WARNING: This article contains detailed descriptions and sumptuous photography of delicious food prepared in a truck camper. Gourmet anywhere! Bon appetit.
The history of our truck camping lifestyle is rather short. We always tended towards the outdoors, and did our share of camping.
When we became empty nesters, we decided to get an RV. We only needed something for the two of us, and I preferred a rugged go anywhere, self-sufficient approach. That led us toward a truck camper. The factors that actually clinched the choice for a truck camper were our very steep driveway approach, and the twelve foot by twelve foot entrance to our barn.
Most fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes would not clear the twelve foot barn door height; a travel trailer would, but would not clear our driveway’s sharp angle of approach, nor would most of the other RV types. A truck camper fit our needs and met the physical requirements, although models that build above the truck rails would still not clear the barn door height.
We looked at several truck camper models and decided on an Arctic Fox 1140. With a wheel well height basement and a low profile air conditioner, it clears the twelve foot ceiling by about three inches. We checked off just about every option on the dry bath version including two 135 watt solar panels, two Fantastic Fans (we now have three), installed two AGM batteries, and changed all twelve cabin lights to LEDs.
We put the camper on a Chevy 3500HD dually, held down by Torklift Fastguns. Firestone air suspension with the on-board air compressor and air reservoir tank were also added. I can now raise and lower the rear from the driver’s seat. We added a hard-wired rear view camera, and a CB radio with the antenna on top of the camper. We also permanently installed a Garmin GPS. On longer trips I add a Tom Tom GPS. We have two different brands knowing that if they agree, we have a high degree of confidence in where we are going.
We learned about the Northeast Truck Camper Jamboree on the internet. Now we try to attend most of their rallies and jamborees. Food is always a prominent part of the gatherings. Typically, there is an appetizer gathering most nights, with one potluck dinner on Saturday night.
Food has always been one of our passions. We dine out regularly, and Marianne is a great cook. Naturally, this translated into enthusiasm for the food part of the rallies. We enjoy bringing and preparing the appetizers and food for the potluck dinners. Marianne has developed several recipes where she does some preparation work at home, followed by some final cooking and preparation at the campsite.
We’ll start with the Eggplant Rollantini that we brought to the Mid-Atlantic Truck Camper Rally.
This is a dish that we prepare at home and finalize at the campsite.
Several medium sized eggplants (the larger ones tend to have too many seeds)
Quality fresh ricotta (about 1 to 2 tablespoons for each finished rollatini)
Grated parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper
Dried parsley flakes
Marinara (red tomato) sauce
Wash, peel and slice the eggplants.
The slices should be about three-eighths of an inch thick. Salt the raw slices and place into a colander with a dish underneath for about an hour. This will draw out moisture. Then wipe with paper towels to remove the surface salt and moisture. Stack with clean paper towels between the slices, pending frying.
Fry until golden brown and soft, but not “mushy”.
As you remove the slices from the fry pan, place them on a dish with paper towels between the slices.
Once cool, place the slices into a storage container again with paper towels between the slices and refrigerate. They will keep about a week. Next prepare the filling. Mix the ricotta with some shredded mozzarella. There should be enough so that you end up with between one and two tablespoons for each slice of eggplant. Mix in the parmesan cheese, ground pepper, and parsley flakes. Place the mix into a storage container and refrigerate.
At the campsite the rollatini are assembled and baked.
Add one to two tablespoons of the ricotta filling to each slice of eggplant and roll.
Prepare a baking tin by spooning a layer of the marinara sauce into the bottom. Arrange the rollatini into the baking tin and add a drizzle of marinara sauce on top.
Sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top. Bake on medium heat for about twenty minutes or until the filling is warm. You can test it with a toothpick. Do not overcook. Then sprinkle grated mozzarella on top and heat for another five minutes.
Serve and enjoy with the wine of your choice.
Baby Back Ribs
Again, a recipe that is prepared at home and finalized at the campsite.
Baby back ribs, cut apart
Beef broth (enough to cover the ribs in a pot)
1 cup Duck sauce
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
Place the ribs into a pot, cover with beef broth, and simmer for two hours.
Mix the sauce ingredients and put on low heat until the brown sugar melts. Let the sauce cool, place into a storage container and refrigerate.
After the ribs are done remove them from the beef broth, let cool and put them into a storage container and refrigerate. You can add some of the broth after it is cool to the storage container just to keep the ribs moist. Other than that, there is no further need for the broth.
At the campsite heat the ribs over the grill.
Remember, these ribs are already fully cooked. You are grilling to heat and to add a little bit of color and a little bit of smoke/grill flavor. If you overcook them at this point, the ribs will be very dry.
Just before you take them off the grill, baste on some of the sauce. Serve with the remainder of the sauce. It usually works best if the remaining sauce is served warm.
Here is the recipe for the appetizer that we brought to the balloon festival.
Crusty Italian bread – the long type
Firm, ripe plum tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
While still at home, slice the bread into half inch slices. Then, rub them with roasted garlic, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with Italian seasoning, and lightly toast in the broiler. Then bring the toasted bread and other ingredients to the rally. If you prefer, you can buy ready made garlic-rubbed toasted bread at some larger delis and stores like Shop-Rite. Just ask them to prepare Bruschetta bread for you.
At the campsite, slice the tomatoes into quarter inch slices. Shred the fresh basil. Place a tomato slice and some basil on each piece of toast. Note: You can adjust for salt to suit your preference by adding some light salt to the tomato slices prior to adding the basil.
Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top of the tomato slice and basil.
Then, shave some curly slices from the piece of cheese.
Add the cheese to the bread, tomato, and basil.
Finish by topping with several drops of Balsamic vinegar. Then, garnish by adding several basil leaves to the center of the platter.
As with anything else, the quality of the product is dependent on the quality of the ingredients. Quality Parmigianio-Reggiano cheese cut from a large wheel of cheese at an Italian deli is the best as opposed to the shrink wrapped type. Quality Balsamic vinegar is pricey, but you can taste the difference. Expect to pay about twenty dollars per pint for quality Balsamic vinegar, although the very top quality can cost more than one hundred dollars per pint.
For the dinner potluck, Marianne presented traditional sausages and peppers.
Traditional Sausages and Peppers
Red and Green red Bell peppers (or any other type you prefer)
Italian sweet and/or hot (if preferred) sausage, preferably from a high-quality butcher
While still at home, slice the peppers and the onions. They should look like those in the above picture when you are finished.
Fry them in a pan using canola or other vegetable oil. It is best to fry the peppers and the onions separately since they may cook at a different rate. Add the garlic (sliced fine) to the peppers about five minutes before the peppers are done.
After the onions and the peppers (with the garlic) are done, mix them together. At this point, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The mix should look like the above photograph when you are done (except that the basil garnish was added for photo purposes only). Shred a few leaves of washed fresh basil and mix in.
When everything is cool, transfer the dish into a storage container for transporting to the campsite.
At the campsite, cook the sausage on the grill. After cooking, cut up the sausage into pieces about one to one and a half inches long. Heat up the peppers on the grill in an aluminum pan, or in the camper’s oven.
Mix the sausage and the peppers, and serve. Provide rolls or other bread, preferably not a soft thin type.
There was an excellent rib dish that was presented at the Hot Air Balloon Festival. This was the creation of another camper, Dave Cowell from Francetown, New Hampshire. Dave also did the preparation work at home and then finished the cooking at the campsite.
He took two full racks of ribs, added meat tenderizer and then applied a rub, to which he had added garlic salt. Dave says any good rub will do. He then smoked the ribs for four hours on low heat until fully cooked. The ribs were then stored.
At the campsite, Dave heated the ribs on a grill, again using low heat. When the ribs were close to being at the right temperature, he began saucing and turning. Again, Dave says any good sauce will do. Keep turning. The aim is to evenly heat without scorching the sauce.
In the photo above, we see Dave heating the ribs on the left side of the grill, and Mike Tassinari doing his grilling on the right side.
Here’s a close up of the ribs.
Dave then cut up the ribs and served them in an aluminum pan. They were very good, and went fast.
Here is a photo of the campers enjoying the dinner and everyone is busy eating.
|JOE AND MARIANNE ZECCA’S TRUCK CAMPER RIG|
|Truck: 2011 Chevy Silverado 3500, extended cab, dual rear wheels, 4X4, long bed, gas engine|
|Camper: 2012 Arctic Fox 1140 dry bath|
|Tie-downs and Turnbuckles: Torklift|
|Suspension Enhancements: Firestone air bags with on-board compressor|
|Gear: Fox Landing rear steps (we got the prototype, without the “Fox Landing” logo); also, all interior lights we changed to LEDs, Two 135 watt solar panels|