While this dish is primarily cooked trail side on a open fire, that backyard fire pit can be a great substitute transforming into a unique exotic meal sure to amaze. Sometimes just a little change like this reminds us of how special dining al-fresco should be and serve not only a hunger pain but also that need we all have to get out of the house at times.
Yet how do I start? Start to tell the tail of why such an elaborate set up. I have to admit to a subtle personality flaw, I am a snob. Not as an individual, but rather regarding many aspects in my life. For those of you that know me this may seem a bit hypocritical seeing how I routinely find myself spending nights either hot, cold, damp or just plain muddy. This combined with a few little pleasures (like a trail side hot shower) keep me from going native streaking through the forest under a full moon.
First vice, Coffee. I don’t mean a cup of joe from a dough-nut shop with perhaps a pump from some plastic housed chemically infused simple syrup. I am talking about real top shelf, fresh ground, steeped perfectly and strained through all natural fiber nectar of the gods (this obsession will be covered in a future article). Second vice are meals, and like the first I enjoy simple items brought to a higher level then just plain camp fire food. Anyone can bring a pack of weenies but only the truly sick and obsessed will source hand crafted sausages, pair them with a beautiful full bodied chianti and bake bread in the fire. I’m that person, classically trained yet gently by an amazing lady, my mother!
Many of my adventures are based around multiple days of overland off-pavement travel that has us completely off the grid so to speak. At times I have found myself two days travel from a main road with no way to get help, so you can image that when I say you have to be self sustained, I mean both personally as well as mechanically (the vehicle). Most wouldn’t enjoy such a rough travel as their form of relaxation but to me this is pure nirvana. At night after an exhausting day of breaking trails and covered in bug bites this recipe can brighten any sprit and send you to bed with a satisfied soul.
I wouldn’t be telling you the whole story if I didn’t inform you about the fire you need. At home you can use a chimney starter with some natural lump charcoal to make your bed instead of spending an hour building it from burning down logs. But remember cooking over indirect heat is always the most consistent for the beginner and will yield a safer cooking area. You will also need to vary the height of your pot over the coals to get the desired heat but with a little trial you will get it spot on. A fire teepee with a chain and
hook is always fun to have around.
First start by chopping up all the vegetables into small pieces as well as portioning your meat selection to cover all in the group. With a searing hot cast iron dutch oven (I prefer these as they retain more heat) put in 1 tbsp of butter along with the canola oil. Once to temp drop in the pork pieces and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Cook these stirring frequently to avoid over cooking. After the pork is cooked just before finished and remove from the pot and set aside covered to rest. Place the remaining butter in the pot with the pork drippings as well as the onion and bell peppers.
Unlike most chefs I don’t continually salt my dish while cooking as I feel it only increases the overall sodium content and I prefer a cleaner finish that can be seasoned to taste later. At this point you could add a crushed clove of garlic or too for a more european taste but my kids don’t like it so it gets left out. Continue to stir the onions and peppers till they are cooked through. Next you will add the smoked paprika and cumin, stir till incorporated.
You will need to create a rue next so sprinkle in the flour a little at time to avoid clumping and make sure that it is completely mixed into the butter mixture.
All of the chicken stock is added then brought to a slight simmer (remember this recipe can also be made vegetarian just by changing a few items). Once the mixture is brought together you can add the corn. While overlanding we carry ears of corn on the husk for ease and these will need to be cooked then shaved off prior. Creamed corn in the can is also a great secret ingredient just remember to back off the half and half amount later.
Once the corn is in you can start by adding the half and half till you reach a color that best describes your taste in creamy soups, most times I enjoy just enough cream to let me know its there and no more. This next part can be a bit tricky on a open fire but keep a pair of good welding gloves nearby and you should have to issues with a swinging pot.
Start to add small handfuls of the cheese stirring constantly till you have all the cheese in and incorporated. Don’t waste time get that pot off the fire as the cheese and cream will start to curdle if they get to hot. Portion out your pork on skewers and hold over the hot coals of the fire to put that last crisp on them. And finally ladle out your chowder into bowls, dress with a small pile of scallions in the middle and
sprinkle a bit of extra smoked paprika around it, dust with sea salt and coarse black pepper and with a couple of slices of good sourdough.
This dish is so versatile, you are able to rethink it on a cold winter day, substituting the pork for large chunks of a firm white fish, adding garlic and served over the top of fresh biscuit halves with a great chardonnay.
For many years I have enjoyed wowing my friends and trail mates with dishes like this with hours of talk recapping the day by the fire but now find myself showing sharing these experiences with my children and creating new memories during the next stage in my life. Hopefully they will remember their times with dad and realize that not all meals need to come from a kitchen and no matter where you are you can have a truly amazing meal that can immediately transport you back to a wonderful memory long since past.
Corn Chowder with Roast Pork
1 Red & Orange Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Onion (Vidalia if available)
2 Pork Chops (firm white fish works well also)
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Stick Butter
2 Bags of Frozen Corn (or 5 ears)
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
3 Cups Chicken Stock
1 to 2 Cups Half & Half
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Grated Monterey Cheese
2 Scallions Diced (garnish)
1 Loaf Rustic Style Bread (biscuits)