I’m troubled by a recent conversation I had with my friend Susan. Apparently, Susan once spent three weeks camping her way along a zigzagging route from New York to San Francisco—and she ate macaroni and cheese out of a box every single night. No lie. It was a fabulous trip, she assures me, with stops in Yellowstone, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and the Mojave Desert. She wanted to tell me about the awe-inspiring natural wonders she witnessed on her journey, but I couldn’t get past the menu.
“Really?” I demanded, “Macaroni and cheese? From a box? EVERY night?”
“It’s too hard to cook real food when you’re camping,” she said. “And besides, it wasn’t about the food.” That’s when I realized just how different Susan and I are. In my world, it’s always about the food.
Like many a camping enthusiast before her, Susan had resigned herself to unsatisfying meals in order to enjoy the outdoors, but in doing so, she missed out on one of the greatest joys of summer. There’s nothing quite like feasting on a delicious, freshly cooked meal under the stars. That’s why, as summer approaches and other nature lovers busily debate whether to head for the mountains or the shore, the desert or the woods, all I can think about is dinner. Don’t get me wrong. I love the mountains, the shore, the desert, and the woods as much as the next girl, but unlike Susan, I go camping for the food. I even wrote a book about the joy joys of cooking gourmet fare in the great outdoors; it's called Campfire Cuisine.
So when my husband asked recently what I thought about taking our first camping trip of the season, I replied “I’m thinking about Peking duck.”
“No, I said camping. Do you want to go camping?” he asked, as if I was hard of hearing.
“Yes, yes,” I replied. “I think we should cook duck!” He rolled his eyes and went off to research campsites.
Several weeks later, we headed to Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Southeastern California to see the wildflowers in bloom. It was a long drive, and we were starving when we finally arrived, just after sunset. Before my husband could unpack the car, I was building a fire. The duck breast had been marinating in a mixture of honey, rice vinegar, orange juice, and soy sauce in a Ziploc bag since the night before, tucked carefully into the cooler between an ice pack and a bottle of Alsatian Riesling. While I waited for the logs to burn into a smoldering cooking fire, I tossed together a quick cucumber salad with rice vinegar and sesame dressing and sliced some green onions. The duck breast went onto the grill and I leaned back in my little lawn chair, my feet propped on the edge of the fire pit, and watched, sipping a glass of pinot noir, as the fat sizzled and popped.
By the time my husband had set up the tent, the duck was sliced and ready to go. Flour tortillas got a quick warming over the fire and soon we were enjoying succulent sweet-spicy Peking Duck “burritos” and sipping pinot as we watched the stars twinkle into the night sky.
Barbequed Peking Duck Wraps
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespooon soy sauce
- 1 whole boneless, skinless duck breast
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon chile paste (optional)
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
- Mix honey, orange juice, and soy sauce in a large zipper-lock bag. Add duck to bag, seal and turn over several times until duck is well coated. Place in cooler and marinate 1 hour to overnight.
- Grill duck over medium-hot coals about 7 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat tortillas on grill. Thinly slice duck across the grain.
- Spread some of the hoisin sauce and chile paste (if using) down the middle of each of the hot tortillas and place several slices of duck breast on top. Sprinkle with green onions, top with shredded lettuce and roll up.