Serious Eats: Recipes
Sunday Supper: Cecily Brownstone's Country Captain
Each Saturday evening we bring you a Sunday Supper recipe. Why on Saturday? So you have time to shop and prepare for tomorrow.
As the name of a recipe, I've loved "Country Captain" since first reading about it I don't know when. It sounds so quaint and of-another-time, leading to speculation about who the original captain was and, stretching it, what he may have looked likeI imagine him as a combination of the Gorton's fisherman and Colonel Sanders.
I was reminded of this dish recently while reading through David Kamp's The United States of Arugula, which gives an interesting history of "the American food revolution." In a footnote, Kamp mentions that "the curry craze may well have been instigated, or at least stoked, by the Associated Press's widely read Cecily Brownstone, who started at AP in 1947 and was most famous for her recipe for Country Captain, a chicken dish served in a curry sauce studded with almonds and currants." The recipe, Kamp says, is thought to have come from Savannah, Georgia, and a nineteenth-century sea captain there who had visited India.
This article about Brownstone and the dish she made famous, however, offers a different origin storyand illustrates just how closely Brownstone presided over the recipe's history and various interpretations:
"Using a breast, can you imagine?" she said in a recent telephone interview. "I don't want to give namesI really don't want to get into thatbut can you imagine that someone actually used cream? Cream! And they called it 'Country Captain'! It is very discouraging."
The recipe I'm going to attempt, given in James Beard's American Cookery, is Brownstone's. I'm adapting it here for this week's Sunday Supper.
Cecily Brownstone's Country Captain
Adapted from Jame's Beard's American Cookery.