22 August 2011

Camping Food, Part III

This part three of a three-part series about the greatest summer food of all: the stuff you cook by the campfire...or in this case, over the campfire. It is also my post for the America Test Kitchen's Dish It Your Way challenge. Every other week they give a dish or ingredient and two weeks for bloggers to make the dish and write about in their blogs. At the end, the social media team reviews them, posts links to the competing blogs, and picks a winner for an online subscription to Cook's Country. Wish me luck!

We spent this past weekend in Bend to celebrate Shawn's birthday (don't worry honey, I won't tell everyone how old you are). Since time and menus were running out for me to make the next dish for the second to last food blogger Dish It Your Way challenge, I had to combine efforts and make mac and cheese in the great outdoors. Shawn was really disappointed by the way. Oh wait, not at all.

This post was supposed to start with the story of eating my grandmother's delicious homemade mac and cheese as a child, never having been exposed to the boxed kind until I was at least 13 years old. I still remember my first experience making it for some kids I was babysitting and grimacing at the excessive amount of liquid and bright orange color. But I digress. That's how the story was supposed to go, but sadly my aunt didn't get me the recipe in time and once she did send it, I found out it was a baked mac and it would been difficult to do camping anyway. I eventually found out that her recipe is actually from a cookbook published by a restaurant in Bend. Go figure. So, back to the story of how it actually went.

As some of you may remember, my friend Eve-Maridy and I have already done the mac and cheese smackdown: baked vs. stovetop. And, as we all learned, there was no clear winner except for those of us eating it. I have nothing against stovetop, I just like the crunch of the baked. However, given the circumstances, creamy was the clear choice for camping. I opted to go with the Cook's Illustrated version to ensure it came out perfectly.

I have to admit, I love cooking with my campstove. It's definitely been one of the best investments we've made for camping. It's like having a gas range--an appliance I desperately miss in our home.

The lineup from left to right...butter, evaporated milk, shredded sharp Tillamook cheese, macaroni, egg mixture
Instead of toasting breadcrumbs in advance, I melted a little butter and sauteed Cheez-its. That's right, we're fancy.
Because I had to cook something over the campfire, I decided to get some sausages and broccolini to serve on the side (or on top if you're Shawn). Shawn took care of the cooking the sausages over the fire, and I made a little foil packet with the broccolini that I set over the grate to cook for about 10-15 minutes.
Broccolini cut in half and given a generous dousing of oil, salt and pepper.
Master sausage griller at work.
The egg mixture goes in after the butter.
Next come most of the cheese.
Gradually adding the rest of the evaporated milk and cheese while it bubbles away helps to avoid that gloppy, grainy texture some stovetop macs suffer from.

All the fans waiting for the star's arrival.
Shawn likes to pile all his together.
Mine need a little more space.
And there you have it. Don't be fooled--this looks like a side dish on my plate, but it truly was the star of this meal. Grandma may not have passed this recipe down for generations, but you can bet I will.

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
Published by Cooksillustrated.com

Toasted Bread Crumbs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs from French or Italian bread
Pinch table salt
1 1/2tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
2 large eggs
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard , dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , American cheese, or Monterey Jack cheese, grated (about 3 cups)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix bread crumb ingredients together in small baking pan. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, mix eggs, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, pepper sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, and mustard mixture in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 quarts water to boil in large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt and macaroni; cook until almost tender, but still a little firm to the bite. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butter; toss to melt.
  4. Pour egg mixture over buttered noodles along with three-quarters of the cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and cheese starts to melt. Gradually add remaining milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately topped with toasted bread crumbs.


  1. Wow, I LOVE the Cheeze-it idea. I am absolutely going to try that. I heart Cheeze-its, they've been a staple in my diet for years. YEARS!

  2. FYI-using your cheez-it idea tonight!

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