Revisiting and reviving an old favorite

May 21, 2015

That's a wrap! Sweet potatoes and ham in a foil packet.

That’s a wrap! Sweet potatoes and ham in a foil packet.

Remember those old “Boy Scout Campfire Potatoes,” the foil packets with diced potatoes, salt, pepper, butter, onion, and parmesan cheese in the green can that we used to wrap up in foil packets and put on the grill? Or adapt to an entree by adding a chicken breast and baking in the oven?

You can take it in a different direction and come out with a completely different, but still awfully doggoned tasty and easy.

I was casting about for something different that wouldn’t take up a lot of time, as I was sixteen different kinds of busy, but would provide a decent dinner and would be flexible as to time to eat. I was standing in the kitchen staring blankly at not much at all, looking for inspiration, when my gaze hit on sweet potatoes, and my mind went to packages of ham in the freezer.

H’mm. My first thought was to bake the sweet potato, slit it open and stuff it with diced ham. And then I segued from that to the Boy Scout campfire potatoes, or whatever they called them. I could dice the potatoes, toss them in butter, sprinkle them with a rub, scatter diced ham over the top, seal them up in a little foil packet, and bake.

So I did. I made up a rub of a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, a couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika, and some seasoned salt. Too much seasoned salt. Note to self. Don’t use that much seasoned salt. A half-teaspoon would’ve been plenty. Defrosted a frozen vac-pac of ham, and diced up a couple of slices. Diced two sweet potatoes, melted a couple of tablespoons of butter and tossed them in it.

Mounded them in the middle of one side of a sheet of foil, sprinkled with rub, added diced ham on top, folded the foil over and sealed the edges. Put them on a cookie sheet and into a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

And didn’t eat them that night because the kid called and said, “Let’s go eat Indian,” and we did. Let them cool and put them in the fridge. Got one packet out the next day, put it in the oven for 15 minutes to warm back up, and had it for lunch.

Pretty doggoned good, but for the too-salty rub.

This technique is a riff on the classic French en papillote style, in which a protein, often fish but occasionally something else, is sealed in parchment paper with seasonings and aromatics and baked. The process seals in flavor and juices, and generally presents you with a tender and juicy piece of meat or fish. In the case of the sweet potatoes and ham, as the ham had a good deal of water in it, the juiciness was pronounced and transmitted itself to the sweet potatoes. The smoked paprika could’ve been more assertive.

Original plan was to have it with roasted broccoli, but as Child A came in with an incipient migraine ad did not wish to eat, I contented myself with just the potatoes and ham. I have a packet left, and may have it for lunch today.

As an added benefit, I now have thawed ham, and I have mojo pork in the freezer, so we may have Cubanos for dinner. I don’t have Cuban rolls, but I do have homemade loaf bread, and that ought to work.

The other foil packet sprang a leak, something you want to watch for, particularly if you’re not using heavy-duty foil. And that’s also why you always want to bake and/or warm them on a cookie sheet. I could see making up a bunch of these, par-baking them, freezing them, and then getting them out, on the order of TV dinners — would be particularly nice if you had kids. You could use a cut-up pork chop, or leftover roast pork or barbecue as the meat, as well. Bacon would be good, too; I think you’d need to cook it most of the way done, first.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em contemplate your roll of foil and figure out what else you can come up with to wrap up in it for dinner.



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