Years ago I was introduced to a new way of thinking when it comes to Base Camp (Trailer or Wall Tent) evening meals. Prior to sharing an elk camp and hunt with my good friend, CHEF John McGannon, I had always just cooked items that were fast and easy – items such as pre-made hamburgers, Mac and cheese, and scrambled eggs and ham. After that hunt, my eyes were opened to an entire new way of thinking when it came to Base camp meals.
This new way of culinary creativity is based 100% on preparation – preparation that begins a few weeks prior to leaving for elk camp. Much like preparing for a Bivy hunt, I will choose which meals I will take with me. However, instead of throwing in Mountain House meals, I get into the kitchen and begin preparing main course meals such as Elk Stuffed Bell Peppers, Lentil Stew with Elk or Venison, and Elk or Venison Chili. These types of meals are easily reheated in a camper’s oven or on any stove top.
Below are two of my favorite “Pre Made” Base Camp meals – Elk-stuffed Bell Peppers and Elk Chili taken from CHEF John McGannon’s website www.wildeats.com. Both are easily prepared, frozen, and transported to base camp in coolers or the camper’s freezer.
Elk Stuffed Bell Peppers
5 lbs. Ground elk meat (which has been allowed to drain in a colander overnight)
1 med. Onion, diced finely
6 oz.V8 juice (from the 3 qts. below)
1 cup raw basmati rice (you can also use regular whole grain rice)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
½ cup WildEats BURGER DUST (optional, but recommended)
a couple of splashes of Tabasco & Worcestershire Salt & Pepper to taste
10 red or yellow bell peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
3 qts. V8 tomato juice
Mix the meat thoroughly with all the other ingredients in the first section. Arrange the cut bell peppers in a shallow roasting pan, season the inside of the peppers with salt and pepper and fill each one with the meat filling. Place the stuffed peppers in a pre-heat oven @ 350° F and roast for 45 minutes or until the filling starts to turn a golden brown. Top the peppers with the V8, cover the pan with aluminum foil, turn down the oven to 325°F and continue to cook for another 1/2 hour.
Once the dish is removed from the oven and cooled I remove the aluminum foil and transfer the Bell Peppers into smaller disposable roasting pans so they fit into my trailers’ freezer. I wrap each of the smaller pans in Plastic Wrap and then Aluminum Foil. At base camp I will remove one or two of the pans that mourning and place in the bottom of the refrigerator or in an outside cooler. To reheat remove the plastic wrap, recover with the aluminum foil, and dial the oven to 325°F. Reheat for approx ½ to an hour. During this wait time I like to prepare gear for the next day, review maps, journal, or shower.
Elk or Venison Chili
3 oz. cooking oil
5 lb. coarse ground or diced venison, elk, moose, wild boar, etc.
3 oz. WildEats CONTROLLED BURN CHILI BLEND
1 – #10 can, or 5 – 15oz. cans of diced tomato in juice
1 – 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 bottle good quality Californian Zinfandel or Merlot
2 large onions, diced
1/2 bunch celery, diced
1 large bell pepper, red or green, cut into small dice
8 good shakes of Tabasco
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy gauge sauté pan, season the meat with the salt. Place small batches of the meat into the hot oil, allow to brown thoroughly. Remove to a large pot and repeat the process until all the meat is browned. Add the tomato product in with the browned meat. Place the celery, yellow onions and CONTROLLED BURN CHILI BLEND into the sauté pan and sauté until wilted, deglaze with the wine. Be sure to scrape any remaining residue from the bottom of the pan and add it to the browned meat. Place the pot on a low flame, cover and allow to simmer for 3 hrs. Stir frequently. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
One alteration to this recipe that I have done is adding a 5 bean mix to it. Beans will add protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber to this already delicious dish. Prepare beans according to directions on bag.
Once the pot and chili has cooled enough I transfer it into 3-4 gallon Zip Lock bags. Typically I place enough in each Zip Lock for me and my hunting partner. To reheat I remove a zip that morning and place in refrigerator or outside cooler and allow to thaw. I than poor the Chili into a small pot and reheat it on the stove top (low flame). It typically only takes 10-15 minutes to reheat and is one of the most filling meals you could ask for!
These Base camp meals may seem like overkill, but they have more than once turned a frustrating day into an enjoyable evening/night. To quote John in regards to Elk Stuffed Bell Peppers, or as he calls them, “Attitude Adjusting” Elk Stuffed Bell Peppers, “This dish turned the frowns of frustration into smiles of pleasure that certainly contributed to maintaining a positive approach to our hunt.” Having been there with him on that frustrating, getting-your-teeth-kicked-in adventure, I couldn’t agree more!
For more unbelievable base camp recipes, visit CHEF John McGannon’s website at www.wildeats.com.