As a kid, I used to go camping often with my family. One of my favorite campfire cooking experiences we called the Potato Thing. It got this name because it can involve tons of different veggies and meats (and we all made them with different preferences) but it always included potatoes. I've since made it on the barbecue as well, and it came out tasting just as good.
Step 1: Materials
The only non-food materials you will need are heavy duty aluminum foil (you probably don't need heavy duty for the grill or oven, but definitely do for a campfire), and a knife. You will also need oil.
Otherwise, pick out a variety of vegetables and meat for your potato thing. For this one, I used potatoes, garlic, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, onions, and bacon for flavor. I also seasoned it with garlic salt and pepper. I often use cayenne pepper for a slight kick.
Step 2: Clean and Prep the Food
After you pick your meal, clean your vegetables, and cut them. These will mostly steam in the aluminum foil, so cut them about an 1/8 of an inch think to ensure that they cook all the way through. The veggies that are less dense and cook faster, I left a little thicker (such as the zucchini).
Step 3: Lay Out the Foil
I ripped two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil about 30 inches each and lay one on top of the other crosswise. If you are working in a kitchen and have access to a larger bowl or pan, it is helpful to lay the aluminum in them. If you are camping, lay them anywhere you can.
Step 4: Meat on the Outside
Once you're prepped for the food, put on the first layer. Any raw meat should be out of your outside layers, so it will cook through. Overall in the layering process we will put the items that cook the slowest on the bottom and top of the pile, and the faster cooking stuff in the middle. This allows everything to cook at a similar rate.
Step 5: Layering on the Veggies
On top of the meat, I put sliced garlic as I love the flavor. Then I put on 60 percent of my potatoes. Again, the potato will cook slower than most of the other veggie, so it should be closer to the bottom or top so its more directly in the heat. As you can see in the pictures, I laid most of my carrots on top of the potato, most of my summer squash and zucchini on top of that, and all of my onions on last. This is the middle of the potato thing. We will reverse layer the same veggies on top of the onions, as we will be turning it over in the fire. At this point you can also put a "layer" of spices in the middle-as you turn the potato thing on the grill or in the fire the oils will move the spices throughout the veggies.
Step 6: Reverse Layering
Now, as I said, I continued to reverse lay the veggies on top until I put my meat and potatoes on the top.
Step 7: Add Oil and Spices
I added my spices on top of the whole concoction (although I forgot the bacon as you can see in the picture). Lastly I poured on about 2 tablespoons of oil-enough oil for it to trickle down into the veggies.
Step 8: Wrapping Up
Once your finished piling on the food, I brought the ends of the top sheet of foil together, and rolled it tightly together, as many times as possible. Without ripping the foil, the tighter you wrap here, the better for holding the oil in. I then flattened out the sides of the aluminum sheets and rolled them inwards towards the veggies. Again, you're rolling the ends of the foil tightly together so that minimal oil leaks out while it's cooking.
Step 9: Cook
So I have cooked this three different ways in the past. First, It can be cooked over a campfire. If you choose to cook it this way wait until your campfire is burning low, and is mostly or entirely embers. Then place the aluminum directly onto the coals. Allow it to cook for about 35 minutes on one side, then flip it for about 20 minutes.
If using a barbecue, I generally don't cook it as long. I've found that I could cook it for about 20 to 25 minutes on each side, and turn it more often in the process.
I've also cooked it in a conventional oven as a cooking project on a rainy day with the kids I work with. At 350 degree, it took about 30 minutes on one side, and 20 minutes on the other.
Note: It may take some trial and error to figure out how hot and how long you want to cook it. It all depends on the size of your potato thing as well. I've make single ones big enough for 4 or 5 people, and we've made individual sized ones, all specific to individual tastes.
Step 10: Open and Enjoy
Once it's done, pull it out and let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes. Then open it from the middle. If you leave the sides rolled up, you can turn the aluminum into a makeshift bowl to eat out of-it works great for camping. If you are home you can just pour the whole thing into a big bowl and let people scoop it out.
Note: if it is not fully cooked through, wrap it back up and throw it back onto the coal. However, in my experience, don't flip it anymore, just leave the bottom down. Re-wrapping tends to loosen the aluminum and allows all the oil to drip out, drying out the food.
I hope you enjoy. It was always a fun activity when I was a kid.
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