May 29th, 2008

SCA Device

Camp Cooking

Camp Cooking (aka "Frying a Chicken in Twelve Uneasy Steps")

We've been going to camping events for a few years and we've made some investments in our gear. Not where you'd really expect it, perhaps; our tent is still a little dome easy-up that we've borrowed from Kit's sisters.

No, we have a proper camp kitchen. This is one of the things that lures me out to camping events: they let me cook. Camping itself is, let's face it, rather an unhappy affair. You sleep just above the ground, it gets really cold and you're shielded only by thin nylon, and you have to get clothed in order to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night. Adding a one-year-old to the mix doesn't help.

So we've compromised by having a pretty decent little kitchen setup because food is a sure way to a rat's heart. I also like cooking with only the ingredients and tools that we've had the foresight to carry in. It makes it more of a challenge. Sometimes it gets to be too much of a chellenge.

One item we'd purchased for this trip was a whole chicken and some herbs and aromatics. We were going to do an old-fashioned bird roasted on a spit. (Yes, we have a spit, too. Nice wrought-iron one that witchofnovember bought.)

The only complication was the weather. Drippo, the evil imp of precipitation, had been keeping a close eye on our preparations. I'd just finished cleaning, stuffing, seasoning, and oiling the bird when the first drops of rain fell. From a mostly-blue sky with scattered high clouds. Damn, that imp is clever.

Given the sky's appearance, I recklessly declared, "It'll probably clear up in a few minutes." It proceeded to do no such thing. Instead, it proceeded to turn from sprinkles into a shower into proper rain. Despite my repeated incantations about it having to clear up soon.

With a sigh (and much grumbling) I resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to get to roast the bird. But I was now left with the problem of a whole, raw, stuffed chicken and only two small propane stove burners. I had no pan or pot large enough to fit the chicken.

Kit stepped in to unstuff and quarter the bird while I cursed Drippo. Actually, I glared over the rim of my mug of tea, but I think Drippo knew whom that fierce glare was directed at. Oh yes.

I say that because, as soon as the bird was segmented for cooking in a pan, the rain cleared. Cheeky imp.

We weren't going to give him the satisfaction. We were committed to cooking under the tent now. I got out our largest pan which was wide enough to fit the two breast pieces at the same time, if you had some experience with Tetris.

So I filled the pan with a half-inch of oil and glumly attempted to make fried chicken over a propane stove. It didn't get the oil as hot as it really needed to be, but it was enough to mostly cook things. The dark meat segments came out fine but the breasts still had some pink spots at the center even though the outside had become dark and a little dry.

In case we were thinking about sitting around outside and eating, as soon as the chicken reached our approximation of doneness, it started to drip. Little spatters of rain were moving through.

We sat in the big tent and ate our chicken (with a side of mashed potatoes). There were still the underdone centers of the breasts which we had to set aside. Maybe we should've left those as our offerings to Drippo. He must've been hungry after all that rainmaking.