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Haute Cuisine: Hut-Trip Cooking

March 8, 2010 Hike, Ski No Comments

Mmmmm...pizza! See below for a link to the recipe. Photo by Gregg Larson, HutTrip.com

By Gregg Larson

Editor’s note: Gregg Larson is the creator of HutTrip.com, a two-year-old website that offers tips and news about the 10th Mountain and other Colorado huts. This article has been adapted from a post at his site and is used with permission.

Anyone who has been doing hut trips long enough has developed a set of recipes that they take each time. I have run into just about every type of chef while visiting the huts, from freeze-dried food chefs (just add water!) to people who seem to bring up an entire fridge worth of food.

Here are a few things I have learned when planning hut-trip meals. First, my appetite drops when I am at altitude. It takes me a few days to finally get adjusted and enjoy a large meal. Therefore, the first adjustment I make with hut-trip meals is to go with smaller portions but more meals—meaning lots of yummy, high-protein snacks. Second, I stay away from foods that can go bad quickly or have a greater chance of carrying bacteria. So, as much as I like a salad, I usually save these for home and rely on cooked foods. Third, remember that everyone else will over-pack food, guaranteed.

I look for a balance of great-tasting meals that don’t take up a ton of space or weight, or require excessive use of the kitchen or creation of garbage. I have no desire to pack down a bunch of food I didn’t need, especially cooked food that wasn’t eaten.

Here is a list of things I usually don’t bring up:

1. Bread. It squishes and gets wet. Bagels too. (Flatbreads and tortillas work.)
2. Coffee. It’s a major pain to clean, and the grinds are messy. (Starbucks VIA instant coffee is awesome, however.)
4. Crackers. They break.
5. Bananas. They go bad quickly. (Apples and oranges are great.)

Breakfast Ideas

1. Granola with yogurt and fruit.
2. Breakfast burritos. Note that eggs can be messy to clean up.
3. Instant oatmeal. Easy to make and clean up, and it fills the tummy. I love mine with raisins, fruits, and some brown sugar.
4. Bacon. Mmmmm, bacon!
5. Tang. If it’s good for the astronauts, it’s good for me.
6. Lox/cream cheese. Simple, light, and great protein.
7. Pancakes. Get Bisquick Shake ’N Pour mix for easy clean-up.
8. Chorizo. Great multi-tasker: good in burritos and on the side; full of flavor.
9. Dehydrated hash browns. Available at Costco.

Lunch Ideas

Lunch on a hut trip means a few different things: what you need to consume while you are hiking up, snacks while you are out touring or skiing, and a formal lunch during a break. I focus on making lunch small and light, with lots of options for different tasty treats.

1. Flavored tuna packets. They come in single-serving packets that keep things clean…tasty too!
2. Crackers. Despite what I said above, I usually go for an assortment of crackers. They usually break, but they are good, and the crumbs are good in soup.
3. Smoked fish. One of my favorite snacks at the huts: Full of protein and oils, this is usually the first thing I go for when I am done with the hike.
4. Miso soup packets. Miso is a great quick way to start getting warm protein into your diet once you make it to the hut.
5. Chicken noodle soup packets. Ditto.
6. Chocolate. Mmmmm, chocolate!
7. Cured meats such as salami or prosciutto. Rich and spicy.
8. Cheeses. Whatever suits your taste, but I like rich cheeses full of flavor, especially at the hut.
9. Jerky.
10. Apples and oranges.
11. Hard candy. Something to do while climbing; eases parched throats.
12. Nuts. Cashews and pistachios are great, but don’t throw the shells in the fire—you have to carry them down.
13. Quesadillas.

Dinner Ideas

I really don’t have a strong appetite for dinner—or for cooking it—until the second or third night on a trip. So, I solved this problem with one of my favorite ideas: Get take-out food from your favorite restaurant and freeze it in a vacuum-sealed bag. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t drool when I served chicken masala or General Tso’s chicken at a hut. This is quite simply the easiest, cleanest, fastest, and best-tasting gourmet food you can make while at a hut. Here’s a video I made showing how to do it:

After my mandatory boil-in-a-bag meal, there are a few other food ideas that we often employ:

Pizza. If you can’t finish it, there will be people in the hut who will. Check out a recipe here.
Pasta.
Fajitas: chicken or flank steak.
Stir Fry.

After I come up with a set of meals, I ration out what I want and leave the rest home, and personally I err on the side of less. On my first hut trips I simply threw a bunch of food into my bag and carried a lot of it out. Now, I think about how many veggies I need and how I can plan meals that share ingredients—breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and pizza, for example. I like to get rid of extra garbage while I am at home or at the hotel the night before, and I either vacuum-seal my portions to keep them fresh and dry or put them in a zip-lock bag. Finally, I keep a journal of what worked and what didn’t, and I review it before my next trip, always trying to refine my methods.

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