Country Captain


From The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

One 3 1/2–pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces and brined for 8 to 24 hours
1 teaspoon dried thyme, preferably Spice Islands brand
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 slices bacon
2 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery, preferably with leaves
2 cups diced green bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 cups drained and chopped canned tomatoes
3/4 cup tomato juice, reserved from the canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons curry powder
1/3 cup currants
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste

Condiments for Curry:
Crumbled bacon
Thinly sliced green onion
Crispy thin onion rings (recipe found on page 97 of book, not included here)
Currants or raisins
Toasted coconut
Finely chopped white of hard-boiled egg and the sieved yolk of the same, served separately
Chutney, 1 or more varieties
Chopped peanuts

1. Rinse the brined chicken pieces and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with dried thyme and 5 or 6 grinds of black pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over high heat until quite hot but not smoking.

2. Place the chicken pieces in the hot oil, skin side down, and cook, turning once, until a deep golden brown on both sides. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Pour out the cooking oil from the saute pan. Return the pan to the stove over moderately low heat and cook the bacon slices until deeply colored and quite crisp. Remove bacon and reserve for use as a condiment in the finished dish. Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped celery and bell pepper and continue cooking for approximately 5 minutes longer. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes and reserved tomato juice. Cook at a low simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes, stirring often.

3. Heat the unsalted butter in a small pan until hot and foaming. Stir in the curry powder and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Add the cooked curry powder, along with the currants and bay leaves, to the simmering tomato-vegetable mixture. Season well with salt and grinds of black pepper. Simmer, tightly covered, for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. When the sauce has finished cooking, taste carefully for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Spoon about 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of an ovenproof casserole or baking dish that is just large enough to hold the browned chicken pieces comfortably in a single layer—it’s all right if they touch. Arrange the chicken pieces over the sauce, then spoon the remaining sauce over all. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on top of the chicken, and a single layer of foil directly on top of the parchment. Put the cover on the baking dish or a double thickness of foil, sealing tightly. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until chicken is quite tender. Taste sauce again for any final seasoning adjustments.

5. Serve the chicken hot with the sauce spooned over it, along with rice and four or more curry condiments.

Makes enough to serve 4 generously, 6 reasonably.