasionally.
Move the skillet to a part of the fire pit with no direct heat and add the pesto and the remaining chopped tomato. Toss until the gnocchi is fully coated, then plate. Sprinkle each serving with the toasted pine nuts.
While I absolutely love going on hikes or fishing while at camp, I also enjoy preparing food over a period of time. While the following comfort recipe took a bit longer to prepare, mostly due to the preparation of the broth, it was well worth the effort.
Chicken and seafood jambalaya
- ½ celery rib
- 2 shallots
- ½ of a carrot
- half a fistful of fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 skinless chicken thighs with bone in. About 1½ lbs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 small andouille sausage, sliced
- 1 tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning
- 1 celery rib, chopped.
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cup dry long grain rice
- 1 8 ounce can of tomato juice
- 2 cups of store-bought or home-made chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 12 fresh scallops
- 6 green onions, chopped
Add some water to a pot and bring to a boil, then add a touch of salt, ½ rib of celery, the shallots, and ½ of a carrot.
When the water comes to a boil, insert the chicken thighs and simmer in low heat until the chicken is ready. As the broth simmers, remove any excess foamy fat from the surface of the liquid. The chicken should take about 30 minutes in low heat to allow for the broth to really soak in all the flavors.
Remove the chicken, set aside and let it cool for about 30 minutes. At this point, shred the meat into thin fibers.
Let the dutch oven heat up on direct fire before adding the olive oil. Drop the sliced andouille sausage into the oil and cook until the slices brown on both sides. It should release additional oils in the process and after 3 minutes add in the all the chopped vegetables (including one half of the chopped scallions), as well as the Cajun seasoning and bay leaves. Stir occasionally until the vegetables start to soften and color.
At this point, add in the garlic, and in my case I used some sousvide garlic confit, which my friend Kyle gave me as a gift a few weeks prior.
Add the rice and stir to coat. Stir in the tomato sauce, the shredded chicken, andouille, and broth, before bringing to a soft boil. Make sure to always taste the liquid to make sure is properly seasoned before closing the dutch oven with the lid. Let it cook for about 30 minutes in medium heat.
For this recipe I seasoned and cooked the scallops half way before inserting them in the pot. After the 30 minutes are up I pressed the fresh shrimp right into the rice, followed by the scallops. Remove the lid and allow to cook for about 10 more minutes on the same medium heat.
As with any traditional jambalaya, you must sprinkle on some green onions at the time of serving. And there you have it, a delicious campfire jambalaya!