Jon and I love camping and try to take a trip every summer. Recently we spent four days camping on Indian Lake, about 2 hours north of Albany. Our campsite was on an island about a mile off shore and was only accessible by boat. It sounded really cool when we heard about the place, but actually rowing our tent, huge duffel that I totally overpacked, Jon’s photo equipment, six gallons of water, four huge bundles of (damp) wood, sleeping bags and mats, a foldup chair, a cooler full of food and beer, and Jon’s camera wrapped in several plastic bags over to this island was scarier than we initially thought in our pre-trip excitement. We were in this little tipsy metal canoe with Jon’s camera bag tied to the boat and I was definitely freaking out that we were going to tip over and that it would all be over. We did make it there without any incident, fortunately, and were met by a rocky cliff that we had to climb to reach the campsite. Needless to say Jon did most of the lifting and I carried up stuff like the rolls of paper towels and ingredients for s’mores. The best part was that our campsite was the only one on our island, which was surprisingly huge. We were super excited when we finally got there, and our view (below) was awesome.
I haven’t had too much time off this summer and am about to start a new job, at a sister restaurant of Mas that is opening at the beginning of October. It’s called Mas (la grillade) and will focus on cooking over wood-burning fires. There won’t be any gas stoves in the kitchen – just wood burning fires and four huge grills to cook on. It’ll definitely be a departure from anything I’ve done before, and camping out was a really fun way to practice grilling over a fire, to get into the mindset of this new kitchen, and was also a nice break from work before I start the new job.
The campsite fire pit had a metal wall to keep the fire in, and a grill on one side that we used to cook the food on. We used the hot coals from the burning fire to cook dinner and kept moving them over to the grill side to heat the food. We couldn’t get the fire started on our first night because all the wood was damp from a rainstorm the night before. We tried for hours and kept getting so close, until one of us would destroy our little flame or a gust of chilly wind would blow out our kindling. It got darker and darker and Jon started getting pissed. I was ready to pack it in and eat cold marshmallows in the tent by flashlight. But Jon really wouldn’t get up and eventually (hours later) we got the fire roaring. It was really fun to celebrate over our succcess and we had an awesome first dinner of whole roast chicken that I had butterflied the night before and marinated in olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon zest. With the chicken we had grilled zucchini we bought at a roadside farmstand we passed on the way up, and an onion cooked in the ashes of the fire. Our ash-cooked onion was tender and sweet. The chicken and zucchini were charred, smoky and crispy. It was a delightful and tasty dinner, definitely better than cold marshmallows.
On our first full day on the lake, we canoed around the lake, hiked our island, and drove to a nearby farmstand to get more veggies and food for dinner. The weather was so cool, dry and clear and it was awesome being outside of the city. We also made a lunch of leftover chicken, tomatoes, thinly sliced zucchini and baby peppers. Neither of us had any phone service of any kind on this island, or even in the nearby town. I turned off my phone for one of the first times ever and didn’t even look at the time. We ate when we were hungry, got up in the morning when we were awake and went to sleep at night when we were tired. It was really weird not knowing what time it was and I got to thinking a little about how much the clock plays a role in our lives. It was nice not to think about it for a while and to make decisions based on the daylight and my stomach, and not on the digital numbers on my cell phone. Jon definitely struggled with it more than I did, especially when he was bugging out over his fantasy football team and which defense he was gonna play in one of his leagues. He almost made us drive into town to get service, and we actually stopped on the side of the road on our journey to get food one day because there was a random pocket of service there. What an internet addict.
That night for dinner we prepared a feast of salad, steak, vegetables and baked potatoes. For the salad, I halved a head of romaine lettuce and put it right on the grill, along with a sliced tomato. I also cooked a head of garlic in the ashes, like I did with the onion, until it was super soft. We did some experimenting at la grillade with grilling whole lettuces and radicchio, and I loved the grilled romaine.
When the garlic was soft, I mashed it and whisked it in with olive oil and lemon juice, which we used as the salad dressing. We topped the romaine with the grilled tomatoes and grilled corn. The salad was juicy, warm and of course smoky.
For the rest of our meal, we had grilled steaks, corn on the cob, another roasted onion and a baked potato. All the juices from the steaks were amazing and we wished we’d bought some bread to soak it up with. We cursed ourselves and stared at the soon to be wasted delicious meat juice seeping out onto our plates.
Then in a flash of camping genius, I poured all the bloody juices into the baked potato. I also mixed some more of the roasted garlic cloves into the potatoes, along with some olive oil, salt and pepper. It was a huge, awesome campfire feast. For dessert we had (multiple) s’mores and went to bed so full and happy.
Our next day of camping was filled with more adventuring and cooking, which we’ll share next week!
© 2011 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle