My husband, Randy, introduced me to backpacking and camping in the Rocky Mountains, and I loved it. I loved being surrounded by the forest, pitching a tent, building the campfire, cooking our meals over live fire, breathing in the smells of damp earth mixed with pine, the peace and quiet of it all, and gazing at the night sky filled with more stars than I had ever seen.
We introduced our sons to hiking and camping in Colorado at an early age, and as soon as they were old enough, Randy took them on their first backpacking trip. One of my favorite photos of our sons shows them heading off for an overnight trip – tall, lean, middle-school-aged boys, dwarfed by heavy packs – one wearing his father’s old, sweat-stained suede cowboy hat. After each backpacking trip, they’d arrive home dirty, smelly, and eager to share stories of their adventures.
Boy Scout camping filled the space between summer backpacking trips. Both sons were active in Scouting, and one became an Eagle Scout, so weekend camping trips became part of the rhythm of our lives.
Summer is the perfect time to introduce your family to camping. For little ones, backyard camping offers an exciting, yet managed scenario, but Randy reminded me that turning off sprinkler systems is essential for a successful night out. Texas has a multitude of state parks with camping areas within an easy drive of Dallas, so whether your favorite night out involves car-camping, pitching a tent, renting a cabin, or RV camping, there are options that fit your family’s idea of fun and level of experience.
I’ve always thought cooking outdoors is one of the best parts of camping. Food seems to taste better outside, whether it’s hot off the grill at a park, cooked in a cast iron skillet over a campfire, or prepared on a propane camp stove. The key to success is in selecting hearty, easy-to-prepare recipes with ingredients that travel well. My recipe for Cast-Iron Bison Strip Steaks with Western Skillet Potatoes is one such example. Whether you prepare it on your kitchen stove and enjoy it on the patio, on a backyard grill, or while sitting around a campfire, this one-pan meal tastes like the great outdoors.
For additional recipes and entertaining tips from cookbook author and public television chef Christy Rost visit christyrost.com.
Cast Iron Bison Strip Steaks with Western Skillet Potatoes
Skillet Potatoes Ingredients:
• 1 large poblano pepper, rinsed and dried
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 pounds red potatoes, rinsed and cut into wedges (about 8 medium)
• ½ cup red onion, peeled and chopped
• 1 large yellow bell pepper, rinsed, seeded, and chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven on broil, place the poblano pepper on a small baking sheet, and broil 10 minutes, turning the pepper over as the skin blackens. When the pepper is soft, remove it from the oven, transfer it to a plastic zipper bag, seal, and allow the pepper to steam. When the pepper has cooled, peel the skin, split it open with a sharp knife, and discard the stem and seeds. Chop the pepper and set it aside.
Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat or over a campfire, add the oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes and onions, and sauté until the potatoes begin to soften – about 10 minutes. Add chopped poblano and bell pepper, and cook 5 minutes more, or until the potatoes are knife tender. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, and cover to keep warm.
Bison Strip Steaks Ingredients:
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 3 8-ounce bison strip steaks, 1-inch thickness
Melt butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave oven at 50 percent power. Spoon off the white solids and discard. Set the remaining clarified butter aside. If camping, substitute canola or olive oil.
In a small bowl, stir together salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Season both side of the meat. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels, pour in 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. lace the meat in the skillet and cook 2-3 minutes until it browns. Add 1 to 2 additional teaspoons of clarified butter, turn the meat over, and cook 2-3 minutes more on each side, for a total of 8 -10 minutes cooking. Bison should be served medium rare for maximum tenderness. During the final minutes of cooking, move the meat to one side of the pan and return the potatoes to the pan to reheat. When the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and keep it warm. To serve, slice the meat at an angle and serve with Western potatoes.
Yield: 3 to 6 servings