Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chicken Country Captain

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1964) 
Simon & Scuster, Inc. (2019)

I had never had anything even approximating curry, but when the father of a friend of mine took eight senior girls from my high school to Toots Schor to celebrate our graduation, shrimp curry was on the menu, and I ordered it. Then, when Frannie and I got stuck at Kennedy Airport because our flight to London was delayed by twelve hours, we went to the fanciest restaurant there, The Golden Key, and, again, I had shrimp curry. Finally, in London, Frannie and I happened upon an Indian restaurant where we stopped for dinner. That was it. I was hooked.  I love all kinds of Indian-style curry - authentic or not.

For over forty years I've been making Chicken Country Captain, which I found in my first cookbook, the 1964 Joy of Cooking where it says
This dish has become a favorite in America, although it probably got its name not from the sea-captain who brought the recipe back to our shores, but from the Indian officer who first made him acquainted with it.
So says Cecily Brownstone, a great friend; and this is her time-tested formula.


A Favorite Cury Powder

Country Captain
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (1964) 

For 6

2 whole boneless chicken breasts 
1/2 cup flour (I use Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour (not sweet)  seasoned with salt, pepper, and sweet paprika
1 onion about the size of a small teacup, diced
1 large green pepper, cut a little larger than dice
2 stalks of celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 clove garlics, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup butter or oil
3 tablespoons currants or raisins
Blue Diamond Roasted, Salted Almonds, coarsely chopped for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 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 (especially delicious) or a neutral oil 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 sliced celery, and cook for another minute.  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 tomato sauce 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 everything and has a lid and can fit into the oven, put the chicken back in the pan, and put it in the oven.  Otherwise put everything in another covered pan or casserole, and put that in the oven.

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

I serve this with basmati rice, mango chutney, and pappadams (when I can get my hands on them), which I have cooked in hot oil until they puff up.


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