I have to admit that as a child I was not a fan of Country Captain. Its ubiquitous presence at any gathering requiring a covered dish and its “exotic” flavors of curry, raisins and almonds did not enamor me. But my family’s strong allegiance to this fancy chicken stew finally won me over.
They claim it was invented in my hometown of Columbus, Georgia and much requested by dignitaries ranging from General Patton to President Franklin Roosevelt. “Google” the dish, and you will find stories tracing it all the way back to Bengali, India where British officers were called “Country Captains.” Supposedly, one such officer brought the recipe with him to Savannah, Georgia and thus a culinary legend was born.
Lord knows where the truth lies, but my family passed down a rough version of this recipe for generations. I have honed it a bit myself, and at the GO we have “restaurantfied” it down to simply a chicken breast. Here, you will find the perfect home version using a whole chicken. It yields dinner for two with plenty of leftovers or dinner for four if some folks are happy eating just dark meat.
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), rinsed and cut into serving pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cupped chopped celery
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
2 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
6 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with their juices
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon Crystal Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Few sprigs of fresh thyme, tied into a bundle with kitchen twine
½ cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and the black pepper in a 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 pot 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, curry powder, garlic and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, hot sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, tomato paste, thyme and the remaining teaspoon salt. Stir to blend, bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not falling off the bones, about 50 minutes. Add the raisins and cook until plump, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot over steamed white rice. (At the restaurant we use jasmine rice.) Garnish with the almonds.
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
P.S. If you are happy to find a GO recipe then you will be even happier knowing that I am hard at work on our cookbook, which will hopefully be published in the next six months. As always, stay tuned to our website for updates -- www.ilovetheglassonion.com -- come and get it!