If you were ever a (Boy, Girl, or even Cub) Scout, you probably know about Hobo Packs. Basically, these are foil-wrapped packets of food that you put in the ashes to cook. It’s a great technique, not only because it gives food a wonderful smoky, charred flavor, but because it lets you cook a side dish in the ashes while you’re making the main course on top of the grill. It’s also supremely adaptable, suitable for campfire and fireplace as well as standard grill. Best of all, it provides a moment of high drama when you rip open the foil and find out if the food is perfectly cooked or burned to cinders.
To increase your chance of being a hero rather than a goat, make sure you use heavy-duty foil and wrap the food up in several layers so the liquid doesn’t seep out. And slide the packets into the edge of the fire (another good use for those long-handled tongs) instead of putting them in the middle; you only want the coals to come about a third of the way up the sides of the packets. Feel free to use one of our recipes, or go off on your own. The ingredients and combinations that lend themselves to this approach are endless. To get you started, try combining a couple of small eggplants, quartered; 4 halved plum tomatoes; a head of garlic, halved horizontally; a half-dozen rosemary sprigs; 2 thinly sliced lemons; 1/4 cup of olive oil; and a lot of salt and pepper. Or about a pound of mushrooms; a head of garlic, separated into cloves; a couple of sliced red onions; 1/4 pound of thinly sliced prosciutto; 1/4 cup or so of thyme; 1/3 cup olive oil; a small handful of mustard greens; and once again a lot of salt and pepper. And you get the idea.
Go ahead and try it—it’s going to be good.