Tony writes: I wish I had some folksy story of how I was introduced to hobo packs while grilling over an open fire down by the river with Pa, but my initiation into the world of fiery foil cookery is much more blah: rather, the scene was the suburban patio of my childhood where I learned that, short of executing some serious grilling gymnastics, hobo packs were the only way to grill potatoes. Set sliced spuds on a piece of aluminum foil, bundle with olive oil and herbs, and throw on the grill (on the grates over direct heat or directly on the charcoal if the embers are sparse ). The pack becomes the live fire version of en papillote, half steaming/half smoking to doneness. The finished potatoes are a thing of beauty: smoky, with an intensely concentrated flavor and texture. And that is all good and well for potatoes, but the method can get really adventurous if you wrap a full meal into the foil – meat and other vegetables – so the flavors mix and meld. Dinner becomes superbly easy; a process of simply chopping, wrapping, and tossing on the grill, with a sprinkling of adventure thrown in. Here’s how:
The Recipe: Serves 4
1. Get prepped: Prepare a medium hot charcoal or gas fire. Meanwhile, thinly slice 1 red bell pepper (about 10 oz.) and 1 large red onion (about 1/2 lb.). Cut 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 lb.) into 1/4-inch thick half moons. Remove the kernels of 2 ears corn from the cob (you should get about 1 1/4 cups kernels). Peel and devein 3/4 lb. shrimp (preferably 21-15 ct) and cut 2 links Italian sausage (about 3/4 lb) into 1-inch pieces.
2. Assemble the packs: Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and toss with 2 Tbs. olive oil, 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp., black pepper. Set a large piece of aluminum foil (about 10″ x 10″) on a clean work surface. Lightly grease the foil with olive oil, then top with about 1/4 of the vegetables. Drop about 1/4 each of the shrimp and sausage on top, drizzle with a bit more olive oil (about 1 tsp.), and then bundle: fold the long ends of the foil over each other, then roll sides so they form squared-off packets. Repeat with the remaining vegetables and shrimp and sausage.
3. Grill the packs: Set the packs on the grill grates, close the grill (with the vents open on a charcoal fire), and grill, checking occasionally to rotate the packs and make sure they are not burning, until the potatoes are completely tender (test a thicker piece) and the sausage is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Serve: Distribute the foil packs onto paper plates (it’s easiest to eat directly out of the pack; some potatoes may stick to the foil). Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing and hot sauce.