On my last camping trip two weeks ago (a climbing trip in Joshua Tree National Park), I tried my first attempt at Dirty Skillet Lasagna. As mentioned in the original Skillet Lasagna post, we would like to create a version of the lasagna recipe that is more fit for backpacking. We hope to be able to do this with a number of our more involved recipes eventually. The trip to Joshua Tree was car camping, so I left in a few minor luxuries (cottage cheese and a large non-stick skillet because I was serving six people). I made a sauce by mixing a small can of tomato paste with about 2 cups of water and a lot of seasoning, and I used string cheese for the mozzarella. Other than the noodles needing a bit more time to cook, it turned out awesome. I was sure that a smaller backpacking version would work.
So, this weekend, we took a family ski and snowshoeing day trip to enjoy the abundant snow we recently got in the L.A. area. We drove up to Frazier Mountain Park and rented skis and snowshoes for only $5 each. We got lucky with amazing weather, and not a whole lot of other people around to make fun of our skiing skills. As we made our way up Mt. Abel, there were lovely views of Cuyama Valley, and the fog-covered winding pass that was the San Andrea’s Fault. After skiing up well past the sledders and snow cat tracks, we were greeted by a pristine clearing with an incredible view that we decided to make our picnic spot.
Aimee brought along bread, cheese, apples, and a fantastic homemade biscotti, and I was in charge of lasagna. Unfortunately, I failed. The lasagna was a disaster.
It started when I realized I’d left my stove at home. After years of storing it nested in the cook set, it was put somewhere else during last week’s gear reorganization. We had my uncle’s (comparable) stove, but it just burned too hot. Simmer control, we realized, is a must for this recipe. We tried hovering the pot over the stove while cooking, but this became tedious and only happened in spurts, allowing the bottom of the lasagna to char while we rested. The other essential feature to this lasagna recipe is a non-stick pot. The worst part was the look of the dish as it cooked. Instead of an obvious black color or dried out appearance, it looked perfect. The sauce thickened nicely and turned a warm shade of red as the cheese melted into it. The dried mushrooms that we were skeptical about plumped up and became perfectly tender without boiling water first to reconstitute them. Big chunks of string cheese on top slowly melted to cover it all, tempting our taste buds while we waited. At the same time, though, the burnt flavor was making its way through the whole pot. When I finally noticed, I gave up on the cooking process, and the noodles were still quite shy of al dente.
But the family still ate it! Whether to be nice and limit my depression, or just because they were starving, they finished the whole pot of “smoky” skillet lasagna. Luckily, Aimee saved the day with a dessert of coffee from the Java Drip camping coffee maker and Dark Chocolate Espresso Biscotti (recipe coming soon). What a lovely treat that was after skiing up a mountain.
We let the snowshoers go ahead of us back down the mountain, knowing we’d be so much faster on skis. As many of you have already seen from the video posted on Facebook, our skills didn’t come as naturally as we’d hoped. Shakily, we made it down just before the snowshoe crowd, only falling three or four times each. In the end, this is all just an excuse for another “practice” trip soon!