Saturday, August 11, 2007

Camp Cooking: Brinkman Eggs and Toast

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I bought one of those camp toaster things when a few years ago; you know, the metal disk that goes over the cook flame, with wires that hold the pieces of bread at an angle? You’re supposed to put the flame on high to get the thing hot, then turn the flame down, place the bread on it and magically gauge the exact moment when the bread transitions from not toasted one bit, to burnt black in one small section. Turn over and repeat.

It sucked.

No matter how hard I tried – shield the thing from wind, rotate before flipping, pray to the ToastMaster…it still produced a fairly unsatisfactory piece of toast. No type of bread, from high brow to low bran seemed to have an impact.

I gave up after a few tries, though that didn’t stop me from buying a second toaster when Delta Airlines once lost my luggage with ALL my camp cooking gear and clothing inside(never, ever to be seen again, though they did reimburse fully without pause).

Besides – who needs toast, when there’s delicious oatmeal recipes to try (wait until you get the apples and maple recipe… I promise to put it down before autumn kicks in), and crunchy peanut butter and honey, etc. on a bagel. Or even French toast – which isn’t toast as I ever knew it.

But sometimes a person just wants simple eggs and toast, and though you can’t beat the Main Street Bistro in New Paltz for their special (2 eggs, toast AND potatoes for like $1.95), if you are like me, and don’t have a car to get into town, that breakfast is as unattainable as the halfway decent toast I was seeking in the first place.

Until now, that is.

I don’t travel light; that’s always been a problem of mine and even now, I still carry enough crap for a weekend upstate that I get at least a few comments each trip (“Is that ALL you have?” Or “Running away from home?” YES, dammit. To both those questions.) Usually I am up there for Friday night’s dinner, and leave on Sunday afternoon. And I have Teddy of course. So, I pack a lot of crap.

Usually, I bring a loaf of bread, to have with pasta one night and a sandwich on Sundays, when I do trail work and have to share a sandwich with Ted in order to keep him from cajoling others out of theirs. Even so, that loaf barely gets cracked, and back to the city it comes.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at that bread and thinking “I have got to find a way to use more of these loaves when I am up here.” Looking around, I accept the fact – Camp Slime is not Hidden Valley Campground at JTree, where there are dirtbags chirping at various nesting sites in the vicinity. Slime, even for it’s rustic (read: complete) shabbiness, is rarely host to anyone who might be hungry. Offering leftovers or unused goods at a stay’s close will bring looks of suspicion rather than intense gratitude. So, sharing wasn’t an option.

It was at that moment that it occurred to me I could toast the bread in a buttered pan. Now, having only one fry pan, I quickly understood I faced a dilemma. For toast is not really a stand-alone food; toast likes to partner up, usually with eggs. I could have done the poached eggs, in my small pot, I thought. Of course, that’s still always an option. But as anyone who cooks outside knows – everything needs to be cooked and ready to eat at the same time, unless cold food doesn’t bother you. I know – some people aren’t bothered; I am. Poached eggs are tough enough to time properly (in MY opinion), but to have decently made toast at the same time? I don’t know how I could expect that.

And out of that distaste for flawed food, Brinkman Eggs and Toast was born. I know I’ve kept you waiting for the recipe(instructions, really) long enough, but I think you can wait a bit more, as I should say it’s called “Brinkman” Eggs and Toast because my tabletop stove(2-burner, I told you I don’t travel light) is that brand. It’s a Coleman knockoff, but stainless steel. Classy.

So – here’s what you do.

First – use good bread. If you’re going to be taking my advice, take it properly or don’t blame me if you’re not duly impressed with your attempt. Grocery store pre-sliced bread-like food is not really bread as I understand it. To me, good bread is chewy and dense in the center, and the crust is NOT crunchy. I didn’t like scraping the roof of my mouth on Cap’n Crunch as a kid, and I don’t like bread crusts that remind me of the trauma as an adult.

Bread can be simple, or abundant with bran, seeds, olives, fruit and/or nuts. Your choice, but BE&T (Brinkman Eggs and Toast) was conceived with a more humble white bread. That’s not to say crappy (as in …well, we already discussed that in the above paragraph.

One issue that will arise is the fact that camp fry pans are small. Seven inches diameter, unless you’re car camping with the kitchen sink. I may travel heavy, but the cast iron 12-inch pan stays at home. So – choose bread that is not too highly domed. That leaves out round loaves, although I suppose you could simply cut one slice off and then halve it for your two pieces of toast(for toast also comes in sets; am I wrong?).

Alright….the other important thing is to get all your stuff ready before you turn on the stove. Pepper, salt (not needed, since using more butter than a French pastry for this recipe), eggs, plate, turning utensil, butter. Of course, you should slice the bread you’ll use before beginning too.

It should also be mentioned that these instructions are for one plus a small share for a dog. Or one person alone if you don’t have a dog like Teddy, who has become accustomed to sharing meals. Couples and groups – I’m sorry. You’ll have to figure it out for yourselves. It shouldn’t be too difficult. If I had a man (hint, hint), I would simply make one set and share it, and then make another one and share that one too. With buddies and groups, similar concept, only you’ll be sharing the pan, instead of the food. First one in line gets the first meal.

So – FINALLY – Here’s what you do.

Get all the stuff ready and set up your stove. Put a good sized pat of butter in the pan and melt it at a low heat. Oh, yes. I cook as heavily as I travel. If you don’t use old-style basic foodstuffs, you’ll be disgusted by my cooking. Or will have to adapt with ingredients you prefer.

So….the butter has melted. Be careful with the heat. Burned butter is gross.

Set the two pieces of bread in the pan and heat till the bottom is warmed through (you’d guess) but not fully browned. While this is happening, thinly slice some more bits of butter, and place them on top of the bread. You’ll flip the bread, when ready, and the softened butter will work better than having a dry pan.

Flip the bread when you feel like it, and try to get them placed toward the outer edge of the pan, with a ditch in the center. Crack two eggs and put them in that ditch. Depending on your bread choice, you may not have much of a ditch. That’s okay. Just put the damned eggs in the pan. We’re not having a beauty pageant.

Time for the pepper. I like a lot of pepper. And I like good pepper, too. Don’t use Roundy’s Crappy Cracked Pepper and think that’s pepper. Good pepper is….well, you know. Better.

If it’s cold out, cover the pan loosely. Or, if you are in a hurry, or wishing to conserve gas, do the same. Hell – cover the pan. Dinosaurs died for that fuel and there aren’t any more waiting to make the sacrifice. Your loathsome leader might have you believe we have good young men and women doing just that (dying so we can have gas), and maybe you hold that stance too. But, waste is waste. Cover the pan and save the fuel.

Now…. The eggs are beginning to set. It’s time for the flip.

Keep in mind that you’ll be toasting the other side of the bread now, and don’t overcook the eggs, if you like them less than over hard.

Take out a spatula (yes…you NEED a spatula. Well, maybe not. You could probably stab one side of the thing with a fork, pick it all up in one piece and turn it just fine). Yes – everything will be “melted” together. That’s the charm of the thing.

Now, continue to cook the other side…..

Time to eat! Get your plate ready, grab that fork or spatula and turn the entire thing out onto the plate. Now…you’re going to make a sandwich-y sort of maneuver. Remember, the eggs are stuck to the bread. Don’t try to separate them fully, or you’ll end up frustrated. Just get the most of each egg away and place them on one of the piece of bread (well, now it’s actually toast). Then, turn the other piece of toast on top, eggs layered inside.

I eat mine with a knife and fork, because the bread will have butter and eggs all over it. But you can eat it with your hands if that is what you want to do.

This is actually more like a grilled cheese sort of toast as opposed to an in-the-toaster sort of toast. But – the great thing is that it will ALL be one temperature. Nice and warm. And you won’t be buttering cold toast, while you’re eggs get cold in the interim. Unless you didn’t eat it right away.

Anyway –that’s Brinkman Eggs and Toast. The photo's the meal on my stove, just after the eggs were set in the pan.

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Mindy said...

Great story about your Brinkmann stove. The recipe sounds very tasty, I'll be sure to give it a try.

I recently went camping with some friends of mine and one lady had a Brinkmann stove. I Liked hers and was doing a little homework before I buy one and see what other people thought about them. After reading your post, I need one so I can make my own BE&T!

happy trails,

happiegrrrl said...

Thanks, Mindy!

Be sure to choose the one with the pietzo lighter(electronic start) for an added bit of luxe. of course, you should be a boy scout(hey - I scout for boys all day long!) and "Be Prepared." keep a book of matches in with your camp kitchen gear for the days the pietzo is being stubborn....