Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chicken Country Captain

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

The 1964 Joy of Cooking was my first cookbook. I received it from a college friend when I got engaged. Then when I got the 1975 revision, another friend of mine asked for the older version, and I gladly handed it over. That new revision, however, didn't have everything the previous edition had in it, and I was glad to get the 1964 edition again, which was released as a single volume paperback available from 1973 through the early 90's.

I don't use Joy much anymore because I usually turn to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook if I need something really basic that I don't already have a recipe for, but Joy is good to have in your library. Michael Ruhlman kept the 1997 edition, with fourteen other books piled on the floor next to him as he wrote The Elements of Cooking.  However, that particular edition eliminated Country Captain so don't look for this recipe there.

Chicken Country Captain is a recipe with a history.

This delicious dish, known through Georgia, dates to the early 1800s. It is thought that this dish was brought to Georgia by a British sea captain who had been stationed in Bengali, India and shared the recipe with some friends in the port city of Savannah, Georgia. Savannah was then a major shipping port for the spice trade. The dish was named for the officers in India called "Country Captains."

Linda Stradley, History of Poultry Dishes, What's Cooking America
The recipe here is adapted from the famous version made popular by Cecily Brownstone.  I make it with boneless chicken breasts (which is not a change I would normally make as I like most meat and poultry on the bone) so it's perfect for a buffet. It's also not an adaptation that Cecily Brownstone would approve. In fact, it would have given her fits. The recipe here might be closer to her original.

Country Captain is delicious served with buttered fresh green beans or English peas, Basmati Rice Pilaf, Cucumber and Sour Cream Salad, fried plain pappadams (but I wouldn't be averse to trying excellent lightly salted potato chips instead), and Baked Banana Splits for dessert.

Country Captain
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1964 Edition

Serves 4 to 6

2 whole boneless chicken breasts (I haven't tried them, but boneless thighs might work well)
1/2 cup flour (I use Wondra) seasoned with salt, pepper, and sweet paprika
1 onion about the size of a teacup, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup butter or oil
3 tablespoons currants or raisins
Toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces using kitchen shears. Coat the chicken pieces with seasoned flour, and put on a plate as you go along.

In a sauté pan, brown the flour-coated chicken pieces in butter (delicious) or oil (I use grapeseed oil, which is neutral). As the chicken pieces are browned, remove them from the sauté pan, and set aside.

Add the diced onion to the saute pan, and cook until the onion wilts and just starts to turn pale gold. Add the diced green pepper, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the curry powder, and cook for about 1 minute to lose the raw taste and allow the flavor to "bloom."  Add the stewed tomatoes and thyme. Stir the contents of the pan to deglaze. Bring just to a boil, then turn the heat down. You can add a little salt, but be sparing and taste carefully because the chicken is coated with seasoned flour.

If the sauté pan is big enough to hold the sauce and the chicken and can fit into the oven, put the chicken back in the pan, and put it in the oven.  Otherwise put everything in another pan or casserole, and put that in the oven.

Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes. Add currants or raisins for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Sprinkle toasted slivered almonds over the top before serving.

Print recipe


  1. Ay ay captain! You're such a posting demon these days. I love it. Absolutely love it. And I don't know how you live without a possum trap... I mean ours is just used to death!

  2. The Country Captain is one of my favorite recipes and after finding it on your blog, I think I will be making it tonight for dinner. I am going to try a new rice though, coconut rice with green onions, instead of plain rice.


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