Boiling Point: Boy Scout cookery with a French accent
The absolute classic Boy Scout meal offers a lesson in French cooking with a twist — aluminum foil.
All of you good Scouts remember the burger without the grill. Our mothers would freeze a seasoned, raw hamburger with a slice of onion and even a dollop of mustard and ketchup in a foil packet. This would go into our backpacks on a 5-mile hike.
It would thaw by hike’s end, ready to be thrown on the glowing coals of a campfire. In 30 minutes, it was ready to devour.
There were variations on the theme, but burgers, naturally, were our favorite. Throw the burger into a bun and you have it. The other big one was hamburger stew with vegetables. We called that Hobo Dinner for obvious reasons. But nothing tasted better when that was the only thing you had.
Foil-pouch cookery was big in the 1960s. Foil makers advertised it as the no-mess way to cook anything. People were cooking whole chickens and turkeys sealed in foil and of course all things burger. There even was a foil-pouch meatloaf.
The method was developed in France a century before called en papillote (in parchment). French chefs would wrap fish or poultry in parchment paper and oven-bake it. They would add seasonings and, often, white wine.
American cooks soon learned that foil cooking is steaming and not more desirable than roasting or frying red meat.
Anyway, it’s important to carefully fold the packet making sure the edges are sealed. It keeps the grease sealed inside and not dripping in the fire. That causes a flareup, turning your pouch burger into a pouch cinder.
The critical ingredient is a slow fire. Being Boy Scouts, we liked giant campfires. We tempered our enthusiasm. White coals are the key.
I went to a Scout-O-Rama a few years ago and there they were, foil packets on camp stoves (apparently campfires were too dangerous). Add to that the hot chocolate made with shaved candy bars (it looked like it had flies in it) and you have a first-class repast, even if you are a tenderfoot.
1 1/2 pounds hamburger
4 16-inch squares aluminum foil
4 carrots peeled and sliced in rounds
3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 slices onion
dash Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Separate meat into four patties, adding Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Place each in the center of a foil square. Place carrots, onion and potatoes on top. Fold foil over, carefully sealing edges.
Place on white coals and cook for about 15 minutes per side depending on the fire heat.
Serves 4 famished Scouts.
Contact Canton Repository writer Jim Hillibish at email@example.com