Country Captain: A Southern Classic

Country Captain

Recently, I enjoyed a meal at Mama’s Boy – a new-ish local restaurant specializing in Southern fare.  Jeremy ordered the Country Captain with tofu, and it was certainly different than I expected.  Instead of the zesty, tomato-ey goodness of what I’m familiar with, it was creamy and sweet.  It was warm with curry, but the flavor was softened with coconut flakes and milk.  Good, but not for me.  Since he had never enjoyed the original version of the dish, I dug out my old recipe for it and made mine tonight.  This is a very traditional dish, and when it cooks I remember the aromas that would waft out of my grandmother’s kitchen.  As the onions and bell peppers cook together with the tomatoes, I remember summers in which every meal featured those vegetables from our garden.  The frying chicken, the white rice – these are all flavors that recur throughout my memories of Grandma’s cooking.  This is a little spicier than most of her fare, but it doesn’t fail to remind me of some of my favorite meals.  Even though the dish is served hot, is a little spicy, and a little stewed, the fresh ingredients and flavors make it a summer dish through and through.  

This recipe is very versatile.  Once you’ve learned the technique (fry lightly floured chicken, saute veggies to make a sauce, simmer chicken in sauce), you can make substitutions to accomodate your tastes.  Jeremy prefers white meat chicken, so rather than fry up a cut-up chicken with skin (chicken thighs alone would also be dreamy in this dish) I opt for boneless-skinless breast meat.  I really can’t imagine eating this without tomatoes, but you could add squash or zucchini instead of bell peppers.  Heat is adjustable, so play with curry powder, garam masala, cayenne, hot sauce.  No currants?  No problem!  Just use sultanas or raisins.  

Country Captain

  • 1 C flour
  • 2 T paprika
  • 3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 1.25 lbs of chicken)
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 4.5 oz jar sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/2 T curry powder
  • 1 T thyme, stripped from stems and chopped
  • 1 T parsley, chopped
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • scant 1/4 C dried currants
  • chicken stock
  • 2 C white rice
  • 4 C water
  • 1 T butter
  • sliced almonds 
  • 2 scallions, sliced
Cut chicken into bite size chunks and season with salt and pepper.  Combine flour and paprika in a shallow dish.  Coat chicken with flour mixture.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add chicken and brown on all sides.  When chicken is browned, remove to a plate.  Add 2-3 more tablespoons of oil to the pan, then stir in the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and mushrooms.  Salt and pepper to season the veggies and keep them from sticking to the pan.  Reduce heat slightly, and cook until tender – about five minutes.  Add curry, thyme, parsley, tomatoes, and currants.  Mix thoroughly, then add the chicken back to the pan.  Add chicken broth until the liquid in the pan covers the chicken.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for thirty minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.
Meanwhile, add four cups of water to a medium saucepan.  Season with salt and add butter.  Bring to a boil, add the rice, and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. (While everything simmers away, make a salad, some cornbread, or some sweet tea).  To serve, mound rice into a shallow bowl or a plate.  Spoon the Country Captain over and around the rice, making sure to get veggies, some sauce, and plenty of chicken.  Garnish with scallions and sliced almonds.  
Serves 4, or 2 with wonderful leftovers.
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