BackCountry Gourmet Recipes (15)

Our members share their favorite recipes.

Monday, 12 February 2018 22:01

What to do with a bunch of Tomatillos

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What to do with a bunch of tomatillos

Traditional recipe adapted and fiddled with by Jay Lawrence

Anybody who knows me knows I love all things Mexican. My wife, my family, the culture, the country and the food. About this time of the year, I haunt the produce aisle of my favorite ethnic market to search out the ingredients for a  year-end family favorite recipe – roasted tomatillo salsa.

This is a simple recipe, the ingredients are inexpensive and common, and doesn’t take very long to make. Judging by the ‘sad puppy’ eyes on family faces when I don’t make it for Christmas, lots of people like it. Some demand it. There are way too many Desert Explorers to make it for everybody, so here goes:

First you need tomatillos, a weird little fruit that looks like a green tomato with papery leafy wrapper. They’re not even related to tomatoes and taste nothing like them. They’re acidic and tart when eaten raw, but when roasted they take on a whole new life. You’ll need about 1-1/4 pound of them for each quart of salsa you plan to make. In a chain grocery like Ralphs or Vons expect to pay about $1.49 to $2.00 a pound for them. If you head to your local ethnic market, they’re about 50 cents a pound (and usually much better looking and more fresh). Look for the smaller darker ones, about 2” or so in diameter. The big ones are pulpier and don’t have as much flavor. They grow year round but they’re especially nice around year-end.

Next, you’ll need some serrano chiles. Bigger ones, like as long or longer than your middle finger, one or two per quart of salsa. More if you like it spicier. If there are only little ones available just use more.

Also you’ll need some garlic, about eight large cloves per quart, plus some salt. That’s it. Your shopping is done.

Now the fun! Throw the tomatillos into a (clean) sink full of really hot water and let them sit for a while. After they’re not so hot, peel the now-loosened paperish coverings off them and toss them in a bowl. Tomatillos grow on the ground so there will be some dirt involved. How much of that gets into your recipe is up to you.

Next, the roasting. This is where the magic happens... Put the tomatillos into a roasting pan. I like to put them stem side down so they don’t roll around. Put them in the broiler 4-5” inches away from the overhead flame. Leave them 5-8 minutes until they are browned on top with some burnt spots, then pull them out, turn the tomatillos over and do the other side. Take out and leave them to rest and cool. You will notice they have softened and leaked some juice. Do not panic, the charred skin, softened fruit and the gooey juice is the good stuff!

Put the chiles in a pie pan and do the same thing with them. Char and soften. Pay attention here, since roasting a large batch of chilis can give off aromatics that may drive you out of the kitchen with teary eyes in a coughing fit if you overdo it or the  kitchen is not well ventilated. Turn on the fan!

Now the garlic. Smack the (BIG) head(s) of garlic on a countertop with the heel of your hand and throw the cloves into a dry cast iron pan on your stovetop, paper and all. Don’t peel them. Toast them over a medium heat, stirring them around now and then. What you are looking for is well-charred paper shells and softened garlic cloves.

Let everything cool enough so it’s easy to handle and get ready for the blender. Throw 8-9 big garlic cloves, 1-3 charred serranos (pull off the stems),  one tablespoon of salt, about 2/3 cup of tomatillo juice and half a dozen tomatillos into your blender. The skins will peel off the garlic easily if you have charred them enough. Just squeeze ‘em.

Remembering good kitchen practices, cover the blender top with a folded towel. Pulse the blender 4-5 times to get these ‘starter’ items blended and ground up, then add enough tomatillos to make a quart. Pulse some more to break things up, blend it a bit to the consistency you think you want and Presto! You have salsa. My preference is a little on the chunky side, but some folks like it smoother. Either way, pour it into a jar (use a funnel, it’s thick) and throw it into the fridge. It can be eaten immediately, and I recommend tasting as you go.

Really, it is better after a day or two in the fridge. It will thicken up due to the syrupy nature of the tomatillo juice. The flavors get a chance to bloom and blend a bit. Be forewarned that the heat of the chiles will increase after it has sat for a day or two so you might want to start off with 1-2 chiles per quart before you get carried away thinking “gee, this isn’t very spicy” and really surprise yourself. (Interesting side note: in Mexico, when you have eaten too many chiles and really hurt yourself, you are said to be “enchilado.” Literally, “chilied.”)

After you’ve used up all the tomatillos, you will probably have some leftover garlic and chiles. The soft roasted garlic is pretty good spread on toasted french bread with some avocado and salt or some soft brie... just sayin’.

The roasted tomatillo salsa is good for dipping chips, on nachos, on chilaquiles, tacos, scrambled eggs... you get the idea. You can tart it up with diced onions, ciliantro and/or avocado.It will keep in the fridge for a month or more, but if you have a bunch and want to use it up, I recommend pouring it over a browned pork shoulder and letting it cook slowly, covered,  for 3-4 hours in a 275° oven or a crock pot. You won’t be disappointed. ~ Jay

Monday, 12 February 2018 21:56

Trail Food

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Trail Food

by Jerry DuPree

There are times when a meal needs to be quick to prepare and to clean up. On our upcoming trip planned for the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the Overland stage route, there will be few opportunities for stops for restaurant meals or time to prepare and clean up, and there are no fast food drive throughs. In fact the manager of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce told me they don’t want any McDonalds style restaurants or “big box” stores.

The alternative will be to pack and bring our own lunch and snacks. I remember one guy on a hunting trip who packed some sandwiches and wrapped them in waxed paper and put them in my ice chest. It was a big surprise to him when he opened the ice chest and found a bunch of soggy sandwiches. He said he put them on top of the ice. He didn’t plan on the movement of the truck may have dislodged and rearranged his lunch. He could have used zip lock plastic bags rather than throw out his provisions when we are out hunting late at night. There was no store were open and anything that may have been was hours away. I had a Subway sandwich nicely packed water tight in a zip lock plastic bag (and I didn’t share it with him).

Our son is in the Army Reserve and each time there is a field drill they are issued MREs, Meals Ready to Eat. There are always extras and at times the military has to replace them after a certain date, although they can be stored almost indefinitely. We have MREs in our emergency supplies we have prepared for “The Big One” which we expect at some point in the future. On our desert adventures or for weekend hunting trips we occasionally enjoy an MRE picnic. Most of them are very good and very filling. Some of them contain a heating pouch that you fill with water and there is a chemical reaction that heats the meal. There are various sources for purchasing MREs that can be found on line.

When there is time to do a little cooking, we buy Great Start breakfasts that come in varieties of eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, etc. We remove them from the box and the container and heat them in a teflon frying pan and then put them in the same bowl they came out of and enjoy a hot breakfast on a camping trip. Lately we have been getting Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls. They have eggs, potatoes, steak, ham, or sausage. Heat them in a teflon pan which is easy to clean up, put them back in their container and it’s a very good breakfast. Teflon pans are easy to clean up. Heat up some water, add a little bit of soap, wipe them out with a paper towel, rinse, dry, and put it away. We keep little bottles of shampoo from hotels and use them as dish soap. It only takes a few drops.

There are various canned foods that make a nice meal, such as Campbell’s chunky soups. Beef stew is another one. There are also an unlimited amount of snack food such as crackers, chips, cookies, nuts, dip, string cheese, protein bars, etc.

As long as conditions allow, a bag of pre made salad is good on a trip. They can be mixed with salsa and cheese dip, ham, canned pinto beans, and tortilla chips for a great taco salad.

Tortillas are always great because a burrito is anything rolled up in a tortilla. Ham or roast beef, cheese, salsa, and bean dip makes a quick and easy meal. Oh yeah, bring trash bags. ~ Jerry


Tuesday, 18 October 2016 00:46

Trout Cakes

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Trout Cakes! Yum! 

Recipe by Claudia Heller

Trout Cakes – No Fish Story

Trout is a tasty dish whether fried, baked or barbequed! Camping on a recent fishing trip, I created a recipe and surprised our friends with an appetizer I served during happy hour around the campfire: trout cakes! After perusing on line various recipes for crab cakes, I combined, substituted and dabbled in creativity.

Possessing the luxury of a trailer, I placed each individual trout (about 10 inches each) in an open plastic bag and microwaved for about three minutes each. After cooling, it was easy to lift the fish by the tail and separate the meat from the skeleton, using gravity to my advantage. With no microwave on hand, the trout may be wrapped in buttered tin foil and

cooked over the campfire or fried in a buttered skillet on a camp stove.

My granddaughter, 11 year old Hailey, helped me sift through the meat carefully, removing any errant bones, gills or scales. The fish was ready!

Trout Cakes


            •           Cooked meat from 5 fresh trout (about 10” each)

            •           . cup diced onion

            •           . cup wasabi or plain mayonnaise

            •           2 eggs, beaten lightly

            •           2 tbsp Old Bay garlic and herb seasoning

            •           Dash parsley flakes

            •           Dash Tabasco sauce

            •           Juice from a lemon

            •           2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

            •           1 cup bread crumbs

            •           2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs

Combine all ingredients except Italian bread crumbs. Break up into patties, adding more mayonnaise or breadcrumbs to reach a good consistency for cakes. Roll each cake in the Italian bread crumbs, fry in butter in a skillet until crispy. Serve with tartar sauce on each patty. Lemon wedges and parsley will top off the presentation!

                        ~ Claudia Heller

Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:21

Eggs Rockefeller

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Eggs Rockefeller

I learned a lot in the Boy Scouts, although most of it was not in the Handbook. We improvised, modified, improved, invented, or just disregarded.

Most of our ideas were more “high tech” than the old fashioned ways. We just wanted to have more fun running around in the mountains and less time cooking and cleaning up. We tried a lot of ideas and admittedly some were better than others. Among the best was Eggs Rockefeller, Tiger Patrol style.


• One can cheddar cheese soup

• One can stewed tomatoes, drained (I like the juice).

• 1 dozen hardboiled eggs (boiled at home).

• 1 can sliced Spam, or ham, or Canadian bacon

• 1 package of English muffins

Mix everything together and heat in a coffee can, which can be flattened and thrown away rather than washing a pot. Spoon over English muffins or slice them up and mix with the rest of the ingredients.

Bam! Feeds about six scouts.

Our son was very active in scouting and became an Eagle Scout. His troop also developed recipes and cooking methods which I am sure he wouldn’t mind my sharing some of them. Our grandson is a new scout, so he can carry on some traditions and teach some to us.

– Jerry Dupree

Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:19

Eggs Benedict

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I learned several things while in the Boy Scouts. One of them was the Scouts teach self reliance, confidence, and independence by means of camping out. The first time I went camping with the Boy Scouts I came home tired, dirty, and hadn’t eaten well, but I had a lot of fun.

The next time I went on a campout I learned the art of camping was to come home reasonably clean after sleeping and eating well. We learned all kinds of things to cook and invented others. One of which was our brand of Eggs Benedict which is easy to make, tastes great, and very little clean up. That’s what we called it and it tastes good. Here’s how:

  •  Hard boil two eggs per person
at home.

  •  One can of hollandaise sauce
per four eggs

  •  Either sliced ham, canned ham, Canadian Bacon, or Spam

  •  English muffins

I used to save coffee cans to cook in and never washed them, just flatten and put them in the trash. Since coffee doesn’t come in cans anymore, ask a local restaurant to save empty #10 cans, which are the same size. Use a multi tool (Leatherman) to handle hot cans. Trader Joe’s sells peeled hard boiled eggs in heavy plastic bags, which are ideal for camping, picnics, tailgate meals.

Slice hard boiled eggs, slice ham (etc), mix together with hollandaise sauce, add together in a coffee can, cook, either spoon over sliced English Muffins, or cut them into pieces and mix with the other ingredients. Serve on paper plates or cups. It takes less than 20 minutes to serve up a nice breakfast and less to clean up. Yummy !

Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:15

Goldenrod Eggs

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Goldenrod Eggs

Growing up my sister and I pretty much raised ourselves because our mother and father both worked. We often made our own breakfasts and lunches. My mother bought us a children’s cookbook. I guess she figured we needed a little help. One of the recipes turned out to be our favorite, and I used it with my kids and often make this recipe when our son comes over with his children. My granddaughter is very interested in cooking so I let her help with the preparation. It’s easy breezy, and she loves being a chef.


hard boiled eggs white sauce

toast or english muffins paprika

Use approximately 2 eggs per person. When I make hard boiled eggs I boil them for 13 minutes, I always test one before I take all of them out of the water. When they are perfectly hard cooked I remove them from the hot water and immerse them in a large bowl of ice water before peeling them.

Separate the white from the yolk. Cube the white, and smash the yolks until crumbly.

Make the white sauce as follows. Melt 2 TBS of butter add 2 TBS of flour, add 1 cup milk. Cook on the stove at low to medium heat stirring constantly. I also found you can make white sauce in the microwave by heating for 30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds again, stir and after about 2 minutes of doing this your white sauce is done. Of course when I was 8 years old we hadn’t heard of microwave ovens.

Make some toast or muffins and spread with butter.

Mix the cubed egg whites in the white sauce. Pour over toast, sprinkle the crumbled yolk on top, Sprinkle a little paprika on top.

Now you have a dish that looks like it was made in a fancy restaurant and tastes delicious.

– Dolly Dupree

Friday, 23 September 2016 21:19

Very Wild Rice Salad

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After taking this with me to a DE meeting, I had several requests to print it in the newsletter.

It's a great thing to take on the road, as it keeps in an ice chest for many days. I love it for lunch, but it's a hearty side dish with dinner. My favorite salad of all time! Vicki Hill


— Very Wild Rice Salad —

                         Source: Bon Appetit •  Servings: 6

I will print it as it was given to me and then add notes at the end.


1/2 cup finely chopped dried figs, apricots, or cranberries

1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans

1/3 cup chopped almonds or cashews

3 tbsp. finely chopped green onion tops

2 tbsp finely chopped red onion


2 tbsp raspberry vinegar

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup olive oil


            •           Cook the wild rice according to package directions. Drain and cool.

            •           Transfer rice to a large bowl. Mix in fruit, nuts and onions.

            •           Mix vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard and sugar.

            •           Whisk in oils.

            •           Pour dressing over rice mixture and toss.

            •           Season with salt and pepper.


            •           If you don't have raspberry vinegar, red wine vinegar works fine.

            •           Don't use SPICY Dijon mustard. It overwhelms the other flavors.

            •           Sugar: I have never added it.

            •           Oils, I use walnut or hazelnut oil in place of vegetable oil.

            •           I cut the amount of oils in half or more.

            •           Adding ingredients: sometimes crystallized ginger.

            •           Garlic: usually I add 3 big cloves.

            •           Salt and pepper....I have never added any. It works well without them.

Sunday, 17 November 2013 11:45

New Mexico Enchiladas

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  • Large sweet onion, diced
  • Romaine lettuce, cut crosswise ½” strips
  • 2-3 cups shredded cheddar
  • 2 large cans La Victoria enchilada sauce, mild
  • 2 dozen corn tortillas (smaller size)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • Sour cream
  • Black olives, pitted (sliced or whole)
Sunday, 17 November 2013 11:43

Bean/Corn Salad

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  • 2 15 oz. cans pork & beans
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans drained
  • 1 15 oz can baby corn drained
  • 1/4 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 4 oz. can sliced olives drained
  • 1/2 C chopped onion, red or yellow
  • A little finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 C (+ or -) Thousand Island salad dressing

Mix everything together and enjoy. It's even better when a day old.

Sunday, 17 November 2013 11:38

Nancy's Chicken

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A heart-healthy chicken and veggies dish, with no muss or fuss, come your way from Nancy Woodside.

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