Hiring on as a cook for an outfitter’s hunting camp is way different than being the cook at your family camping retreat or even cooking for a group of close friends. Among family and friends chances are you’ll know everyone’s tastes, preferences, and even allergies. When you’re putting out meals for a new group of hunters that changes over every week or so, you must cook to the bull’s eye of common tastes. You can’t get too crazy with the spices or flavorings that some folks can’t tolerate or just plain don’t like. That goes to alcohol flavorings in some dishes, too. Some people don’t like wine or brandy flavors. Some don’t like bourbon or whiskey flavors. And some don’t like rum. Some won’t tolerate any of them.
Sure, if the group is small enough, you can get around to ask everyone and make sure they are okay with certain flavors and spices, but when you’re cooking for a bunch of people including guides, wranglers, the outfitter and his family, and maybe even unexpected visitors you’re usually best off sticking to the basic flavors most everyone enjoys—sweet, salty, sour, etc.
Natashja does the cooking for the South Fork Ranch operation of R&K Hunting in Coalville, Utah. My group of hunters filled out early on a recent trip, so Natashja gave me the opportunity to be the cook’s assistant for several days of this hunt, and she shared this recipe for a rum-free bananas foster that creates a luscious caramel sauce and leaves no one asking, “What’s missing?”
This is a fan-dang-tastic dessert you can whip up in minutes in a big cast iron skillet. The proportions below provide hearty servings for 4-6 people, but this is a great one to stretch when ol’ Cook needs to come up with something for unexpected guests. Serve it over ice cream or, if camp doesn’t have a freezer, this is a great French toast, waffle, or pancake topping you can offer in addition to the staple maple syrup. The sauce is also great for poaching peach slices or other fruit—it just needs to cook a little longer.
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar
- 2 pinches nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 ½ tablespoons of butter
- 4 medium peeled bananas sliced like coins about ¼-inch thick
- Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet to medium temperature.
- Stir in all the ingredients except the banana.
- Keep stirring until everything is melted, the mixture is a light golden brown, and the sauce is just starting to bubble good.
- Add the sliced bananas and allow them to cook for about a minute–just until they start to soften. You want the inside of the slices to stay a touch el dente.