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White Sauce – A Versatile Base for Backpacking Meals

in Food by

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Making sauces for Backpacking Meals might seem intimidating, but with a grasp of a few simple principles, you can make a basic white sauce and flavor it in a multitude of ways for gourmet cooking while on the trail. Cooking up a homemade mac and cheese on day five will make you a hero with any group!

The essence of a good sauce is a flavourful liquid and a thickener. To make my trail preparation easier, I typically combine as many ingredients together as I can at home, breaking up the recipe into manageable stages. I number the bags, hydrate in each bag during preparation and put the instructions in the outer bag.

White sauce can be combined with any pasta (or rice), flavor and protein, cheese or vegetarian ingredients you want. Essentially it is a creamy delivery system which, once mastered, can be used for surprisingly good meals with great ease. You can scale up the liquid portion if the oil/flour ratio is also scaled up.  Typically, one cup of liquid can be thickened to a medium white sauce with two tablespoons each of oil and flour.

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Farfalle Carbonara with Clams

3 – 4 oz. dried farfalle (bowties)

1 tbsp. Grapeseed oil (high burn temperature and perfect for camp stoves!)

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. flour

Bag 1 – 1 tbsp. Dehydrated onion flakes / 1 tsp. Freeze dried garlic (Litehouse brand is good)

Bag 2 – 1/3 cup milk powder / 1-2 tsp dried chicken or vegetable stock / 1 tsp. dried parsley / ½ tsp dried tarragon / salt / pepper. Medium size bag.

Bag 3 – 8 oz. can clams (dehydrated) / 1 tbsp. bacon bits / 1 tbsp. dehydrated roasted red peppers thinly sliced

Grated parmesan cheese to taste

Add water to Bag 1 and Bag 3 to cover and wait till fully hydrated. Cook farfalle while waiting. When cooked drain and transfer to the large zip lock the whole meal was in. Pour excess water (now flavored!) out of Bag 1 and 3 into Bag 2 and bring it up to measure one cup.

Place oil and butter in a saucepan and briefly cook onion and garlic (Bag 1). This opens up the flavors that dehydrating often traps. Using a combination of oil and butter helps prevent the butter from burning. Lower the temperature a little and put in the flour.  This is your thickener and needs to be cooked a minute or so to eliminate the floury taste. Watch that it doesn’t brown. Take off the heat and gradually add milk/stock (Bag 2), stirring to prevent lumps. Return to heat and add clams, bacon, and peppers (Bag 3). Bring to a light boil until thickened. Be careful not to burn the milk. Add drained cooked farfalle and grated parmesan to the sauce. Stir and enjoy.

Makes one large serving

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Andrew Grieve is a commercial lawyer by trade and an avid backpacker and endurance athlete by choice. From the Boy Scouts in eastern Canada through an Appalachian Trail end to end hike and Mt. McKinley’s West Buttress he has been on most eastern trails and mountains in winter and summer. When not hanging with his awesome family or beer drinking with his photo group at home in Toronto he can be found dehydrating food, making lists and planning his next adventure.

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