Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sundays with Sparky: Magic Banana Boats and Fireside Choripan

(Looks like a mess.  Eats like a dream...)

The sad truth: although we go camping every year, Sparky hates it. He's a luxury-hotel kind of a kid, sadly saddled with our family's state-park-campground budget.  Sparky's Dad and I, on the other hand, love being outdoors and cooking on a wood fire we built ourselves. We've learned to compromise by camping near a County Fair or other stuff Sparky likes to do, so he tolerates the open air, sunshine, and nature hikes (well, he does love the chipmunks and bats and other critters we see) until we get to the zoo or water park or whatever we have planned for him.  Thus, family harmony is maintained, even in the woods.

I decided that for dinner this year, we would explore my mother's native foods - Argentina has its own culture of camping and cooking over flame. To prepare, I visited El Mercado Meat Market in Chicago (Literally, The Market Meat Market) to pick up some Argentine grilling sausages, grateful once again to live in a place where globetrotting means a short drive. I was not disappointed, and left the store laden with tied-together links perfect for a Punch-and-Judy show. Choripan is a beloved tradition in Argentina - my most indelible memory there is one of my cousins, jumping and clapping her hands, saying "¡Quiero presentarle a choripán!" (I want to introduce her to choripan!) as though it were the president.

The word Choripan is a portmanteau of the words for sausage and bread; the sandwich is one of those whole-is-bigger-than-the-sum things. Argentine chorizo is closer to an American-style fresh bratwurst than its more common Mexican cousin, and the bread should be a crusty french loaf slathered in Argentine chimichurri (one site says the bread should be so crusty it cuts the roof of your mouth.) I was fortunate to be able to purchase all these things in one place (plus a jar of real Argentine dulce de leche)

063Since wood fires are notoriously finicky in their heat distribution, I poached the sausages first to make sure they were cooked through.

074Then, we stuck them on our toasting forks and got them really beautifully crusty and delicious and drippy, and nestled them corte mariposa on the crusty rolls dripping with chimicurri sauce. Mmmm.

Another way we make it up to Sparky for leaving civilization and his Xbox behind: dessert. This year, I tried a take on 'smores that has earned a place in future camp cooking. We'd brought Wilbur along on this trip, and after we made them, he officially dubbed them "Magic Banana Boats."


0481 banana per person
1 packet of graham crackers, crushed
1 handful chocolate chips (we like bittersweet)
3-5 marshmallows per banana (we used homemade with an interior stripe of dulce de leche)
Dulce de leche if you don't already have some in your marshmallows

049Cut a strip of skin off the inside curve of the full length of banana, and carve out some some banana, too. Set it inside a square of aluminum foil large enough to cover the entire banana with a good amount of slack.

050Sprinkle it with crushed graham crackers, chocolate chips, marshmallows and a drizzle of dulce de leche.

Top with another sprinkle of graham crackers, carefully pinch the foil ends together and fold them over so the whole thing is wrapped thoroughly.


Place the whole wrapped bananas directly in hot coals for about 5-7 minutes, with the seam side up if possible.

Remove with tongs, allow to cool a bit and unwrap.  You will have something like a banana bread pudding, hot and melty and chocolatey-delicious. Quickly enjoy the aroma of chocolate, bananas and burnt sugar...

Get spoons and step well out of the way! Voracious tweens may attack!


We now leave you with your moment of zen: this is Sparky, checking the veracity of the "compass plant" with his compass:


And the bees were spectacularly busy - check out the bee-pants on this guy! They're about to explode!


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