There's nothing like cooking over a campfire to bring out all the best smoky flavours in food and elevate it to new gastronomic heights. Join us as we cook a whole multi-course steak dinner outdoors over a campfire (a barbecue would work fine, too): Zucchini Stacks, Roasted Marrow Bones, Grilled Corn on the Cob, a Double Entrecôte Steak, and Grilled Stuffed Peaches. It's a gourmet summertime feast (with a simple recipe for the zucchini stacks to make for your next grilling dinner).
Every dinner we cook for our 'Campfire Cooking' series seems to be more fun than the last! My cooking partner-in-crime, Sabina, and I have so much fun planning, prepping, and cooking these fun dinners cooked wholly over the campfire.
We started the series last summer, and have continued throughout this year, cooking a dinner a month during the months the weather allows us to (basically May to October here in the north). Instead of running out of ideas, we just seem to come up with more and more. I think we could easily do these campfire dinners for years yet!
I don't know if it's more fun cooking or eating!
This month we were inspired to do a traditional steak dinner (with a French twist) to go with that classic North American summer grilled corn-on-the-cob, picked fresh from our garden. We added more fresh garden veggies and experimented with marrow bones for the first time. Every single dish was a winner.
Campfire Cooking: A Steak & Corn Dinner
Aperitif & Hors d'Oeuvres
White Vermouth Cocktail
Roasted Marrow Bones with Crusty Bread
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Roasted Garlic Browned Butter
Double Entrecote Steak with Red Wine Sauce
Grilled Bean Medley
Cherry Tomato Skewers
Grilled Peach Halves with Chocolate Amaretti Filling and Saskatoon Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream
Aperitif & Hors d'Oeuvres: White Vermouth Cocktail, Zucchini Stacks
We started off our delicious summer evening with a fresh and sprightly cocktail of about a half-and-half mix of dry white vermouth and club soda, with a squeeze of lemon juice and lots of ice. It was a light and enjoyable sip, slightly sweet, with a delightful herbaceous bitterness. The cocktail was just right to get our digestive juices flowing. It paired beautifully with a trayful of garden-fresh zucchini stacks. We alternated slices of grilled zucchini with slices of fresh mozzarella, anchovies, and basil leaves to make these flavourful little stacks to nibble on (see the Zucchini Stacks recipe below).
Appetizer: Roasted Marrow Bones
Marrow bones might sound like an old-fashioned food - but with all the interest in nose-to-tail eating, they are quickly gaining popularity as a real specialty item. I remember my mom and dad always relishing the marrow out of any bones that were part of our dinner, whether in soups or roasted in stews. We children would watch them dig every bit of the fatty marrow out of the bones, smacking their lips as they enjoyed it as if it were the best candy. We were totally fine to leave it all for them. Things have sure changed! Growing up can do that to you, I guess. Now I see the thrill of those tiny morsels of rich marrow, the intense umami flavour. I just love to scoop the soft marrow out of the bones and enjoy its delicate, rich flavour.
For our appetizer, we roasted marrow bones (not gonna lie, bought them from the butcher and they were labeled as 'dog bones'!) We had the butcher cut them in halves lengthwise for us. They only took a few minutes to roast over the fire, starting with the cut-side-down first, then flipped and grilled just until the insides were no longer pink, but slightly melted and still glistening and juicy. We drizzled slices of bread with olive oil, then grilled them until crispy and toasted. Then we spread each one with a clove or two of soft, roasted garlic. A splash of balsamic vinegar over the toasted slices added the touch of acidity needed to offset the richness of the marrow bones. We topped the marrow bones with thin slices of sweet onion, chopped parsley, flaked salt, and freshly ground pepper.
To enjoy this special delicacy, each diner scooped out the meltingly soft marrow and spread it onto the crispy, garlic-rubbed bread. What a simple and luxurious start to our meal.
Salad Course: Grilled Corn on the Cob with Roasted Garlic Browned Butter (Okay, so it's not actually a salad . . . )
What tastes better than corn on the cob, picked fresh from the garden within the hour, roasted in its husks, steamed and juicy with bits of sweet char at the ends? Nothing. (In my humble opinion.) Fresh corn is one of my favourite garden vegetables, and the cobs we roasted were at their peak of ripeness, picked from our garden shortly before. We pulled off some of the outer husks, then pulled back the inner husks, removed the silk, and smoothed the inner husks back into place. We soaked the cobs in their husks for an hour or so, to ensure they were fully moist to help steam the cobs inside of them. Then we grilled the cobs in their husks over the fire until charred and blackened on the outsides.
We made a savoury Browned Butter Garlic Sauce by simmering ½ cup (115gms) of butter until it was browned to a light nutty brown. We cut the top off a head of garlic, drizzled it with olive oil, then wrapped it in foil and grilled it until it was golden and roasted (about an hour on the grate over the fire). We squeezed the roasted garlic into a dish, mashed it, and added it to the melted browned butter along with a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper. The sauce was so simple, but it elevated those freshly grilled cobs of corn to whole new heights. Unforgettable. The rich taste of summer.
It was quiet around the table, except for the gnashing of teeth, as we attacked those cobs like a mob of hungry squirrels!
Entrée: Double Entrecôte Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Grilled Bean Medley, Cherry Tomato Skewers
The entrecôte is a high-end French-cut steak, basically a boneless ribeye here in Canada. We asked the butcher to cut us one that was double thickness (about 2½ inches thick), so it was actually more like a small prime rib roast. This enabled us to slowly grill it and get the inside to a perfect medium-rare. It took about 10 minutes per side, but that timing would depend on the thickness of the steak, how hot the coals are, and how far from the coals the grate is set. There are a lot of variables when cooking outside, and it takes adaptability and constant adjustments to prepare food over a campfire. But that's the challenge and the fun of it. And when you get it figured out - the thrill is enormous and the taste is fantastic.
Before and after.
We prepared the red wine sauce inside and reheated it over the fire. We based it on a few different recipes for Bordelaise Sauce in our cookbooks, reducing the red wine first, then adding rich beef stock and seasonings until it was silky and shiny. We grilled four more marrow bones over the fire and scraped all that glistening marrow into the sauce - those are the little lumps you see dotting the sauce, and they added an absolute unctuousness that made us scrape every last bit of sauce from our plates. (I won't divulge if we actually licked our plates 😉).
The steak was beautifully done to medium rare, and we sliced it thinly and coated it with that delectable sauce. For some light veggie sides, we grilled up a medley of fresh green garden veggies (green and yellow beans, snow peas, fava beans), and skewers of sweet cherry tomatoes.
That's all that was needed to complete this perfect course.
Dessert: Grilled Peach Halves with Chocolate Amaretti Filling and Saskatoon Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream
Dessert was luscious peach halves, perfectly ripe, grilled cut side down, then stuffed with a mix of amaretti cookies, cocoa powder, sugar, a bit of peach flesh, and liqueur. They were grilled some more in little pans, then topped with ice cream and served with little dishes of chilled saskatoon soup to pour around the peaches and provide a cooling, fruity counterpart. Every bite was sheer deliciousness.
It slowly became dark as we ate our luscious peach dessert around the campfire. We finished off the evening with 'Canadian Coffees' - hot coffee with a good splash of Canadian rye whiskey, maple syrup for sweetener, and a touch of cream. As we sipped and chatted into the gathering dusk, we couldn't help but feel so very lucky to celebrate evenings like this with good friends and good food around a crackling campfire on a beautiful summer evening here in northern Canada.
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- 12 small wooden skewers
- barbecue or campfire grill, or grill pan indoors
- 4 small zucchinis, green or yellow
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 3 thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
- 12 salted anchovy fillets (canned)
- 12 large fresh basil leaves
- 12 cured black olives (or 12 cherry tomatoes)
- balsamic glaze
- Slice the zucchinis crosswise into rounds (at least 12 slices from each zucchini- you may have extra).
- Toss the zucchini slices in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.
- Grill the zucchini slices on each side just until you have char marks and the slices are tender but not mushy. You can use a barbecue grill, a grate over a campfire, a grill pan on the stovetop, or arrange the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet and broil them in the oven, turning them to lightly brown both sides.
- Cut each of the mozzarella slices into quarters. Halve the anchovy slices, and tear each basil leaf in half.
- Make 12 stacks by layering the zucchini slices, cheese pieces, basil leaves, and anchovies. Each stack should contain 4 zucchini slices, 3 pieces of cheese, 1 anchovy, and 1 basil leaf. Drizzle a few drops of balsamic glaze between a couple of the layers in each stack.
- Thread an olive (or cherry tomato) onto each skewer and poke them down through the stack, with the olive on top, to keep the layers together. Arrange the zucchini stacks on a platter and drizzle them with a bit more balsamic glaze. Serve at room temperature.
- Makes 12 zucchini stacks, serving 4 to 6 as appetizers or veggies side dishes.