Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Country Captain- Inspiration from the American South...via British India

Country Captain is a curried stew that's popular in Georgia and the Carolinas, and according to Wikipedia it was a favorite dish of General George Patton. (That makes it fancy and historical, so you should enliven your dinner conversation with gripping tales of the second world war.) It's savory and sweet and slightly exotic, and I call it "Summer" Country Captain because instead of using canned tomatoes, I use fresh. If it's winter-time and the tomatoes are total crap, well then please use chopped canned tomatoes; but I have a garden bursting with more tomatoes than I can use right now, so here's my version of this recipe.  Y'all are going to want to try this.

2-3 pounds of chicken thighs, or enough to cover the bottom of whatever pot or deep pan you're going to use.
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon oil (I use olive oil, I'm Greek)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 orange or yellow bell peppers, chopped
3 rounded cups of roughly chopped fresh sweet tomatoes (or use canned)
1/2 cup golden raisins (don't worry if you think you don't like raisins, they plump up and melt into the stew)
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 shot dark spiced rum (or brandy of you don't have rum)
1/3 cup water or stock
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 big pinch red pepper flakes (or more if you want it super spicy)

1/4 cup sliced almonds (important)
Cooked rice (not so important)

First sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper, then coat the pieces in flour.  Heat the butter and oil in the pan on high heat and then brown the chicken on both sides, this will take like 3-5 minutes per side. 

Remove  the chicken and set aside while you saute the chopped onion, pepper and the spices in the hot oil, stirring frequently. After about 5-6 minutes of sauteing, add the chopped tomatoes, rum, sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a low brisk simmer and add the chicken pieces, kind of immersing them in the veggies and liquid.

Add the golden raisins or fruit at this point. Most recipes say to add them at the end, but I like the way they flavor the sauce when you add them earlier. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes on that same temperature (on my stove top it was a 3), then you can turn it all the way down to low/warm after it's done until it's ready to serve. 

Serve one or two chicken thighs per person and plenty of sauce, over a bed of *rice, with slivered almonds sprinkled on top. Now rice is traditional of course, but I don't see why buttered noodles, mashed potatoes or grits wouldn't be just as good.

It's best served with chilled, slightly sweet, German white wines or a cold Pilsner beer.

*To make rice, just boil twice as much water as you have rice (It's 2 water to 1 rice), along with a little butter and salt, then add the rice, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover, cook for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. 

People sometimes mess up their rice by either adding the rice into the cold water (mushy rice) or by letting the water boil too long before they add the rice (crunchy rice) so, keep your eye on the water! You want to add the rice when the water first starts bubbling away, then set the timer for the 20 minutes.