Italian-Style Hobo Dinners

When you are a professional Auntie, no kids, and you take your favorite kiddos on camping trips, I’m afraid that hot dogs and potato chips simply will not do. Yes, hot dogs over a campfire and potato chips are great when you are a harried parent, but I am the favorite aunt, and as my oldest niblings have entered teenage-hood, their tastes are becoming more refined. My job is to introduce them to the kinds of things their younger siblings’ taste might otherwise prevent. Like upscaled hobo dinners.

These totally fit the bill. Like all campfire dinners, controlling the heat is paramount if you want to hit that sweet spot between just this side of raw and burnt to a crisp, but if you can get there you’ll have a smoky, savory delight. Just for fun we threw in some mushrooms and green beans. I highly recommend this one to fill you up after a good, long hike as you gaze at a dark night full of stars.


Italian-Style Hobo Dinners from Sunset Magazine, May 2015

About 5 tbsp. olive oil, divided
⅓ cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
⅓ cup milk
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus shredded parmesan for serving
3 tbsp. each chopped flat-leaf parsley and fresh basil, plus whole leaves for serving
1 tsp. each kosher salt and pepper, divided
t tbsp. chopped Calabrian chiles or ¼ tsp. cayenne, plus more chiles for serving
1 lb. each ground turkey and Italian sausage
2 lbs. small red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks or halves
1 large onion, cut into slim wedges
4 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
4 tsp. cornstarch

In a firepit, build a wood fire about as wide as the cooking grate. Let it burn to low flames and embers, or use charcoal; fire is ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches about grate only 5 to 7 seconds. Cut 6 sheets of heavy-duty foil into 18-inch squares. Brush or rub center of each with a little oil: set on work surface.

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, milk, grated parmesan, chopped parsley and basil, ½ tsp. each salt and pepper, and the chopped Calabrian chile. Add ground turkey and sausage. Stir until well blended, then shape into 18 balls, setting on parchment paper or plates.

Put 3 meatballs in the center of each foil sheet, then divide potatoes, onion and carrots among sheets. In a small bowl, combine remaining ¼ cup oil, ⅓ cup water, the cornstarch, and remaining ½ tsp. each salt and pepper, spoon over ingredients in foil, stirring sauce as you go.

On each bundle, bring 2 opposite sides of foil together across the middle and fold to make a seam 1 in., then repeat to seal securely.

Set bundles on grill and cook, turning over with tongs every 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Protect hands with grilling gloves, open packets and scoop food onto plates. Snip whole parsley and basil leaves on top and serve with more chiles and shredded parmesan.


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