Our annual canoe and camping trip -- 10 friends together -- involves 30 miles of paddling down the Shenandoah River spread out over two days. We have had our share of incidents -- we've lost a paddle or two, had a few bumps and bruises, and this year my husband brought the one-person tent by accident. But we've made up for mishaps by enjoying lots of lazy stops for swimming. And lots of good eating.
We've always split up the meals. That way, each twosome has to cook/prepare/clean only once. This year, Renee and Meredith were in charge of snacks, Becky and George did lunch, the two newlywed couples (me and my husband Ron, Karen and Matt) shared dinner, and Michelle and Zack were in charge of breakfast.
We ate like champs the first day: fried chicken, potato and cucumber salad for lunch, trail mix, apples and Oreos for fuel. By 5 p.m., we had claimed an island as our own, set up camp, started a fire and got dinner underway: soft shell tacos, rice and fresh guacamole -- my husband makes the best. The tortillas were grilled over the fire while the refried beans warmed. The meat and rice were cooked on a Coleman double-burner stove. S'mores for dessert.
But we all knew that the star attraction of the menu would come the next day. Michelle and Zack always do breakfast. They're like the IHOP of the camping trip. In past years, we've chowed on pancakes with breakfast meats and potatoes. There's always coffee. Once, we had venison that Zack had hunted and killed earlier that year. Another time, the hash browns were made with an entire stick of butter to make them extra crispy. And this year: flapjacks, the chunkiest slabs of bacon I've ever seen, apple sausage -- and eggs in a bag.
Eggs in a bag is sort of like an arts and crafts project for the breakfast camper. Michelle and Zack had heard about the recipe from a friend -- and a Google search of "eggs in a bag" brings up similar recipes -- mostly from camping friendly sites. But the provisions can be made anywhere -- on a hot plate in a college dorm, most likely.
Each of us cracked two eggs (or egg whites) into a quart-size, press-and-close Ziploc freezer bag. Next we added extras, according to our tastes -- cheese, onions, green pepper and ham. (The vegetables don't need to be precooked, but obviously the meat should be.) Then Michelle and Zack instructed us in the last bit of prep work: We took the bags, and, with both hands, smushed the contents so that the eggs were blended and the fillings were incorporated. We pushed out all the extra air, sealed the bags tightly, wrote our names on our own bag with a Sharpie (so no fighting over ownership) and dropped them into the boiling water of a big stock pot on the camping stove.
Fortunately, Michelle and Zack had tested the recipe at home, before they took it on the road, so to speak. And they had learned an important technique: The pot has to be very large so that the bags float freely; otherwise, the bags will melt when they come in contact with the sides of the hot pot. Another important tip: "Get all the air out of your bag or you will have egg drop soup," said Michelle. They also discovered it's easier if, during preparation, you line a cup with the Ziploc bag -- folding the top around the crown of the cup -- to add your ingredients. "That way you don't have to worry about ingredients spilling out, or the bag falling over as you add an egg or onion," she says.
After the recommend cooking time of 15 minutes, we each carefully scooped out our bags from the boiling water. Inside, I swear on my DEET mosquito repellent, was the best omelet I've ever had. It was light and fluffy, cooked all the way through -- including the fillings.
It was a four-star omelet -- at a zillion-star hotel.