The Campfire

When my boys were young they each were in the Cub Scouts. The Cub Scout Pack that we joined was local (important), fun (very important) and big. It was so big that at one point there was over 100 cub scouts involved in the pack. Like every pack out there, scouts were divided into smaller groups (dens) based on their age and I, with a neighbor, was co-opted to become a den leader for our son’s den of seven kids.

The cub scouts did quite a few fun activities with contests, performing and, of course, the quintessential cub scout activity, the pinewood derby. Unlike the older boy scouts, cubbies really don’t do much camping. The main exception to that in our pack was the family campout. The family campout was not an official scout activity as much as a gathering of families involved in the pack all camping on the same weekend at the same place.

Because our group was so large, we often rented out a group campground location which meant we were the only ones in the area. This was good because the kids had many friends around and we felt that it was safer to let them wander more around the campground site as our scout families were the only ones there. The favorite place the group went for camp had camping sites in a large circle around a central gathering area that was open and flat.

The first year I was there, a couple of younger scouts (my sons included) were exploring in the woods near the outer ring of campsites when they came across an old, dried out fallen tree. They knew that families had brought wood to use for a group campfire and quickly came out of the woods to tell adults of their find. If they had found me first, I likely would have dissuaded them from the ability for us to use such a huge tree (the base was about 3-4 feet in diameter and 6-8 feet tall before its first break). Luckily, they went to another parent first. In short order a pickup truck was backed to the edge of the woods and a chain was attached. I helped secure it to the tree and we dragged out the stump and brought it down to the central fire ring. It was set up on its base and left for the afternoon.

By evening, families had brought more wood down and stacked it around, against and on top of the trunk. Families brought down their lawn chairs and created a ring about six feet away from the the wood in the center. The fire was lit and very quickly the dry trunk in the center caught. The heat started to build and build and the ring of lawn chairs moved back and back again, eventually being 20 feet away from the fire. The flame was so bright that it ruined your night vision and you could not see through or over the fire to the other side. I am sure the fire could have been seen from space!

Red Wine-Braised Brisket with Caramelized Onions

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Put this on your menu when you have some time to cook. It will likely be one of the most flavorful dishes you cook all year!

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A big hunk of brisket.

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Sear the brisket on all sides.

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Cut it into several pieces.

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The amount of onions seems like a mountain. They will cook down.

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I could not easily find cipollini onions so I went with a bag of pearl onions.

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The meat comes out tender and juicy. So delicious!

Red Wine-Braised Brisket with Caramelized Onions

prep 5 Hours, 45 Minutes ∙ cook 8 servings ∙ source


  • 1 (4-lb.) beef brisket flat, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large white onions, cut in half and thinly sliced (6 loosely packed cups; about 3 lb.)
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1 (10-oz.) package cipollini onions, peeled


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle all sides of brisket pieces with salt and pepper. Cook brisket, in batches, in hot oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned on all sides (about 15 minutes). Transfer to a plate, reserving drippings in Dutch oven.

2. Add white onions and shallots to hot drippings in Dutch oven, and sprinkle with sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 25 minutes or until onions are soft and caramelized. Stir in wine, 1 tsp. rosemary, and brisket. Top with cipollini onions; cover.

3. Bake at 350° for 4 hours or until brisket is tender. Remove from oven, and let stand, covered, 30 minutes. Transfer brisket to a cutting board and onions to a large bowl, reserving liquid in Dutch oven. Cover brisket and onions loosely with aluminum foil.

4. Bring reserved liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring often; boil, stirring often, 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in cooked onions and remaining 1/2 tsp. rosemary.

5. Cut brisket across the grain into thick slices. Serve with onion mixture.

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Categories: Beef, kosher, Low Carb, Main Dish 3, Recipes, Wine

Author:The Ranting Chef

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2 Comments on “The Campfire”

  1. Lori M.
    July 23, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Thanks for the great memory…we still tell that story!


  2. Kate G
    July 23, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    That’s a great story! The brisket looks good too, your mom used to make a great brisket on the grill…do you remember? I need to get that recipe 🙂


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