Welcome to Vermont State Parks Cooks, an exciting new program geared towards helping you enjoy cooking over your campfire at Vermont’s 55 beautiful state parks. All summer, we’ll be sharing creative recipes that can be prepared with minimal equipment, and which make use of the bounty of ingredients made and grown by the state’s farmers and food producers.
Each week, we’ll release a set of themed recipes and photographs. We’ll also be creating cooking videos, printed cooking pamphlets, and online resources. Throughout the season, we’ll offer cooking classes at some of the most popular parks. Have a burning question? Email us at email@example.com, and we’ll help you find the answer.
Suzanne Podhaizer is a chef, journalist, cooking educator, and erstwhile goose farmer. She was the first food editor of Seven Days newspaper, owned Salt Café — a farm-to-table restaurant in Montpelier — and is a founder of Sel de la Terre, a multifaceted food education, multimedia, and consulting business that offers public and private cooking classes, recipe development, and pop-up dinners.
This spring, Suzanne reached out to the Vermont State Parks about collaborating on a project centered around campfire cooking, and VT State Parks Cooks was born!
Find us here at and on Instagram at @vtstateparkscooks
From Suzanne This Week: Breakfasts
There's something wonderful about waking up with the sun and cooking a robust breakfast over a campfire. That food is what will keep you going while you hike, swim, dance, canoe, swat mosquitos, or whatever else it is you'll be doing as you enjoy Vermont's State Parks.
We'll tackle coffee-brewing later in the summer – that is an art in and of itself – but for now, here are some hearty breakfast dishes.
Pro tip: In these recipes we will use T as the abbreviation for tablespoon and t for teaspoon.
Plantain Pancakes with Berries & Syrup
These delicious pancakes are gluten-free, and if you use alternative milk, and oil as the fat, they will be vegan, too! Because it's unlikely that you'll be able to run a blender at your campsite, it would be wise to make the plantain purée at home, freeze it, and bring it along in your cooler. Then, you can thaw it and add the other ingredients, when you're camping. Recipes for batters and doughs rely on correct ratios, so unlike most of our recipes, this one actually includes quantities. These can be served with honey and fresh berries; maple syrup; jelly or jam; or any other toppings you would like.
- 4 Green Plantains, pureed
- 4 Eggs
- 4 Flour
- 4 T. oil or melted butter
- Milk or alternative milk until the batter is the consistency of pancake batter
- 2 pinches salt
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- Mix together all ingredients until the mixutre is uniform.
- Heat fat in a pan over the fire, and when it's hot, make a test pancake. If it cooks too quickly, move it to a cooler part of the fire. If it cooks too slowly, move it to a hotter part of the fire. Also, try your test pancake for seasoning and adjust the seasonings as desired.
- Cook your pancakes and top with desired toppings.
Smoky Skirt Steak & Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes
Skirt steak is the perfect cut to prepare over a fire. It's thin and cooks quickly, but it's also tender and has a nice amount of fat. Sometimes you can find local skirt steak at farmstands. There are also lots of amazing folks in Vermont who sell their eggs at small-town stores – sometimes gas stations even have local eggs – so keep your eyes peeled as you shop!
It's hard to get the proportion of salt right in a dry rub, so even though I mix together all of the other seasonings, I keep the salt separate, and sprinkle it on, on its own.
- Tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
- Skirt steak (if you can't find skirt, use any kind of steak you like, and adjust the cooking instructions accordingly)
- Smoked paprika
- Chipolte powder
- Garlic powder
- Black pepper
- Salt, or smoked salt
- Rub the tomatoes with a little olive oil - or if they're cherry tomatoes, toss them in olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Larger tomatoes should be cut in half and placed cut side down in a pan or on a piece of foil with the edges turned up to hold juices. Place tomatoes over the fire.
- Remove the steak from its package and pat dry wtih paper towels*
- Combine the paprika, chipolte, garlic powder and black pepper to make a dry rub. Use the most paprika and the least balck pepper. Add any other ingredients that you enjoy (cumin?).
- Rub the blended spices onto the steak. Then, sprinkle each side liberally with salt.
- Keep an eye on the tomatoes, you want them to be nice and hot and allowing them to get a little brown on the edges is even better.
- Let the steak sit for around 10 minutes. If the tomatoes finish during that time, remove them from the heat.
- Place the steak on the grate or cook it on a piece4 of foil. If you do the latter, turn up the edges to hold the drippings, as you did with the tomatoes. I prefer to use foil because I hate for any delicious meat juices to be lost to the fire.
- Oil a pan that is appropriate to the number of eggs you wish to cook and place it over the heat. When hot, crack in the eggs and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
- When the steak is brown on the first side, flip it and cook the second ide. Because skirt steak is thin you'll need to watch it closely.
- Monitor the tomatoes, the eggs and the steak. As each one reaches the doneness you prefer, remove it from the heat. The steak should reast for arouind 5 minutes before you cut it.
- Cut the steak thinly and top wiht tomato and eggs
* Why do you dry the meat? Because if you don't, the first thing that happens when it hits the heat is create steam, and steam inhibits browning. To get a delicious brown crust on the meat, it's best to start with a nice, dry exterior.
Cheesy Grits with Scallion
This super flexible dish is a great base for breakfast. Serve it with bacon; sausage; fried eggs; sautéed mushrooms; wilted greens; roasted tomatoes; or anything else that pleases you. The usual ratio of water to grits is around 4 to 1. When I'm cooking over a fire, unless I'll be watching the grits like a hawk, I use just a little extra liquid.
- Water, milk or stock
- Butter or oil
- Seasonings as desired
- Grits (coarsely ground conmeal)
- Cheddar cheese or another chees you prefer
- In a saucepan, combine the cooking liquid of your choice with a couple tablespoons of fat and a sprinkling of salt. Bring it to a simmer over the fire.
- Whisk in the grits (if you don't have a whisk, use a fork) and add any spices or seasonings that you'd like.
- Simmer until the mixture is smooth and cooked through. When you sample a sponful the texture should be pleasing and not at all gritty.
- Meanwhile, slice the scallion. I like to use both the white and the green parts.
- While the grits are cooking, you can also grate or slice the cheese.
- After your remove the grits from the heat, stir in the cheese and the scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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