Because I can think of almost nothing else but Joe Casey, a very close friend who passed away recently, I am dedicating this column to meals I have eaten with him this week.
Over our 13-year friendship, we shared a lot of meals. Most of them were at my house for holidays or events, but some were out in the woods, held over a campfire.
Joe was a man with many tools and gadgets. He always came prepared. And because he worked out and exercised a lot, he often had a big appetite, too. An avid hunter, game meat was often on his menu.
On one camping trip, he told me not too worry about the food; he had it covered. He showed up with a cast-iron sandwich maker and some ingredients that he made me promise not to judge. Knowing I am a bit of a food snob, he knew the judging was coming his way regardless.
First up on the “I don’t like it” list was a tub of spreadable margarine. Then there was a jar of pre-bought pizza sauce (another “don’t” in my book). And lastly, pre-shredded cheese (yep, you guessed it, I think that stuff is gross too).
Joe went about his business of making the sandwiches, not caring about what I though of the ingredients and promising the “best camp meal I have ever eaten.”
And he delivered. He called his creation a “pizza sandwich” and for whatever reason, despite the sub-par in my opinion ingredients, it was delicious.
He knew what he was doing, it seemed. The margarine, in place of the butter I would have chosen, was spreadable so it didn’t tear up the bread when you coated the outside. The pre-shredded cheese made it easy to prepare and he managed to cook it just right, without burning the outsides of the bread.
I would have never come up with something like this sandwich, and would never have thought it would taste so good. It was almost shockingly good. Simple, but better than any camp meal I have ever had or have had since.
On another camp trip, some time after, I decided to try to outdo him and wanted to make an upgraded version of a similar meal. I brought pesto, fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and a few other things. This caused some tension between us, as he really didn’t want the gourmet version of his dish.
Frankly, my version wasn’t as good. The fresh cheese put out too much moisture and the bread burned.
I will be reverting back to Joe’s, more simple, version and will I am sure make it and remember our previous camping trips many times. It won’t be the same eating it without him though.
I found the cast iron cooking tool easily online. My comes with two spots so you can make more than one at a time.