Get the Family and Go Camping!

By Gail M. Kearns

“There is no Wi-fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection.” 
-- Unknown


     We’ve just celebrated Memorial Day, so summer is ON! What better time to connect with your grown children and grandchildren than by encountering nature, and the unexpected, all together. Apparently, lots of people agree because the 2018 North American Camping Report estimates that there are now more than 77 million households who camp and they are doing so more often.

Camp is a co-op
     It’s a great bonding experience because it takes the whole family to make the camp work. Everyone has a role, everyone pitches in, and everyone interacts much more easily than if they were staying in a hotel or an Airbnb. From setting up camp and helping out in an emergency to cooking food and eating together to building a campfire, the stress simply seems to melt away. Besides, it’s kind of hard to complain or feel annoyed when you’re having fun. 
     Playing games and teaching the younger generation (or their teaching you) a new skill is also gratifying, whether it’s Scrabble, badminton, or throwing Frisbees. Even though you are in a strange place with wildlife in the area, made larger by a child's imagination, the ring of light surrounding the campfire is calming and a safe haven for all. And the family is so much closer because TV and electronic devices are taking up no one’s attention. If you must bring your cell phone, put it on silent and stick it in the bottom of your duffel bag! Remember, you’re building memories here.

Cook it up
     I started camping with my parents when I was nine years old. In the intervening years, I’ve struck out into the wild and semi-wild over and over. Along the way I co-wrote a camping cookbook titled The Gourmet Girls Go Camping Cookbook: Amazing Meals Straight from Your Campfire. Denise Woolery, our executive chef on the project, is also an avid camper. She and I both feel that food tastes so much better when you eat it outside under the trees and at night under the stars. All of our recipes can be adapted for one’s RV, backyard barbecue, or even the home kitchen. Here’s a great Dutch oven favorite from our book that can be adapted to a grill or cook stove. I recently made it at Carpinteria State Beach on a Volcano grill and used a cast iron Le Creuset as the pan. Bon Appetite! 

Camping Coq Au Vin

Serves 4

6 slices bacon, diced into ½-inch pieces
4 chicken leg quarters or 2 whole small chickens cut into 4 pieces
1 pound button mushrooms (white or cremini)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces pearl onions (see tip below)
½ cup shallots, minced
4 medium clove garlics, crushed
3 medium carrots, diced
3 cups of dry red wine (we like a fairly good Pinot Noir)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth

Prepare a coal fire for Dutch oven cooking at 350˚F. Place Dutch oven over 12 hot coals and fry bacon until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels and let drain. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken skin side down and cook until browned. Add mushrooms to Dutch oven, stirring frequently, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add pearl onions, shallots, garlic, and carrots and cook until lightly browned. Add bacon, wine, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Stir in stock. Bring liquid back to a simmer. Place lid on pan, add required number of coals to top of lid, and cook for 1 hour. 

Tip: Frozen pearl onions can be tossed into your cooler and used in place of fresh. Keep them in the coldest part of the cooler, and if they’ve defrosted a bit by the time you use them, that’s okay. Just drain and add them to the Dutch oven about halfway through the cooking process.

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