Every time I make foil dinners I am transported back to my childhood. There was not a whole lot to do or see in Bloomfield, New Mexico, so our family would often make up foil dinners for Family Home Evening and head up into the back hills and arroyos (a desert stream bed that is usually dry except after heavy rain) around our home. The arroyos were always sandy and we could explore the surrounding areas for such treasures like petrified wood, giant snake holes, cactus flowers, sandstone balls, and even errant pottery shards from times gone by.
I can remember creating an assembly line while creating the foil dinner with mom doing the carrots and potatoes and Cheryl and I doing the hamburger patties and everyone fighting over who would fold them into the foil. We would dig a pit in the sandy arroyo, sometimes line it with rocks, and make a big fire for the foil dinners. Dad always handled the cooking which, as I have since discovered, is the most tricky part of the perfect foil dinner. Dinner was almost always followed by the grand roasting of the marshmallow……………far before the smore became a vogue campfire cooking rage.
I have fiddled with the original recipe and finally arrived at what I believe to be the best foil dinner ever. Instead of the arroyos, we head up the canyon in search for the perfect place for the perfect fire for our perfect foil dinner.
As an avid coal gazer, I recommend that you make up the foil dinner and eat it slowly around the fire. Fire coals are some of the most beautiful things in the world. (she says as she drifts into the hypnotic world of the glittering, winking coals)
Anyway, to make the perfect foil dinner, you start with these ingredients:
2 pounds hamburger, shaped into four 1/2 pound patties (about 1/4 inch thick)
1 envelope dried onion soup mix
1 onion, sliced
3 c sliced carrots (1/8 inch thick)
4 c sliced potatoes (1/8 inch thick)
1 green pepper, sliced (opt)
2 slices of peppered bacon, cut in half (opt)
salt and pepper
8 14-in long aluminum foil pieces
(this recipe makes four adult sized foil dinners)
You get a shallow soup bowl and line it with a foil piece, dull aluminum foil side up. Grab 1/4 c or so of carrots and line the bottom. Add 1/2 c sliced potatoes on top of the carrots. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a bit of onion soup mix.
Lay hamburger patty on top. More salt, pepper and dry onion soup mix. (I’ve done this recipe with just salt, pepper and onion soup on the top instead of dispersing it through the layers and the flavor is much better this way) Add an onion slice, pepper slice, and then the piece of bacon.
You’re almost done!
Another 1/2 cup of potato slices, and then the top 1/4 cup of sliced carrots. Sprinkle this last layer with salt, pepper and dried onion soup mix.
Starting with one corner of the foil, fold it in, and turn to the next corner, folding in until all corners are in and the food is fully covered. Should be tightly packaged. Flip it over and set it into the center of another dull-side up piece of foil. Foil the corners in again so you’ve got two full layers of aluminum protecting the food.
Keep foil dinners in a plastic bag and on ice until you are ready to place them on coals.
The perfect coals are essential. If you put them in flames, you will have scorched and black food with a raw hamburger inside. Not good. Wait until the coals are red and white without flames. If you are using a briquet fire, let the briquets go until they are quite white. If you are using wood, make sure you have plenty enough coals to lay out your foil dinners flat.
Cook 25 minutes on the first side and then, using either tongs or a shovel, flip them over. They should have a black smoke sheen on it. If it is black black, you’ve cooked it too long. ;) Cook on the second side for about 10 minutes. Pull one out and check it. Stick a fork in and test to make sure the meat patty is completely cooked through, and the potatoes and carrots are tender but not mushy. (The carrots take the longest to cook which is why they are on the outside layer. Do not deviate from the layer order for this reason.) I cannot overemphasize the trickiness of the cooking portion of the foil dinner. If the meat is not done, refold and put back on the coals. I generally do a test at 10 minutes and end up cooking another five minutes. You will be able to tell by the smell of the foil dinner as it is cooking if it is getting done.
When it IS done, pull it out and let set for about two minutes. Then dump it out onto a plate. Or leave in the foil and eat from it if you prefer. Drizzle with catsup or bbq sauce if desired. Or eat all by itself. My family prefers it with catsup.
The light on the finished product was from the flashlight as these foil dinners were baked after the sun had gone down.
Happy outdoor eating!