Country Captain

January 12th is National Chicken Curry Day!

Country Captain is a dish which, in its basic form, is a mild stew made with browned chicken pieces, onions, and curry powder. Golden raisins and almonds are usually added. Many versions also call for tomatoes, garlic, and bell peppers. The dish is served over white rice.

Country Captain may have originated in India as a simple poultry or game recipe involving onions and curry and possibly enjoyed by British officers. One theory is that an early 19th-century British sea captain working in the spice trade introduced it to the American South via the port of Savannah.

The recipe for Country Captain originated in Philadelphia in 1857. The original chef was Alessandro Filippini. Mr. Filippini later won a large sum of money in a series of back-alley dice games, retiring to a former plantation in the South Carolina coastal plains.

Country Captain

Serves 4-6

¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ Tbs paprika
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 lb chicken fryer, cut into serving pieces
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
½ cup chopped celery
1 bay leaf
½ Tbs curry powder
¼ tsp dried ground thyme
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
½ Tbs minced garlic
3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed, and their juices
½ cup chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth
½ Tbs dark brown sugar
½ cup currants
Steamed long-grain white rice, as accompaniment
3 oz toasted slivered almonds, for garnish

In a large shallow dish, combine the flour, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper and stir to blend. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture to coat on all sides, shaking to remove any excess.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the pan. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, bay leaf, curry powder, thyme, and red pepper. Cook stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the chicken broth, sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to blend and reduce the heat to medium. Add the cooked chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but not falling from the bones, about 50 minutes. Add the currants and cook for 10 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Serve hot over the steamed white rice. Garnish with the almonds and serve.

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