You probably won’t see Stephen Weston of Middleton inhaling a bowl of Top Ramen on a mountaintop, 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 to cook 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 don’t have to tote your whole kitchen along on a campout to use his recipes, but if you want to, he’s got gourment recipes for you, too.
Weston shared his camping tips, philosophy on camp cooking and more. You can buy his book for $22 at local stores, or direct from westonwild.blogspot.com, which also has great camp cooking tips and updates on his adventures.
Q: Some campers like big, elaborate meals, and others like to put a hot dog on a stick. 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, there’s room at the picnic table for everyone!
You’re 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 didn’t make the recipe book.
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?
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?
The inspiration for all the recipes comes from the home. The problem with camping food is it tastes like camping food. 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.
Do you find the term “dirtbag chef” offensive? Explain your answer for extra points.
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. We’re having my tiramisu at 10,000 feet.
OK, here’s some harsh criticism from the redneck research department. Where are the trout recipes? We only found one, Franklin’s Alpine Fish Fry, and it didn’t 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 you’re trying to sell these books in Idaho? Your defense, please.
Why are we keeping an 8-incher? We have filleted trout in the backcountry and ate like kings. If it’s 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. The book is now in seven countries, and not all have access to trout, but they all have access to fish.
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.
OK, since you survived that, here’s a softball question: Tell us your perfect day outdoors. Where are you, what are you doing, and what’s for dinner?
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.