29 December 2008

Recipe: Country Captain - chicken

This dish has remained popular in Louisiana since the 1940's when then President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced it was his most favorite dish after having tasted it while traveling in the South, notably Columbus, Georgia. It was developed by the cook, Arie Mullins, for the physician who hosted the President.

FDR often went to The Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia for treatments for his polio and as a general retreat. When we lived in Georgia my husband and I visited this Warm Springs site; the small scale of the place as well as the humble cabins is quite surprising considering the dignataries who joined him.

For those who don't know this dish is basically a very glorified chicken stew with curry seasoning. “Country-captain” is an expression in Bengal, the name of a particular dry kind of curry, often served as a breakfast dish. We might imagine it was a favorite dish at the table of the skippers of ‘country ships,’ and they in turn were called ‘country captains.’ Legend has it that the dish was brought to Georgia by a British sea captain who had once served in the Bengal area of India.

Country Captain

Serves 8 - 10

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons, salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 (3-1/2 lbs.) chickens, cut into serving pieces

3 Tablespoons oil (I prefer canola oil)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 cups chopped red Bermuda or Vidalia sweet onions

2 cups chopped green/red/yellow bell pepper (all are good!)

1 cup chopped celery

1 bay leaf

1 Tablespoon curry powder (I like Sharwood's brand, the mild curry version)

1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes/cayenne pepper powder (we like the cayenne pepper)

1 Tablespoon minced garlic (I usually triple the garlic amount)

6 cups canned, whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed with their juice
(Plunge into a huge bowl of these tomatoes and squeeze and crush with your hands. Keep your hands under the juice level and it won't squirt all over you! Definitely a messy process!)

1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 cup dried currants

Steamed brown or white rice for serving (we like brown rice)

6 ounces toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Combine the flour, paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper in large, shallow dish and stir to blend. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, coating evenly. Shake off any excess. Set aside.

Heat the oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon butter to the saucepan and add the onions, bell peppers, celery, bay leaf, curry powder, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, chickenn stock, brown sugar and the remaining teaspoon salt. Stir to blend, then reduce heat to medium. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, but not falling off the bones, about 50 minutes. Add the currants and cook 10 minutes longer. Serve over steamed rice. Garnish with toasted almonds. Yum!

Note: For other recipes visit my other fun blog –
Romancing The Chocolate

Photo by Bill Feig
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