I am often reminded how wonderful the simple things can be. This past Sunday was beautiful, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the low 60s. The day begged for firing up the grill so that’s exactly what I did. It was nothing fancy or complicated, just bratwursts and a hobo pack filled with potatoes, bacon, onions and garlic. It was a simple affair for me, my wife, and my daughter, who ate some potatoes but has yet to develop a taste for any sausage type food beyond hot dogs and breakfast sausages. Yes, I know….it’s something I need to work on. Especially living here in Wisconsin. Most people up here are born with an instinctual love for the almighty brat!
Hobo packs are a camper’s and griller’s best friend; packets of aluminum foil filled with all sorts of goodies left to cook over an open fire. Add a good amount of oil and butter and the vegetables both steam and fry creating a great side dish to any grilled meat, or even taking the place of the meat all together. Hobo packs can be simple and straight forward, or they can be filled with exotic vegetables and spices. Most start with a base of some starchy vegetable, usually potato, yams, taro, turnips, carrots, or any other root vegetable. Other vegetables, aromatics, herbs and spices are added to taste and the whole thing is wrapped in a few layer of foil and allowed to cook over an open fire.
This recipe is for a very simple hobo pack, made with ingredients almost everyone has lying around the kitchen most of the time. This makes this a great recipe for last minute meals or an “on the fly” cookout. Feel free to add any touches and flourishes you wish.
A word about cooking hobo packs. First don’t make your packet too thick or it will take forever for it to cook through. I usually spread the ingredients out so that they aren’t more than 2 inches deep. It is best to use a covered grill as you can then cook by indirect heat (placing the coals on 1 side of the grill and placing the packet on the other side. This way you only need to flip the packet about every 10 minutes. If you don’t have a covered grill you will need to cook the packet over direct heat, which will require you to flip the packet every 4-5 minutes to ensure that nothing burns.
Potato Hobo Packs
3 slices bacon, thick cut, chopped
4 medium potatoes, skin on
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. butter
Light your charcoal and let it burn down until covered with white ash. Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp.
Remove from skillet and drain, reserving 1 Tbsp. of the rendered fat. Mix the butter, bacon fat, and garlic in a small pot and heat until the butter is melted. While the bacon is rendering slice the potatoes about 1/4″ thick. Slice the onions also.
Take 2 18″ pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil and lay them on the counter, one lengthwise the other one on top and perpendicular to the first one. Lay half the potatoes on top, along with half the onions. Season liberally with salt and pepper and drizzle with half of the butter, bacon fat mixture. Place the cooked bacon over this, then repeat with the remaining potatoes, onions, and butter mixture, again seasoning liberally. Tightly fold the top piece of foil then the bottom piece of foil to make a secure packet. Take another piece of foil and laying the packet seam side down, wrap the foil around it. This seems like a lot of foil, but I often use this much to make sure I have no blow outs, which can send potatoes pouring all over your grill. You can get away with just 2 sheets, but you need to be extra careful when flipping the packets. Spread the coals out on 1 side of the grill and place the hobo pack on the other side. Cover the grill and cook for 30-40 minutes, flipping the packet over every 10 minutes. Insert a knife into the packet to test the doneness of the potatoes. When they have just the slightest amount of resistance remove from grill and allow to finish cooking, off the heat for 8 minutes longer. Unwrap and serve.