Campfire Cooking Gets a Gourmet Boost

The days of a simple hamburger or hot dog and a side of beans are long gone. Today’s glampers aren’t just sleeping in the lap of luxury; they’re lapping up fine-dining-style meals in the middle of nowhere. Campfire cooking has been elevated to an art form and this refined rustic cuisine proves that the four walls of a kitchen are no longer necessary to deliver a top-notch meal.

Elevating Campfire Cuisine

Emma Frisch, cofounder of New York’s Ithaca by Firelight Camps, is helping to raise the profile of outdoor cooking. She recently debuted her cookbook, Feast By Firelight: Simple Recipes for Camping, Cabins, and the Great Outdoors, packed with recipes to help beginners take their camp cooking to the next level.  She sat down with us to talk food and even shared one of her favorite recipes.

An Interview with Emma Frisch How long have you been into food?

Emma Frisch: From the moment I was born, I was by my mother’s side in the kitchen or the vegetable patch. It has always been an inseparable part of who I am. In college I created my own major in Food Studies and spent nearly a decade working to build healthier urban-rural food systems before landing in the kitchen as a chef. My expertise in local food sourcing has always influenced my cooking. What kind of food can guests expect while at Firelight Camps?

EF: Currently, we serve a locally sourced, continental breakfast to guests (included with their stay), which features some recipes from the cookbook. We also offer snacks in our camp store, homemade s’mores kits and a full bar selection of regional craft beverages and cocktails using herbs and fruit from our gardens. Guests can also eat dinner at John Thomas Steakhouse or The Bistro at La Tourelle, both on the property. What’s the best thing about starting and ending the day with a meal around the fire?

EF: Eating around the campfire is primal; it’s in our bones and has been since the beginning of time. When we gather to cook and eat in this way, we connect on a level that is rare in modern culture. We unplug from screens and tune into our senses, whether smelling the crisp in the Dutch oven or gauging the heat of the coals. The scent of smoke is grounding and nostalgic—the taste of smoke even more so! The campfire gives us a setting to truly relish what’s before us: loved ones, new friends, the natural world, our inner selves and, of course, our food. What are some ingredients that you’re most excited about right now?

EF: All things wild-foraged! I am so intrigued by what we can find in the woods behind our house and camp because there’s an abundance of nutrient-rich, delicious ingredients. We forage a wide range of ingredients depending on the season, such as cattail pollen and stems, garlic mustard, wild berries, wood sorrel, and pine needles. What is your favorite recipe in the book, or perhaps the one you make the most often—and why?

EF: One of my favorite recipes in the book is Fire-Licked Skirt Steak with Mamma’s Salsa Verde. It’s one of the simplest and most satisfying meals and incorporates a long-time Italian recipe that amps up the steak. Finally, add some grilled vegetables and charred bread.



prep: 10 minutes
cook: 10 to 12 minutes
yield: 4 to 6 servings


  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
  • One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1⁄3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 pounds skirt steak (see Note)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 20 turns of the pepper mill


To prepare the salsa verde:

In a food processor, combine the garlic, anchovies, and capers and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl; add the vinegar, mustard, and parsley; and whiz while slowly drizzling in the 1⁄3 cup olive oil until smooth and bright green. Transfer the mixture to a lidded 8-ounce jar. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top to create a film that will preserve the lovely bright green. Seal the jar tightly and chill for up to 1 week.

To prepare the steaks:

Dry-brine the steaks by rubbing the salt evenly over the surface. (You can also do this 1 to 2 hours before cooking at camp.) Transfer to a ziplock bag and then chill for up to 24 hours.

Remove the salsa verde from the cooler and let stand at ambient temperature for up to 2 hours before serving.

Grilling instructions:

Fire the grill to high heat. Remove the steaks from the cooler and pat dry with a paper towel to eliminate moisture on the surface and ensure a crispy crust. Sprinkle both sides with the pepper. Place the steaks over the hottest part of the fire. Using long tongs, flip the steak every minute or so for even cooking; the cooking time will vary depending on thickness.

Look for an evenly caramelized and browned outer crust to check doneness. Slight char is okay but don’t let the crust burn! Use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the steak is between 125° and 130°F for medium-rare to medium. You can cook longer for medium-well or well-done, but be mindful because it will make the steak chewier.

To serve:

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes so the juices can redistribute. Slice the steak against the grain into 1⁄2-inch slices.

Serve directly from the cutting board. Stir the top layer of oil into the salsa verde just before serving and let campers add it to their steak directly from the jar. Store leftovers in an airtight container, chilled, for up to 3 days.

Note: Some recipes suggest trimming the steak’s fat because when the fat drips onto the coals it causes a flare-up. Skirt steak isn’t very fatty, but still, leave any fat on for flavor and just be prepared for flare-ups.


Sample the Recipes with an Exclusive Special Offer

Book a reservation through for any travel date through November 4, 2018. The first 15 bookings will receive a signed copy of Feast by Firelight.


Visit Ithaca by FireLight Camps

Peruse the cookbook while stretching out in your luxury tent when you pay Ithaca by Firelight Camps a visit. Located in the heart of the scenic Finger Lakes region of New York, this 19-tent retreat on the grounds of La Tourelle Hotel, Bistro & Spa is an ideal home base for hiking the trails of the Buttermilk Falls State Park, checking out waterfalls or sipping wines at one of the region’s famed vineyards.




Reprinted with permission from Feast by Firelight. Text and illustrations copyright © 2018 by Emma Frisch. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Christina Holmes.



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