Snowbirding 2018 Postcards: Campfire-Baked Yams

I’ve been camping out with a friend along the Colorado River backwaters on the Arizona/California border for the past two weeks and we have had a campfire every night. The other evening, on a whim, I decided to try cooking two yams over the campfire. I wrapped them each in aluminum foil and laid them directly atop some hot coals in our mature campfire. I used a set of tongs to turn them frequently as we chatted for about an hour. When I went in for the night, I brought them in with me. The next morning, I opened one up and found a perfectly cooked yam inside. It was, by far, the most delicious yam I’ve ever eaten.

I managed to repeat that performance with three yams last night. Since last night might be my last campfire for a while — we’re back on the move later today — I figured I’d stock up. I already had one for my breakfast this morning! The skin peels right off. I bet it would taste amazing spread in a toasted bagel.

Instant Pot Goat (or Lamb) Tagine

Another quick and tasty pressure cooker meal.

Last spring, I bought a half a lamb and a half a goat from a local organic rancher. The meat came butchered (of course), packaged into a variety of cuts, and frozen solid. Each package of meat was tightly wrapped with plastic and then covered with white butcher paper. Some of it spent a little more than a year in my freezer with no ill effects.

Goat Tagine
Goat tagine, prepared in an Instant Pot.

As I’m working on clearing all the meat out of my big garage freezer for a new batch of meat next spring, I’m searching for recipes that are easy, tasty, and, if possible, Whole30 compliant. I found one called Goat Tagine with almonds and apricots on The Guardian website. I fiddled around with it a bit to Americanize the ingredient list and turn it into a recipe for my Instant Pot pressure cooker. Here’s my version.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds. Not easy to find; ground cumin, which I use a lot, is widely available.
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds. I could not find these locally; all I could find was ground coriander. So I used slightly less than 1 tsp of that.
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 12 black peppercorns. I don’t see why they can’t be rainbow peppercorns if that’s all you have.
  • 2 tbsp olive, rapeseed, or sunflower oil. I used olive oil.
  • 2-1/2 pounds goat or lamb, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces. The original recipe specifies shoulder of kid or goat, but I went into my freezer and pulled all all the remaining goat packages I had: steaks, chops, shanks. Goats are small animals so although that might sound like a lot of meat, I think I came up short on the total amount of meat after I’d cut out the bones and trimmed away what little fat there was. My main goal, however, was to finish up all the goat left in the freezer and I succeeded.
  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped. I used yellow onions.
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced. I suppose you can use the kind in a jar.
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated.
  • 1 tsp hot, smoked paprika. I didn’t have this so I used 1 tsp of regular (sweet) paprika and about 1/8 tsp chili powder. I also added a drop of liquid smoke, but I think I could have used 2 or more drops because I didn’t taste any smokiness at all.
  • 1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes. I used a pint-sized jar of chopped tomatoes in their natural juice. I’d canned them earlier this year. I really love being able to use my own garden vegetables in recipes year-round.
  • 1 cup dried apricots, cut in half. I got Turkish apricots in the natural foods section of my supermarket. They’re available in bulk. They’re not the pretty orange ones that come prepackaged and are available elsewhere in the store. Instead, they were dark colored and didn’t look very appetizing. They tasted great and weren’t nearly as sweet as the orange ones. (That’s all I’m buying from now on.)
  • 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds. I used slivered almonds because I prefer smaller pieces in my food.
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped.

Instructions:

  1. Set up the Instant Pot and make sure the pot is clean and dry. Press Sauté and allow the pot to heat. Then add the cumin, coriander, cloves, and peppercorns. Toast lightly for a few minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
  2. Transfer spices to a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder). Pound or grind into a powder and set aside.
  3. Add 1 tbsp oil to the Instant Pot and allow it to heat. Then add the meat and brown it. You might have to do it in two batches with some additional oil; I didn’t. Transfer the meat into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to the instant pot. Then stir in the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender; about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the ground spices, cinnamon stick, garlic, ginger, paprika, and salt and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices. While cooking, use a heat-resistant rubber spoon or wooden spoon to scrape away at any dark bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. The liquid in the tomatoes should make this easy.
  7. When the mixture has come to a boil, stir in the meat and any of its released juices.
  8. If necessary, add hot water to bring the level of liquid up to nearly cover the meat.
  9. Add the apricots and almonds and stir well.
  10. Cover the pot and lock the lid. Turn the steam vent so it’s closed.
  11. On the Instant Pot, press Off, and then Manual. Set the time to 30 minutes.
  12. Allow the stream to release naturally for about 10-15 minutes, then carefully open the pot.
  13. Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

A few notes about this recipe:

  • You might need to add more salt. The original recipe was vague on what was needed so I made it without salt. It definitely needed salt so I added about a half teaspoon before locking down the lid. I try to minimize my salt intake for health reasons so you might want more.
  • The original recipe, which was written for the stovetop, instructs you to cook kid for 45 minutes or goat for 60-75 minutes before adding the apricots and almonds and then cook for another 45 minutes. This would obviously cook the apricots less. You could simulate this in the Instant Pot by pressure cooking without the apricots and almonds for 20 minutes, adding them, and then pressure cooking for another 10 minutes. Then you’d have to deal with pressure release to open the pot to add the apricots and almonds. I’m lazy so I didn’t bother. It’s up to you. I don’t think the flavor will change.
  • Reduce the pressure cooking time by 5 minutes if you’re using kid instead of goat.
  • The recipe suggested serving with couscous, rice, or flatbread. But since I’m trying to avoid grains and gluten — yes, I’m still on that Whole30 thing and I’m actually liking it — I cooked up some finely chopped cauliflower and pretended it was rice. I poured some tagine right over that. Excellent.

Prime Rib Rub

Good on steak, too.

I’m going out to spend a few days with a friend at his house out on Lopez Island next week and, as usual, I’m bringing a ton of food from my garden, as well as eggs from my chickens. He has already promised me sea asparagus, which grows wild at his place, and a 13-year old bottle of wine he said he’s been saving for me. And what would be better with a nicely aged wine than a roasted prime rib? I just happen to have a small one in my freezer from the 1/4 cow I bought not long ago.

The last time I made a prime rib was years ago on my Traeger. My friend Mike had bought the meat at Costco and handed it over for me to cook. When I saw the price on it — $52! — I went into panic mode. What if I ruined this expensive cut of meat?

I had never cooked a prime rib and I went online for instructions. I was living in my Mobile Mansion at the time, so I didn’t have an oven big enough to cook it in. It had to go on the Traeger. I found a recipe for a Prime Rib Rub (see below), rubbed it on, stuck a thermometer in the meat — Mike had bought me a new wireless one; my old one was still packed in Arizona — and put it on the Traeger at whatever the recommended settings were. A few hours later, we had the most amazing prime rib dinner.

In the years since, I’ve used the rub extensively when grilling beef. As a matter of fact, I used up the last of my most recent batch on a nice filet mignon that I grilled up the other night. I went in search of the recipe to make another batch and figured it might be a good idea to just document it here for future reference. So here it is.

Spices

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup coarse kosher salt or 1/4 cup fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic or dried minced garlic or 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or jar.
  2. Rub on beef prior to grilling or smoking.
  3. Store leftover in a tightly sealed container.

I made two batches this morning: one for me and one for my friend.

Tip: For lamb or goat, try ras el hanout, which I mention in this recipe.