Saturday, July 08, 2017

Camp Stories: A Prescription for Peace of Mind

Feeling overwhelmed at work? The insanity of current politics stressing you out? Can't handle the barrage of social media a minute longer?

The Rx I'm recommending won't be found in a pill or a bottle, or by turning off the lights and pulling the covers over your head. I'm not even advising you to shut down your computer and turn off your devices.

Simply go where none of those screens will work, where your coworkers can't find you, where there's no news but the sun transiting your campsite, the trees shifting in the breeze and the sound of a creek chattering in the background.

For years we've been avoiding the war zone that erupts in the city over the Fourth of July by heading to a small national forest campground where fireworks and nighttime noise are strictly verboten, where our dogs don't need to be drugged and we can sleep in the dead quiet of a night so dark you can't see your hand waving in front of your face. But the real benefit, one we appreciated even more in this seemingly daily onslaught of "can you top this" craziness on the national political scene, is the peace, the quiet, the lack of demand for our attention other than cooking meals, washing dishes and the occasional call to sit by the creek and read a book.

Imagine that!

This year we managed to reserve a prime creek-side campsite at one of our favorite campgrounds, the aptly named Paradise Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest just north of Carson, Washington. Small at just 42 sites and basic—vault toilets, dirt sites and a handled pump for water—it discourages large RVs and provides a modicum of simple activities like biking around the campground, playing in the creek and a few hikes nearby.

I'd made and frozen a batch of my Coney Island sauce and picked up some smoked dogs from Old Salt Marketplace, and then froze a pot of pork shoulder braised in tomatillo salsa—freezing as much as possible helps keep things cold as well as saves room in the ice chest—that we could warm up for dinners. A couple of steaks, Dave's scone mix to stir up and bake, breakfast and lunch fixin's and cocktail makings and we were set for our four-night stay.

Our neighbors Chad and Ann joined us for the second day, bringing their dogs and what turned out to be a spectacular camp dinner of shrimp, andouille sausage, corn and potatoes cooked in foil packets on the campfire coals (left and top photo). This is one I'll be making again here at home, since it's perfect for cooking on charcoal in the Weber. With a salad on the side and an ice-cold glass of rosé to sip, it's the definition of summer.

Good food, good drink, good friends, the basic necessities of life and a beautiful setting; it's a prescription for a good, stress-free life. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Shrimp, Andouille Sausage and Corn Campfire Packets
Adapted from Creme de la Crumb

1 lb. potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
2 ears sweet corn
1/2 lb. andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 1/2 lbs. shrimp
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning (or make your own)
1 Tbsp. salt
Lemon wedges

Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add potatoes and parboil 5 minutes. Drain.

Shuck the ears of corn and slice each one crosswise into four rounds. Stand each round on end and slice in half lengthwise. In large mixing bowl combine potatoes, corn, sausage and shrimp with garlic, olive oil, paprika, Old Bay seasoning and salt.

Cut four 12" squares (or so) of aluminum foil. Divide the shrimp mixture into quarters, putting each on a piece of foil (you can redistribute the number of ingredients in each packet to even them out). Seal the packets and place on coals. Cook for 10 minutes, turn them over and cook another 5-6 minutes. Take one packet out and test for doneness. Serve one packet per person with lemon wedges for squeezing over the top.

Find more great campground and recipe suggestions in the Camp Stories series.

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