The Backcountry Epicure

Day Two: Sleight of Spatula

Jul 16, 2001
Outside Magazine

Tavern on the Green's Patrick Clark whips up classic Americana with a dash of deception

Patrick Clark insists he didn't turn down a chance in 1993 to become White House chef for fear of Bill Clinton shaking him at 3 a.m., demanding double chili-cheeseburgers. "No, it was quite flattering," says Clark, who instead took the executive chef position at Tavern on the Green, the country's top-grossing restaurant, located in Manhattan's Central Park. Clark's specialty is classic American cuisine prepared in a style that's been described as "deceptively simple." The 47-year-old Brooklyn native figures that the outdoors is where he got his start as a chef—"I was the only boy in my scout troop going for the cooking merit badge," he notes—and he's continued the tradition by cooking for his son's scout troop. "Being outdoors means getting back to where food comes from," he says. "There's no need to get fancy, because meals just taste better outside."
Breakfast: Country Style Eggs with Potatoes and Sausage

2 medium Idaho potatoes
1/2 lb. sausage, crumbled
2 small red onions, peeled and diced
12 large eggs
3 tbs. butter

Before leaving home: Bake the potatoes for 50 minutes at 350 degrees and then quarter, slice, and wrap in foil. Sauté the onions and sausage over medium-high heat. Drain, cool, and wrap in foil.

At camp: Melt butter in frying pan and sauté potatoes until golden brown. Add sausage and onion and then crack the eggs over the mixture. Stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

With a full "hump day" ahead of you and, more than likely, a lot of activity in store, Clark figures a long, leisurely, fat- and protein-rich breakfast is just the thing. "If you were heading home later that day, I might advise a lighter meal," Clark explains. "But with two more days of hiking to go, I'd take the time to fuel up."

Lunch: Roasted Pork Sandwich with Mango Chutney Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise
1 jar of mango chutney
12 limes
1 pork tenderloin, roasted
1 loaf sourdough bread
1 red onion
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 leaves of romaine lettuce

Before leaving home: Slice the onion into quarter-inch round sections, place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast in a 350-degree oven until soft but not brown. Wrap in foil. Combine chutney, mayonnaise, and the juice of 12 limes in a bowl and mix well. Keep on ice until you reach the trailhead.

At camp: Slice bread and spread with the chutney mayonnaise. Carve off enough pork for each portion, place on bread, top with onion and lettuce, and "close" with a second slice of bread.

"Sandwiches are really easy when you're out on the trail," explains Clark. "You don't have to cook anything--all you have to do out there is assemble."

Dinner: Grilled Barbecue Marinated Flank Steak, Fire Roasted Potatoes, Onions with Spicy Butter, and Foil Baked Plantains with Vanilla

For the steak 1-1/2 cup cilantro (leaves and stems)
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 lb. flank steak
6 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
2-1/2 jalapeño peppers, coarsely chopped, with seeds
1/4 cup chopped oregano leaves
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup ketchup

Before leaving home: Two days before departure, combine cilantro, cumin, dried oregano, thyme, onion, garlic, and vegetable oil in a glass bowl. Add flank steak, cover, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Then stack the steaks in one slab and freeze until hard. When ready to leave, double-bag in plastic and place in a brown paper bag insulated with crushed egg cartons and newspapers. Keep on ice until you reach the trailhead.

To prepare the barbecue sauce: mash garlic, bay leaves, jalapeños, oregano leaves, and salt with a mortar and pestle until a paste is formed (or puree with a splash of vinegar in a blender). Transfer to a bowl and stir in vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard. Store in a plastic container in the refrigerator until ready to leave; then transfer to a Nalgene bottle.

At camp: Season steak with salt and pepper. Place on preheated grill. Baste with the sauce on both sides. Grill to desired doneness. Slice flank steak against the grain.

For the potatoes and onions

16 new potatoes
32 pearl onions, peeled
4 tbs. olive oil
1 lb. unsalted butter
2 sprigs thyme, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
2 tbs. black pepper, crushed
1 tsp. coriander seed, crushed
1 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (no stems)

Before leaving home: Place all ingredients except potatoes, onions, and olive oil in a food processor and puree. Adjust seasoning to taste. Place in the middle of a square of foil or wax paper. Roll-wrap into log shape and then refrigerate. Transfer into Nalgene container just before leaving.

At camp: Make four potato-and-onion foil packages—four potatoes and eight onions in each, drizzled with one tablespoon of olive oil. Place packages on preheated grill and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, turning every ten minutes. Remove foil, group on a plate with the flank steak, and place a quarter-inch disk of the spicy butter concoction on top. For the plantains

4 semiripe plantains
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbs. soft butter
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbs. dark rum
1 vanilla bean, split in quarters
mint, julienned

Before leaving home: Combine sugar, butter, nutmeg, and rum to make a paste. Store in refrigerator until just before departure, and then transfer to a Nalgene bottle.

At camp: With a paring knife, cut a seam down each plantain. Insert a vanilla bean quarter in each and seal with sugar-butter paste. Wrap in foil. Place in coals for 20 minutes or until tender and remove. Carefully peel plantain, saving any sauce. Slice and serve on a plate, drizzling sauce on top. Garnish with mint.

As Clark points out, this meal allows you to deceive your campmates by doing the hard stuff at home and then dazzling them around the fire, leaving the impression that you whipped it up on the spot. "At the end of a long day, you don't want dinner to be an arduous task."

Filed To: Culinary

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