Forever the Food Gypsies, we were in Darby Montana this summer and noticed a window flyer for an upcoming Sacajawea Shoshone Indian event in Salmon Idaho- it promised a dutch oven lunch, Indian dance demonstrations, and more. You had me at “dutch oven”… the food sirens were singing.
I don’t know many people that would plot their course on such divine intervention, but we do. Off to Salmon we went. I stopped at the Farmers Market in the park and picked up some locally made chocolate zucchini bread and pumpkin bread for upcoming breakfasts on the road, then journeyed to the outside edge of town to the Sacajawea Center for the event.
We live on the “other side of the Lewis & Clark trail” in Missouri, so this interested us in that we learned more about the remainder of their historic trip. Educational exhibits displayed the kinds of medicines they used- stoppered glass bottles with herbs and plants, Docents spoke about the realities and hardships of the journey. We had a hands-on lesson in carding wool, using herbs and nuts to dye the wool, sparking fire with flint and took a shaded riverside walk back around to the other side of the event…but what about the dutch oven lunch? All of this was making me hungry!
It would be easy for me to say that it was the best dutch oven lunch I ever had. But it’s also true. Rich, fragrant chicken was heaped on to our plate. Juicy and delicious. I could taste a bit of thyme, a little sage leaf, a hint of pepper. Au gratin potatoes were heaped on with the right amount of firmness and rich sauce clinging to each piece. Cinnamon-spiked peach cobbler with a hefty crust came next. I know a good thing when I see it! We gobbled up our lunches and went back and purchased to-go servings for later on down the road in our camper- happy that Cowboy Cuisine was doing this as a contributing fundraiser for the Sacajawea Center.
Additionally, I got to cross another thing off my bucket list. Watching live Indian dancing. We sat next to the proud mom of this beautiful young woman (she made her own dress that she is wearing). We heard first-hand from her about the lingering effects of the white man to their culture and how they strive to maintain the customs handed down by ancestors. It was a day that I will never forget- I am thankful that we happened to sit next to her and that she shared so much with us.
We drove away that afternoon with full stomachs, full hearts. Nothing brings people together like good food.
Idaho Dutch Oven Chicken
- 3 pounds whole cut up chicken
- Salt, pepper to taste
- ½ tsp whole sage, dried
- 1 tsp whole thyme, dried
- Up to 1/2 cup of cooking oil
- 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups of chopped onion
- 1/4 cup of chopped celery
- 2 quarts of water, chicken stock or broth, heated
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Heat oil over medium high heat in a cast iron or heavy bottomed Dutch oven. Season chicken on both sides with the salt, pepper. Cooking in batches, brown the chicken on all sides; remove and set aside. Add oil to the pan drippings, if needed, to equal 1/2 cup total and heat over medium high heat, slowly whisking in the flour a little at a time. Cook until flour is incorporated and no lumps remain. Cook, stirring regularly, for 4 minutes.
Add the onion and celery and cook for 3 minutes, then begin adding in warmed water or broth, a cup at a time, constantly whisking it in until well incorporated and blended in. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low simmer, return the chicken to the pot with the thyme and sage and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Add the chopped garlic and hot sauce and let cook another 30 minutes. Taste for seasonings and add additional salt, pepper and herbs.
To thicken the drippings for a gravy, skim excess fat from the top of the drippings and discard. Prepare a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and just enough water to dissolve. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Bring drippings up to a boil, slowly stirring in the slurry. Boil, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened to desired consistency.