Campfire Food

Katy and I got out of Austin for a night over the weekend to do some camping just south of San Antonio. We found an awesome campground that was run by a super nice family who were friendly and helpful and recommended their best site for us. We set up camp right next to the Medina River which had an enchanted feel to it as the afternoon light slipped through the trees.

our peaceful fishing spot down by the river

After a few hours of unsuccessful fishing, more than a few beers, and a couple card games we  sparked up a fire and began cooking dinner. It’s amazing what hot coals and a good cast iron skillet can do. Katy’s handmade burgers(beef, salt, pepper, worcestershire) were on the menu, but the bacon had to be cooked first.  The bacon cooked down and left a nice puddle of grease that our burgers were more than happy to cook in. They sizzled in the pan and  and got a nice hard crust on the outside, but maintained a perfect medium rare inside.  The buns were spread with garlic butter and toasted inside aluminum foil while cheddar melted atop the burgers. I’m serious when I say this was a top 5 burger in my life. Juicy burger, crispy bacon, and melted cheese topped with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion. And I think the real kicker was the garlic butter. OH MAN I want another. It was dark but I still tried my best to get a good pic.

After a good night sleep with an early morning to check out a meteor shower, the fire was back up and running to start breakfast. We had fingerling potatoes that Katy halved and put in foil with onions and more garlic butter. They sat right in the hot coals and cooked and caramelized while we made more bacon, of course. After crisping up the rest of the bacon, I friend and egg in the skillet while toasting an everything bagel with more garlic butter. I promise, garlic butter makes everything better. Piled high on the toasty bagel with a slice of cheddar, this bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich could have been ordered at a restaurant.

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Piragis – Latvian bacon rolls

Do you know that smell that instantly takes you back to your childhood? The one where you are 7 years old all over again watching your grandma whip up your favorite treat? For me that is the smell of fresh Piragis, or loosely pronounced pee-dugs. They are these delicious little rolls stuffed with bacon, ham, and onion and my Omi(Latvian name for grandma) always made the best ones. For those who don’t know, Latvia is a small Baltic country between Lithuania and Estonia and across the sea from Sweden. Still confused? It’s northern Europe.

I remember watching Omi make these all the time, and eventually I started to help out. Always wanting to just make the biggest piragi possible, I was probably more of a nuisance than a helping hand. Either way, they are staple in Latvian culture and always around for family gatherings. Having grown up loving piragis, I wanted to learn how to make them on my own to hold on to the culture. I searched the internet and asked Omi her secrets to making them and I feel like after a few attempts, I now have a solid recipe worth sharing.

Dough ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup warm water

Filling ingredients

  • 1 finely chopped white onion
  • 1 package of bacon, frozen and then slightly thawed
  • 1 pound ham (preferably on the bone, thick sliced deli works too)
  • salt and pepper

Glaze ingredients

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

The dough

Put the yeast in the quarter cup of warm water (with the small amount of sugar, if desired). Set aside and wait until it starts to bubble up.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a saucepan or the microwave until hot to the touch. Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and add in butter, salt, and sugar. Let cool until lukewarm. Now add the bubbly yeast and the beaten egg.

To this add about 1½ cups flour and whisk until smooth. Now add the rest of the flour about a half cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. At this point switch to a large spoon or rubber spatula as dough will stick in the whisk. Once all the flour is mixed in completely cover the bowl with a damp cloth or towel and let the dough “rest” for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare a floured surface (board or clean counter) for kneading. After 10 minutes, turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead lightly for 3 or 4 minutes until the dough is smooth, but still somewhat soft.

Grease a large bowl with a stick of butter and put the dough into the bowl and turn it and flip it until all surfaces have been greased. Cover the bowl with warm damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (30 – 90 minutes, depending on the warmth of the environment). While the dough is rising begin cooking the filling.

ingredients

milk, butter, salt, sugar, egg, yeast, and warm water mixed together

whisked together with 1 1/2 cups of flour

flour fully mixed in

after 90 minutes the dough has doubled in size

The filling

Take your pack of bacon out of the freezer about 10 minutes prior to cutting to let it thaw. This makes it much easier to cut. Finely chop the bacon, ham, and onion into small pieces and saute in a large pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and let cook for about 20 minutes. When the fat has rendered off, use a slotted spoon to transfer the filling into a new bowl.

ingredients

this is when the kitchen starts to smell sooo good

looks like someone wants to help out....or maybe just try a sample

ready to make the piragis

Making the roll

When the dough has risen, set the oven to 400°F, and then punch down the dough. Take half of the dough and roll it out onto a floured surface. I used a pint glass to cut out equal sized circles of dough and then flattened them further with my hand. Next, scoop about 1 to 2 teaspoons of filling onto the bottom half of the dough circles then fold over and pinch closed. Dipping your finger in water and dabbing it on the upper rim of the dough will help it hold together. Make sure they are pinched tight with no holes and lay the rolls seam side down onto an non greased cookie sheet until all the dough is used up.

At this point, mix the glaze and paint each roll liberally with the egg wash. Place on middle rack and bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown. Once baked, remove from the tray with a spatula and let sit 5 minutes before eating.

set up workspace

pinching into a crescent shape

rolled up piragis waiting for egg wash

ready for the oven

they're best fresh out the oven!

Hope you enjoyed reading and you make some great piragis! Thanks for taking the time to read our site.

On a side note….