Canyons and Chefs Most-Loved Backcountry Recipes
A word from the Fireside Chef
In my years of travel and travail through mountains, deserts,Michelin- starred restaurants, backyard barbecues, culinary schools, canyons, parks, summits, and walk-in refrigerators, I have learned one thing: Cooking matters. This is an overarching idea that covers many different philosophical subsets: good food matters, good company matters, happiness matters, smell matters, taste matters, sight matters, texture matters, memories matter. All of this coalesces into why food is so important in our lives. It is not simply a vehicle for sustenance. The renewed farm-to-table food movement of the past decade has proven that human nature rises above TV dinners and microwaved hot dogs. Internally, we are all chefs, and we all crave to cook and eat food that is fresh and has some measure of humanity within it. Being phased out are the days of the industrialized food conglomerate of processed “cheese” and mystery meat patties, and back are the days of fresh produce, locally sourced meats, artisan breads and cheeses, and the rekindling of the Farmer’s Market.
Nowhere can this movement be found more evident than when one cooks in the outdoors. Gone are the days of beanie-weenies and food-on-a-stick, and in is the day of the Fireside Chef: a person who cares about the food they are serving, a person who has a deep connection with their surroundings, a profound respect for nature, and an understanding of how the stars have aligned so that we may be here to create and enjoy gorgeous and delicious food. If you can, take some time to ponder the profundity of geologic time and the steps that were necessary throughout the course of history to put this power into your hands. Cook on my friends: May your coals be hot, your drinks be cold, your company welcome, and your experienceunforgettable.
Enjoy our 5 most-loved campfire/dutch oven recipes!
*House Seasoning = 1 part Kosher Salt, ¼ part coarse-ground black pepper, Dash of mesquite
>Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Caramelized Apples, Bacon, and Sage
Short ribs are the second pair of ribs on a cow that lie justbeneath the main pair. They have a rich flavor and tender nature, with an extravagant amount of meat for such a small bone.
1 lb. bacon, chopped
3 lbs. (12) short ribs, trimmed
½ cup bourbon
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups beef stock
1 cup apple juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 12 oz. can lager-style beer
10 leaves fresh sage, chopped
Crisp the bacon in a dutch oven until golden brown. Remove from the pot, and reserve ½ of the fat in the pot, discarding the rest (it’s great to save for later). Season the short ribs with house seasoning, and add to the pot, searing until browned on all sides. Remove ribs from pan, and deglaze with bourbon, reducing by ½ . Add more fat, and add onion, carrots, garlic, and apples. Saute slowly until golden brown, add back bacon, and cover with beef stock, apple juice, and vinegar. Add chopped sage leaves, cover the dutch oven, and place in the simmer pit for 4-5 hours. Remove from the pit and take out the ribs. With a slotted spoon, fish out apples, carrots, onions, garlic, and sage and spoon over ribs. Pour a small amount of braising liquid over the ribs and serve.
>Sonoran BBQ and Pepper Bacon Burger
This one could really be called the Sonoran Smokehouse, as it is truly our high desert version of a burger that can be found on burger joint menus. Smoky, delicious, just what you need.
For the Burger:
1 lb. 80/20 Ground Beef
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
For the BBQ Sauce:
1 c. Good-Quality Ketchup
½ c. Apple Cider Vinegar
⅔ c Light Brown Sugar, tightly packed
¼ c worcestershire sauce
¼ whole-grain mustard
2 Chipotle Peppers in adobo, finely minced
1 c. beef stock
House Seasoning, to taste
Combine all ingredients, whisking together. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low heat heat until it reaches a thickened, saucy consistency. Cool.
2 Jalapeno-Cheddar Burger Rolls
8 slices pepper bacon
2 Poblano peppers, roasted, skinned, and seeded
4 slices smoked gouda
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
4 slices Roma tomatoes
6 pickle chips
Fry the bacon until golden brown and crispy. Liberally season the patties with house seasoning and place on a hot, oiled grill directly over the coals. Rotate for grill marks, and flip when edges are crispy and browned. Place peppers, then bacon on patties, and top with smoked cheddar cheese. While cheese is melting, toast buns until crispy, then remove from the grill and slather with sauce. When cheese is melted, place the patties on the bottom bun, and garnish the top bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles.
>Grill-Blackened Halibut with Roasted Garlic and Chile Salsa
Blacking spice is typically used when searing fish or meat with oil. Halibut is a flaky whitefish that stands up well to the bold flavors in the blacking spice and salsa. The salsa for this recipe takes some time, so it is wise to plan ahead.
For the Blacking Spice:
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. House seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. Mexican oregano
For the Fish:
4 6oz. Alaskan Cod fillets, skinned, scaled, and pinboned
Apply desired amount of spice to cover the entire fillet. Add to hot, very well-oiled grill (cod may stick if grill is not properly heated and seasoned) over the coals, turning to obtain deep grill marks until the blacking spice is black. Transfer to indirect heat side, and cook through.
For the Salsa:
1 whole head of garlic, cut off bottom so that cloves are exposed
1 tsp olive oil
2 poblano chilies, roasted, seeded, and chopped
2 tomatoes, halved, grilled, and chopped
1 small red onion, halved, grilled, and chopped
2 limes for juicing
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
House seasoning to taste
Enclose garlic with oil in aluminum foil, place on the grill over low heat for 45mins-1hr.
While garlic is roasting, roast chilies according to procedure, and grill onions and tomatoes until blistered with grill marks on all sides. Remove everything from the grill, and let cool slightly. Remove garlic from foil, and squeeze cloves out of skins onto a cutting board and chop roughly. Chop your remaining vegetables, and place in mixing bowl. Finish with lime juice and chopped cilantro, and season to taste with house seasoning. The salsa should be chunky. Spoon over cooked fish.
>Spicy Pistachio-Rubbed Elk Tenderloin with Savory Cactus-Blueberry Compote
This is a dish we sold quite a bit of at an acclaimed restaurant in Vail, CO during ski season. The tart spicy-sweetness of the compote cuts nicely with nutty, spicy pistachio rub, and the unctuous, earthy flavor of elk.
4 8oz Elk Tenderloin Steaks
1 C. Pistachios, shelled and ground into a semi-fine powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp ancho powder
½ tsp mesquite powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Compote:
12 oz. organic blueberries
3 fresh nopal cactus paddles, spines removed (have the butcher do this), chop to size of berries
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
2 tbsp sugar
1 c. beef stock
1 tbsp lime juice
Begin the compote first. it will take at least one hour. Roll the blueberries in the sugar and set aside. Place your small dutch oven over the fire and heat until a drop of oil produces smoke. Add the cactus and peppers, season and saute until beginning to brown. Add sugared blueberries, reduce heat (move away from coals/flames), and saute until blueberries begin to break down and turn slightly syrupy. Add in beef stock and simmer until mixture becomes slightly thick, coating the back of a spoon. Add lime juice, and season to taste. Set aside, but keep warm.
Rub the elk steaks liberally with the pistachio spice. Be sure your grill is hot, and your coals are gleaming. Oil the grill, and place steaks directly over the coals flat-side (butchered-side) down. Rotate 45 degrees to obtain grill marks, then flip, obtaining grill marks on the other side. Cook to desired temperature (120 is rare, 160 is well done). Dress with compote.
>Desert Canyon S’mores
Whoever conceived of this toasted mallow and chocolate sandwich should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. Spoiler alert, it was me! This recipe makes it true canyon country-style with a sweet and spicy prickly pear sauce, which is slow-simmered and used to dress the chocolate-marshmallowy goodness.
Stash of Graham Crackers
Stash of Chocolate Bars
Stash of Marshmallows
Prickly Pear Sauce
1/2 c. Prickly Pear Syrup (Cheri’s Desert Harvest is our go-to)
2 mangoes, peeled, cored, and rough chopped
1 c. pomegranate juice
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1 habanero pepper, seeds removed, finely minced
House seasoning to taste
Over low heat add mangoes to dutch oven or small saucepan with a small amount of oil. Add sugar and stir until begging to brown. Add pepper and continue to saute until brown and caramelized. Cover with pomegranate juice and simmer until reduced by ½. Add prickly pear syrup, season to taste. Enjoy!
Bonus Side Dishes
>Dutch Oven Cauliflower au Gratin
This is an incredibly flavorful, comforting and easy dish; especially under the stars, by the fire with a glass of wine or snifter of fine scotch. Be careful of heat control, you do not want to burn the bottom.
2 heads fresh cauliflower, broken into reasonably-sized pieces
2 cup heavy cream
2 cups good-quality cheese (none of that yellow stuff; I like a blend of smoked gruyere and parmigiano-reggiano)
House Seasoning, to taste
Good quality hot sauce to taste (Arizona Gunslinger is quite tasty)
Oil for cooking
Place dutch oven over the fire and heat. Toss cauliflower in oil, and season with house seasoning. Place in the duthc oven and cook slowly, until caulilfower florets have begun to take on a deep brown (this will take 30-45 mins). Pour cream over the cauli, and the cheese, and cover with top. Put on a relatively cool part of the grill, so as not to burn. Check and stir, if necessary. The gratin is done when all the cheese is melted and has thickened the cream, perhaps 30-40 minutes depending on the grill temperature. Season to taste and serve.
Marinated and Grilled Asparagus
Simple, easy, and delicious. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and grilling it gives a wonderful, smoky flavor that pairs well with almost anything.
3 Bunches Asparagus (good, fat ones), trimmed
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 “inch” of ginger, grated (this should equal 1 tbsp)
Combine all ingredients and let stand for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 4 hours. On a good, hot grill, lay down the marinated stalks, do not allow them to overlap. Grill for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness. The stalk should be tender, still snap when bent.