This is adult comfort food at its best, served around the campfire underneath a canopy of brilliant stars or in your back yard. I love artichokes, thanks to my parent’s love of these prickly vegetables that grow in California. When I was a little girl, my mother would boil big artichokes, which were a rare treat in northern New Mexico, until the inside of the leaves were tender, then she would serve it, steaming hot, with a jar of mayonnaise. We peeled off a leaf, dunked it into the mayo, and scraped the sweet tender meat off of each leaf with our teeth – such a simple joy that still makes my heart smile. When I discovered canned, frozen, and marinated artichoke hearts I was in foodie heaven. They are already cooked and ready to eat!
So tonight I am going to make chicken and artichoke hearts in a white wine sauce served over Mediterranean orzo. This can be done in one 12-inch camp Dutch oven, if you have plenty of time, or you can make it in two ovens concurrently to save some time. Serves 4 to 6 hungry and lucky loved ones.
For the Chicken and Artichoke in Wine Sauce:
- 2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts drained
- 3-4 shallots, sliced thinly
- 1 pound skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup flour
- Salt and pepper
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 3-6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried chopped chives
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1 lemon, washed
Fire up a chimney of charcoal. If you have one of Dennis’ Cookers, set it up and make sure the Dutch oven sits level in the cooker. You will appreciate the air holes underneath the oven to keep the charcoal very hot to sear the chicken, roast the artichoke hearts, and make the orzo.
Put the lid(s) to the oven(s) aside. You will not need them!
Cut artichokes in half lengthwise. Let them drain on a paper towel, cut side down.
Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Season with salt and pepper liberally. Put the flour into a bowl and drop seasoned chicken in, one at a time, tossing to coat with flour. Place in cooler.
Make a heap of hot charcoals and place the Dutch oven on top. Add olive oil until it covers the bottom of the oven and then add 2 tablespoons butter. When the butter is melted, add artichoke hearts, cut side down and resist the temptation to move them. Let them sizzle for 5 to 10 minutes, or until you can smell the sweet caramelization and see the dark color when you lift one up. Flip them over and let the leaf side brown for a few minutes. Remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted and oil is hot, add half of the flour-covered chicken. Let the chicken sizzle for 3-5 minutes until dark brown, then flip. When chicken is nicely browned on all sides, remove to a plate covered with a paper towel and covered with aluminum foil to rest while you sauce the remaining chicken pieces. Repeat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter, then chicken. Remove and cover with foil.
Add shallots and briefly sauté them in the oil and bits left from the chicken, then add white wine to deglaze the yummy bits off of the bottom of your camp Dutch oven with a wooden spoon. Add the chives and let the sauce reduce and firm up for about five minutes, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. Remove from heat when sauce has thickened. Finish by squeezing half a lemon into the sauce. Stir. Taste. Add more lemon if it suits your palate. End with 2 tablespoons of butter.Toss the cooked chicken, artichokes, and onions in the wine sauce. Resist the temptation to stop and sit down to eat the chicken and chokes. Cover and keep warm while preparing the orzo.
Ingredients for Mediterranean Orzo:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 4 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped
- 1 1/2 cup orzo
- 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, and sliced
- 1 cup celery, cleaned and sliced in 1/4 inch moons
- 1/4 cup dried and chopped chives
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups feta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
- 8 ounces julienned sun-dried tomatoes, drained
Place a 12-inch camp Dutch oven over a heap of hot charcoals. Dennis’ cook station is ideal for this application. Heat olive oil until it starts to shimmer, then add chopped onions and sauté until they start to soften, about five minutes. Add orzo and stir constantly to turn the orzo a slight shade of brown. Add chicken stock and chives, then bring to a boil. Use your best outdoor cook judgement as you let the orzo simmer, stirring frequently and keeping an eye on it to make sure the orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn. Total cooking time for the orzo is around 9 minutes. As the chicken stock reduces, increase y0ur attention to the orzo. Taste it frequently to see if it is done and stir to keep it from burning. When there is very little chicken stock at the bottom of the oven and the orzo is tender, pull it off of the charcoal. If the orzo is not done, add a few splashes of chicken stock and let it simmer, stirring, until orzo is done. Stir in feta cheese, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Taste and add salt if needed. The feta and olives should add enough salt, but check just in case. Now, aren’t you glad you waited?
The orzo is so good with different flavors of mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet celery coming together with the feta cheese. And the wine sauce, infused with sweet shallots, makes the chicken and artichokes sing together in your mouth.