Recipes Rise to River Opportunity

Recipes Rise to River Opportunity

JAMES RIVER — It’s a sweet, quiet morning here in Mason County, sitting on the riverbank watching Rusty Mitchum make beer biscuits in a cast iron Dutch oven.

My order is to stop putting fresh wood on the campfire because Rusty has almost got the coals right and doesn’t need any flames.

Do you want the recipe?

OK, pour about half a cup of cooking oil into the Dutch Oven and add a certain amount of self-raising flour. Rusty isn’t sure how much flour. It’s quite a bit but not too much. Add a can of warm beer and knead it into cookie dough with your hands. Press the dough flat on a board, cut off the end of the beer can and use it to stamp out cookies. You may have a dozen for a 12-inch Dutch Oven. Drop them into the jar. Turn them once so that they are oiled both top and bottom.

Put the pan on the fire and pile the coals on the lid of the oven. Let it cook for 25 or 30 minutes.

Makes good country style biscuits with a faint hoppy taste and crispy brown bottoms. I like a cookie with a base underneath that way, a crust that keeps the thing from falling apart when you pick it up.

The James River, yes.

An annual report of the reunion

Most years around this time I send a report from the James River and someone always accuses me of making it up because they don’t believe there is a river in Texas by that name. But five rivers called James flow in North America. In Alberta, Canada. In Virginia. In Missouri. In North Dakota. And this one, where I’m now eating a beer biscuit.

I wish I could make a river like the James. I’d make up dozens and spread them around the world to places that need pretty little rocky-bottomed streams with gentle rapids and low falls and quiet deep pools. Our James River is a tributary of the Llano. It is only 37 miles long. empties into the Llano south of Mason.

A little bunch of us host a reunion on this stream every April and that’s why I’m here. We fish and tell stories and sing songs and eat too much, but otherwise we are harmless.

Everyone in this gang has a special job to keep the camp running. We even have designated fishermen. People like Joe Osborn from Austin. And Josh Kramer and Travis and Bill Shearer from Fredericksburg. They go out and stay until they catch fish. They walk for miles on this rough, stony terrain. Stay out for hours and hours.

We have several camp cooks, besides Rusty who is from Tyler. I’m one of the chefs who gets to make pinto beans. And my beans are always bragged because no one else wants to play with them.

This year’s fish cooker is Glen Bass, another Tyler man. He believes in frying. I asked about the main secret of his cooking and he said, “Always keep your fingers out of the hot fat.”

We have John Graves from Glen Rose who is our main narrator. He has been to many places and seen miracles and knows secrets that have not been revealed until now. This way he could show Bas when to start cooking the fish. The secret is, throw a kitchen match into the pot and when the fat is hot enough, the match will catch fire.

We also have Phil Montgomery who comes all the way from Dallas with his guitar and the lyrics to a hundred songs, sung by the fire after dinner.

Curious brews taste delicious

We have Glenn Whitehead of Smithville who contributed to what he calls rolled tacos. Thin beef cooked over charcoal. Also pieces of pork, chicken breast and prawns, marinated in a secret sauce, grilled over charcoal and cut into thin slices. Put these meat slices on a hot tortilla and add a surprising salsa of chopped jalapenos and serrano peppers and cilantro and lime juice and roll up that baby and bite into it and it will have you singing sweet songs.

But next time you’re out in the wilderness, try this for dessert:

Dump four medium cans of sliced ​​peaches into a 12-inch Dutch oven. Drain the juice. Sprinkle a small packet of yellow cake mix over the peaches. Pour in a flavored soda and dab in it and make a paste over the peaches. (This is Rusty Mitchum’s recipe and he used a Shasta-lime-lime drink. People bring strange things to fish camps.) Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Cover the oven. Cook in campfire like beer biscuits above.

I don’t mind saying I was dubious about this cobbler, but it was all right, here on the James where so many curious preparations taste great. I believe this will be the first time I’ve ever spent three nights on a riverbank and gained weight.