It’s really hard to beat the classics. And this Chicken Country Captain is a true old South classic. When I tweeted on Saturday afternoon that I was making it, I got a response back from Rebecca of EzraPoundCake saying “You ARE going old-school!” Yes, ma’am. I sure did. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! By the way, EzraPoundCake is one of my most favorite food blogs. There’s always something stunningly beautiful over there and Rebecca’s writing…well, I merely aspire to be as good as she. If you’re not familiar with EzraPoundCake, go check it out!
It has been at least thirty years since I had the dish known throughout the South as Chicken Country Captain. There are a few different versions, but they all call for onion, bell pepper, garlic, curry powder and either raisins or currants. Since I cannot find currants anywhere within reasonable driving distance of my house, I used raisins. Of course, raisins start life as grapes and currants are actually berries, but I don’t think it makes a lot of difference in the taste of the final dish.
This recipe, with slight adaptations, is Craig Claiborne‘s Country Captain recipe from his wonderful cookbook, Southern Cooking. Mr. Claiborne was a nationally known food writer for The New York Times and author of many cookbooks. He was born and raised in Mississippi and had a lifelong association with southern cooking having learned the fundamentals in the kitchen of his mother’s boardinghouse. If you love southern cuisine and don’t already have a copy of Southern Cooking, please try to find one straight away. Every recipe in it is familiar to me from my own experience with southern cooking and the stories of Mr. Claiborne’s growing up and learning to cook are just priceless.
Regarding Country Captain, Mr. Claiborne says:
“No one knows precisely the origin of the dish known throughout Georgia and much of the South as country captain. The theory is that it was introduced to the port of Savannah by the captain of a vessel that plied the spice route from India in the early 1800s.”
Makes sense to me. The combination of curry with tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic could easily have come from that part of the world.
1/2 cup raisins
1 frying chicken (about 3 pounds), cut into serving pieces
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tblsp butter, divided
2 tblsp cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tblsp curry powder
2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
Toasted, slivered almonds
Put the raisins into a small bowl with enough very hot water to cover them completely. Let them sit in the hot water and get nice and plump while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Salt and pepper the chicken well on both sides. Dredge it in flour and shake off the excess.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter along with the oil in a skillet large enough to fit all the chicken in a single layer. Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove it and set it aside.
Pour out the cooking oil and wipe the skillet. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the onion, green peppers, garlic and curry powder. Cook and stir the mixture until the vegetables are wilted. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture up to the boil and add the chicken pieces. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.
Drain the raisins and add them to the skillet.
Serve with cooked white or saffron rice, toasted almonds and chutney (if desired) on the side.
– Original recipe from Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking
Download a printable copy of Chicken Country Captain.
Some other recipes for Chicken Country Captain you might enjoy:
Country Captain from A Yankee in a Southern Kitchen
Tasting Spoons’ Country Captain Chicken
Emeril Lagasse’s Country Captain from the Food Network
Country Captain from Food & Wine