Cooking on the Car in Duluth, MN

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

“The ’87 to ’92 Toyotas with the two-liter engine work the best,” says Dan Dresser. “They designed the car to cook on.” Dresser’s ’89 Toyota is known as “Ellen” — it’s named after the elderly lady who originally owned the car, and it’s the backbone of a filmmaking operation that has taken Dresser and his partner Jason Wussow across the country on two road trips. The result is Cooking on the Car, a website featuring videos of the two using their car to cook food.

Ellen sat for six years before Dresser bought the car. “It fired right up and since then I have put about a thousand of my own money into it,” says Dresser, who uses the car for day-to-day transportation. For the duo’s second road trip, Kari Toyota of Superior, WI, decided to sponsor them by fixing up their car with new tires, a new radiator, and a timing belt. “We baked them a banana bread,” says Wussow. The second road trip spanned 20 days and over 600 miles, and included 40 to 50 hours of lineal footage from three different angles. “We work on a very small budget, most of the food is stuff that is given to us along the way, and we do a lot of couch surfing,” says Wussow. Twenty different menu items came out of the trip, along with enough footage to begin work on a full-length film.

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

“It takes about 2 to 3 hours to cook a meal,” says Dresser. Everything is cooked in a standard bread pan covered with aluminum foil. That is, everything except for rice, which is cooked in the glove box that heats to approximately 200°F (since Dresser rerouted the antifreeze). Quiche, venison-wrapped bacon, pheasant, and northern pike are among the meals that Dresser and Wussow have attempted. “It is still one of the best quiches I have ever had,” says Dresser. Last November they cooked carrots and kale with beets over rice for Duluth Mayor Don Ness. “He showed up an hour early, which didn’t help, because it takes us so long to cook a meal,” says Dresser, but the duo claims the meal to be one of their best.

The third road trip is not yet planned, but Dresser and Wussow have hopes of one day being recognized by the Food Network. “They need more humor,” says Dresser, and “we could do a lot more with a bigger budget and a camera crew.” Ellen is still running great, and although there are no plans for another trip, they know that their idea and ability to cook on a car is one that Wussow says “is super silly, but something we are really serious about.”

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Yellow Coconut Chicken Curry

“Originally attempted from the bottom 3rd of the Oregon Coast to the Gold Coast of California”

2 ½ tbsp olive oil, divided
1 ½ tsp salt, divided
¼ tsp black pepper
1 large chicken breast
1 c brown basmati rice
1 c water
1 medium shallot, minced
½ tbsp turmeric
½ tbsp cayenne
½ tbsp coriander
½ tbsp cumin
1 ¼ inch ginger root, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced
1 can coconut milk
1 apple, diced
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced

1.  Add 1 tbsp olive oil to first bread pan. Salt and pepper chicken breast. Roast in first bread pan for 30-45 minutes on the manifold.

2. Add ½ tbsp olive oil to second bread pan with rice, water, shallot, and a pinch of salt. Steam in the glove box for one hour.

3. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to third bread pan. Add equal parts of the following spices: turmeric, cayenne, coriander, and cumin. Add ginger root, garlic, and onion. Take first pan with chicken off of manifold and replace with third bread pan. Sauté (drive) approximately 30 minutes, stopping to stir once.

4.  While curry (third pan) is sautéing, cube the chicken and leave in pan until spices and onion are tender.

5. When curry is done, add one can of coconut milk, one teaspoon of salt, one diced apple, and the chicken from first bread pan to the third bread pan. Stir and continue to cook for 30 minutes or more on the manifold.

6. Serve curry over rice with fresh basil.