You probably wont see Stephen Weston of Middleton inhaling a bowl of Top Ramen on a mountain top, but it might be an ingredient in one of his cool camp recipes.
Weston is author of In the Wild Chef, a book of camping recipes.
Weston learned about cooking while working in restaurants and describes himself as a rabid outdoor enthusiast.
He blended his outdoor pursuits and cooking passion into a collection of recipes that are both delicious and practical. You dont have to tote your whole kitchen along on a camp out to use his recipes, but if you want to, hes got recipes for you, too.
We caught up with Weston between trips and put him on the grill, so to speak, about his new book.
Q: Zimo and I have totally different philosophies about camp cooking. He likes big, elaborate meals, while I like to pop open a can of chili. Your book appeals to both camps. How did you manage that?
A: I go with many types of groups in the backcountry. The peak baggers, the backpackers, the river rafters, etc. They all want something different to eat! So there are two ways of looking at it, and I tried to capture both.
Can Group: In the 1970s I used to eat chili from a can cooked on Sterno. Mighty tasty in a snow cave. And when there is no energy to cook, easy was the answer.
Gourmet Group: If you are backpacking or climbing peaks. A great meal lifts your spirits and leaves you happy, happy, happy.
Truly, at the end of the day, theres room at the (pic-nic) table for everyone!
Q: Youre not afraid to use camp staples like ramen noodles, canned tuna and jerky in some surprising ways, such as your tuna spaghetti. Tell me about a few doomed experiments that didnt make the recipe book.
A: Heck, these are some of the doomed experiments. I just had to keep dickering with them until we got them right. Now, who you really should be asking would be my guinea pig friends who subjected themselves to the first and second iterations. Peanut Butter Trout, anyone?
Q: You have a lot of recipes in here, which tells me you spend a lot of time camp cooking, or a lot of time experimenting at home. Where were most of these created, and what do all good camp meals have in common?
A: The inspiration for all the recipes comes from the home.
Thats the problem with camping food, is it tastes like camping food. There is also the freeze-dried meal no thank you to consider. I wanted to bring the home kitchen, the home taste, to folks in the field. But they had to follow the basic camping/hiking rules as well: Fast, light and tasty.
The common denominator would be making it easy for packing on your back and full-on gourmet if you are car camping or river rafting.
Q: Do you find the term dirtbag chef offensive? Explain your answer for extra points.
A: Offensive, no. It actually would be an honor! Cooking tasty vittles with little or nothing on hand? I can do that! Actually, I often tell folks that I am a Backpacking Gourmet snob, so keep the beanie weenies for someone else. Were having my tiramisu at 10,000 feet!
Q: OK, heres some harsh criticism from the redneck research department. Where are the trout recipes? We only found one, Franklins Alpine Fish Fry, and it didnt specifically call for trout. It did call for fillets, which is hard to do with an 8-inch brook trout. We expected to see deer or elk as an ingredient in cervidae finger steaks, but it called for beef. Need we remind you that youre trying to sell this book in Idaho? Your defense, please.
A: Why are we keeping an 8-incher? We have filleted trout in the backcountry and ate like kings. If its a little brookie then throw it in the pan with flour or cornmeal mix. If I know we are going to go for a big haul, I will put some breading in a sandwich bag ahead of time.
People in Idaho? They seem to be begging me to make the wild jalapeno mushroom salmon and rice recipe.
Cervidae? Normally if you are in hunting camp you probably are not eating your harvest, but deer and elk meat is a perfect option for this recipe.
Q: OK, since you survived that, heres a softball question: Tell us your perfect day outdoors. Where are you, what are you doing, and whats for dinner?
A: Upper Norton Lake outside of Ketchum in the Smoky Mountains. Sausage Ragu Penne Pasta and pairing it with some Huston Vineyards Chicken Dinner red wine followed by Camp Tiramisu for dessert.
If I have any energy, I will throw out the line and try to catch breakfast. Roger Phillips: 377-6215
ABOUT IN THE WILD CHEF
Bonus fun: Spotting Idaho scenery in the photos.
Publisher: Smoke Alarm Press.
For more details: inthewildchef.com.
Available at: Sierra Trading Post, Barnes & Noble,
Boise Army Navy Store, Black Bear Diner, Huston Vineyards, The Rubaiyat Book Store, The Benchmark and The Sportsman Warehouse.