Getting Lost in Memories With Food
There comes a time when your not-so-serious hobby crosses the line into serious territory. You’ll know exactly when that happens. There’s this inner push to keep learning and keep progressing forward. Cooking is one of those things. One day you’re making spaghetti from a jar and the next you’re in a kitchen for a few days prepping all of Thanksgiving dinner. There’s a moment in between those two meals that you realize that this for-fun hunt to create delicious food could be more than just, well, for fun. Maybe it’s trying to perfect your first steak, or maybe you wanted to impress someone and try your hand at Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington recipe. It really doesn’t matter—the inner fire has been stoked.
Camp cooking is a whole different game, but the same thought applies. On one trip, you’re boiling water to put into a dehydrated food bag, another trip you’ve burnt hot dogs on a pan, and, finally, you get to the point where you realize that you want to take your outdoor adventures to the next level—and this means good-quality food cooked from scratch. This is the moment when a little pocket rocket, or JetBoil, stove just won’t do. What you really want is Btu. All of the Btus. What you desire is the purebred, twin-turbo, twin-nitrous bottles of peak performance, and the all-aluminum Camp Chef Mountaineer is just that.
The Camp Chef Mountaineer has everything you need to cook wonderful meals outside. It has a three-way windscreen, matchless ignition, a hose that connects to, what I call, a big-boy 5- to 20-pound propane bottle, and power controls that go from a searing blast furnace to a gentle simmer.
Like any hobby, don’t expect to be able to jump into professional-level equipment without having a solid understanding of its fundamentals—it’s never the paint brush that makes an artist great. This is a stove where you need to have real confidence in your abilities in the kitchen. You can easily burn off the seasoning of your cast-iron pan if you left it alone at full blast. As the great Stan Lee said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” But with that power, and the knowledge of how to use it, comes delicious food while camping.
There’s intense satisfaction to be had when you’re able to cook a meal outside that hits all the notes your soul desired. That’s one reason why I fell in love with cooking. Food has this crazy way of transporting you back instantly to a specific moment in time. Memories of the place you were at. Memories of the people with you. Memories of the flavors. Memories of the smells. Memories of your reaction to a first taste. All very strong flashbacks that tell a much larger, and warmer memory. This Vietnamese steak and eggs dish, bò né, brings back two different and specific times of my life.
Growing up, my mother, like most parents, would make the weekends feel special by going the extra mile in the kitchen. This dish was one of them. As a wee lad, I wasn’t too much of a fan of the actual meat, but, I LOVED dipping the bread into the sauce. My appreciation for steak grew as I grew into my three-sizes-bigger-than-my-actual-feet shoes.
Flash-forward many years to the moment my significant other and I sat down at a small plastic table while sitting on even smaller plastic stools on a busy street corner in Vietnam. The cacophony of zooming scooters and endless meep-meep honking permeated our ears. The smell of sizzling meat, mixed with the smell of scooters’ exhaust, filled our nostrils. The sidewalk we were about to dine at was filled with people, discarded cigarette butts, and the cutest goddamn street dogs you’ve ever seen in your life. With two fingers extended upward, I received a confirmation nod from one of the workers. Moments later, two sizzling cow-shaped cast-iron platters filled with hunks of beef, egg, tomatoes, and onions appeared at our plastic table. It was heaven.
That is why I cook the dishes that I do. To relive memories and to create new ones along the way.
Enjoy the looks of more delicious meals and follow the adventures of Linhbergh and Karissa on Instagram @gondirtin.
Camp Chef Mountaineer
Vietnamese Steak Recipe
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cooking time:10 minutes
- 2 rib-eye steaks
- 4 eggs
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 1 baguette
- 6 Tablespoons of vegetable or canola cooking oil
- 2 cups of water
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 4 Tablespoons of oyster sauce
- 6 Tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of pepper
Start by preparing the marinade for the steak. Finely chop the garlic and toss into a big bowl, or a large ziplock bag. Add to the bowl or ziplock bag the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix until everything is incorporated. Add in the steaks and toss together until the marinade coats the steaks evenly. Let the steaks marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes. The longer, of course, the more flavorful the steaks will be.
When you’re ready to cook, turn your camp stove (we used the Camp Chef Mountaineer) on as hot as it’ll get. Preheat a frying pan with the cooking oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, it’s ready for the steaks. Be ready as you’re going to have to move pretty quickly at this point. Turn down the heat to medium. Add in the steaks and do not touch it. You’re searing the meat. 1-2 minutes on each side should do the trick. Cook to desired steak doneness. Remove steaks from the pan. Set your stove to medium-high, then add in the leftover marinade as well as the two cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Reduce it down and season to taste. This is your sauce. Pour it over the steaks and let it all rest.
Do a quick wipe-down of the frying pan, turn up the heat to medium-high, and add in oil. On one side crack your eggs into the pan and add in the cherry tomatoes on the empty side. You’re blackening the tomatoes. The more charred they are, the more flavor they’ll impart. Fry eggs sunny-side up to desired doneness. Remove both from heat whenever they’re done and add them to your serving dishes. Break apart the baguette, dip into sauce, eat, and enjoy.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May/June 2020 print issue of Tread Magazine.