A recent visit to South Carolina, sparked my recollection of all the wonderful cooking that comes from the "Lowcountry". One of my favorites dishes, popular in Charleston and Savannah, is Country Captain, an Anglo-Indian-Southern recipe supposedly brought over by an English sea captain in the spice trade in exchange for rice. But it's more likely the British colonials brought it with them when they settled along the coasts. Either way, Country Captain became a mainstay and is definitely a keeper.
As you read the recipe, I'm sure you'll think it labor-intensive and I won't say it doesn't take time to put together, but it you get all the prep work done first, you'll zoom right along as you put it all together. Best of all is that, apart from the final baking, you can prepare the dish a day in advance. In fact, I urge you to do it as it gives the flavors a chance to meld before it goes into the oven. Friends seem to love this dish, and I hope you will try it.
Country Captain (6 servings)
1/2 cup currants
1 cup warm chicken stock
6 strips bacon
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup all-purpose flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 celery ribs, diced
2 medium-large yellow onions, peeled and diced
1 medium green or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Madras (hot) curry powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground mace
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Steamed white long-grain rice
In a small bowl, cover the currants with warm chicken stock.
Fry the bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.
Slice the chicken breasts into large cubes and trim the thighs of any loose fat. Reheat the bacon grease remaining in the skillet.
Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Fry all the breast meat in the skillet without crowding until well browned on all sides and just opaque inside. Set aside on paper towels. Add thighs to the pan, browning on both sides until "just" done, and set aside with the breasts. (If more lubrication is needed, add a little vegetable oil to the pan.)
Add the celery, onions, bell peppers and garlic to the drippings in the pan. Sauté the vegetables for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Strain the stock from the currants and add it to the skillet along with the tomatoes, curry powder, salt, mace, brown sugar and black pepper. Stir the tomato mixture, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.
Arrange the chicken pieces in a large, shallow baking dish. Top with the tomato mixture. Cover with foil and chill in the fridge for a minimum of two hours or up to overnight.
To finish the dish, bring to room temperature. Place it, uncovered, in a preheated 325-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved currants and almonds, Return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parsley and crumbled bacon. Serve hot with steamed white long grain rice.