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I looked forward to a weekend camping trip in upstate New York to escape the mugged oppression that masquerades as summer weather in Philadelphia. A few days camping on the shores of Lake Ontario with cool air and a welcome breeze would be the cure for my city-born maladies.

In theory, it would be grand.

In theory, communism works.

Flash forward to a Friday afternoon; the storm clouds are rolling in and we’re moving quickly to pitch the tent and load it with our sleeping necessities. As the first drops of rain begin to sprinkle the campground we unfold an additional tarp to keep us dry. The wind picks up, the rain intensifies, and we just barely set the tarp to cover our tent from rain and wind before the heavens unleash a torrent of rain.

Inside the tent, my fiance and I were entertained by reading books together and drinking a shit ton of beer. Lightning and thunder punctuated the entire first day of our trip, but we were drunk on beer and good feelings. The sun began to set and I laid down to relax.

“Uh, Matt?” she asked me, “The water from the lake is coming towards the tent.”

I sat up straight and looked through the tent window; yep, the buckets of rain were flooding the lake. The water was merely a few feet from our tent, threatening to drown us.

“Shit,” I said. Isn’t that just the universal phrase all men use when something unpleasant and unexpected happens?

What followed was a mad dash of cooperation and teamwork as the two of us undid all of our hard work. We untied the tarp, pulled up the stakes from the tent, and dragged everything another twenty feet from the water’s edge. Lightning crashed in the distance and thunder rumbled so hard I could feel it shaking the muddy ground.

Our campsite now moved to a more secure location, we dove back into the tent and spent the next few hours naked, trying to dry ourselves off with damp towels.

Call me a masochist, but this kind of beginning to a camping trip is a portent for a great weekend.

The rest of our weekend was filled with windy weather, intermittent rain showers, and tremendous heaps of laughter, but the highlight of it all was the jambalaya.

My favorite meal in all of creation, jambalaya is a weekly dinner in my home. With a lot of trial and error, we’ve come up with a pretty damn fine recipe. We excitedly brought the ingredients with us and cooked it for the first time on a campfire. It was smoky perfection, and was a perfect cap to our weekend of camping.

I’ll give you guys the recipe for it. Feel free to take credit for it as your own secret recipe if you’ve got people to impress. But if you do, you’ve got to make me a promise.

Promise that you’ll go camping sometime soon, and you’ll cook it over a fire with a few beers in your belly. It’s the best way to enjoy this filling and delectable recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup bell pepper,diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2-4 jalapeno, diced (while camping, I grilled the jalapeno and added them whole to the jambalaya)
  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (or cinnamon)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced (up to your taste)
  • 1/2 cup dry rice (white works better than brown for this recipe)
  • 1 lb chicken, diced
  • 1/2 lb chorizo sausage
  • 12 ounces chicken stock
  • 12 ounces of beer

You’ll need three bowls for prepping the recipe:

  • One bowl for the peppers, celery, and onion
  • One bowl for the tomato, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic, and bay leaves
  • One bowl for the meat, nutmeg, and creole seasoning

Preparation

  • Dice the peppers, celery, and onion and add into their own bowl
  • Dice the tomato and mince the garlic, adding them to their own bowl. Add the sauces, the bay leaves, and the garlic
  • Cut the chicken into cubes and add the sausage. I prefer buying chorizo sausage links and removing the casing. The meat seems less oily and greasy. You can also cut the sausage into a coin-shape if you prefer. Add these to a bowl and mix together with the nutmeg and the Creole seasoning

    Grillin’ up the veggies

Cooking

  • Add oil to a large saucepan and cook the peppers, celery, and onion on high heat for about 3-4 minutes
  • Add the contents of the bowl containing the tomato, bay leaves, garlic, and sauces, reducing the heat to medium
  • Stir the contents of the pot and add the 1/2 cup of rice
  • Pour in the chicken stock and the can of beer, stir to mix ingredients
  • Cover the container and cook for about 15 minutes, until the rice is just starting to become tender
  • Remove the cover and add the meat to the pot, cook for about 10 minutes until the meat is done

Tricks for Cooking While Camping

  • We precooked the rice at home and added it to the almost-finished jambalaya
  • Save yourself some trouble and do the prepping (dicing vegetables, cutting meat, etc.) at home
  • Bring a good quality hot pad for moving the cast iron pot

A match made in heaven

All done! This jambalaya pairs well with a hoppy IPA and good company, and it tastes best when the ingredients are from your own garden.

Enjoy!

Matt Suwak
About the Author

Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in bird watching and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works during the day as a landscaper and gardener, and by night a freelance writer. He can throw a football ten miles from a stationary position and has grappled mountain lions and lived to tell about it. The lions cannot say the same.

His other writing can be found at www.heyplantguy.com

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