Luke Clayton cooks outdoors

Outdoor cooking is great fun and freshly prepared food is sure to be a hit at your next outdoor outing. Here Luke is shown prepping for a quick fish fry at a local fishing pond.

  Through the years, I have been designated cook in camps from the wilds of Canada to south of the border.

  I absolutely love cooking outside and preparing meals that are simple and tasty. This past weekend while filming a cooking segment for my weekly outdoor show, I prepared a Dutch Kettle recipe that I learned years ago from the late Bob Hood who wrote about the outdoors for almost a half-century.

  Bob was a great Dutch Kettle cook and taught me a recipe for quail that we used on many quail hunts. Not all of us have a freezer full of quail and I’ve discovered that Cornish hens work equally well. Begin by cutting the birds in half and seasoning with salt and pepper. Next, crush three rows of Ritz Crackers into cracker meal. Now, melt a stick of unsalted butter in a Dutch Kettle and coat the chicken with cracker meal.

  Place the chicken halves in the kettle, breast side up. Sprinkle the remaining cracker meal over and around the chicken and season with a bit more black pepper.   Cut up a half stick of butter and place on top of the breaded chicken. Place hot charcoals under and on top of the Dutch Kettle and allow to cook about 50 minutes.   The chicken is done when the breading is the consistency of cornbread and the chicken falls off the bone tender. Serve the chicken halves with the seasoned cracker crumbs. Of the many ways that I prepare chicken, this method runs head in head with smoked barbecue chicken.

  BARBECUE PORK NECK BONE — I recently put my Smokin Tex electric smoker to work with a big pan full of pork neck bones and the resulting meal was some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten. The cost of the meat is just a little over $1 per pound! Just about everyone enjoys eating smoked pork ribs. Did you know that pork neck bone makes even tastier, leaner barbecue? Look for packaged pork marked “meaty pork neck bone.”

  Actually, there is leaner meat on these cuts than on pork ribs or chops and the flavor of the meat is even tastier. Granted, the cost of bone is obviously factored into the price but there is plenty of prime pork in these cuts. I’ve always thought that cooking bone in cuts adds greatly to the flavor of meats.

Many grocery stores carry this product and the meat market of most Hispanic Food stores keep it in stock. This barbecue can be prepared on a conventional smoker where the temperature can be kept at a consistent temperature around 225 degrees but I enjoy the ease of cooking and flavor my Smokin Tex gives meat.  

  I put about three ounces of plum or hickory wood in the smoke box of my Smokin Tex and allow the meat to smoke for about two hours. Next, I placed the cuts in an aluminum pan, seasoned it well with my favorite dry seasonings and covered it well with barbecue sauce. The pan is covered tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil and allowed to slow cook six hours at 200 degrees. The resulting barbecue is fall-off-the-bone tender and the tastiest barbecue imaginable. Many consider pork neck bone as a “lesser” cut of meat but you’ve heard the old saying, “eating high on the hog?” This old adage must surely have been referencing neck bone!

  RASPBERRY PORK TENDERLOIN — I usually have plenty of wild pork in the freezer but domestic pork works just as well for this recipe. Begin by trimming the tenderloins well, and then make a vertical slice right down the center of each loin, about halfway through and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Dust lightly with garlic powder. Place a couple of slices of quality, thickly sliced smoked bacon in the slit of each tenderloin.

Grill or smoke until well done, then pour a liberal amount of Raspberry Chipotle Sauce over the loins. This sauce gives the meat an excellent sweet/spicy flavor and should be poured onto the loins during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

  If you prefer, instead of cooking the loins whole, slice them into three-quarters inch loin chops and baste with the Roasted Raspberry sauce. I’ve served this dish many times and it’s always well received at camp and home.

  OVEN BAKED PEPPER TENDERLOIN — Wild or domestic pork back straps can be used for this dish. I enjoy making this dish outdoors in my cast iron Dutch Kettle but a conventional home oven works just fine. In a food processor, roughly chop six medium Serrano peppers, six pods of fresh garlic, one bunch of fresh cilantro, the juice from two limes and one cup olive oil. Slice the loin lengthwise almost all the way through (like a hot dog bun).

  Pour in the ingredients and place bacon strips on top. Bake in oven heated to 350 degrees until the pork is well done or in Dutch Kettle for about one hour.

  Whether we simply grill burgers and hot dogs outdoors or spread our cooking wings and tackle some of the more involved dishes, there is something very special and...tasty about food cooked outdoors on a grill, smoker or Dutch Kettle. I believe the key to a successful meal prepared outdoors is simplicity and doing much of the prep work at home before heading out. With summer just beginning and lots of outdoor outings ahead, consider trying some of these recipes. They are all very simple to prepare and will make you look like an outdoor cooking guru to family and friends!

  Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton” weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org. Check out the link to the weekly outdoor video while you’re visiting.