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Sunday Supper

Sunday Supper: Cecily Brownstone's Country Captain

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 like—I 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 story—and 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 names—I really don't want to get into that—but 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.

Sunday Supper: Cecily Brownstone's Country Captain

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About This Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 frying chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds ready-to-cook weight)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/3 cup finely diced green pepper
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
  • 1 can (1 pound) stewed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants (washed and drained)
  • Blanched toasted almonds

Procedures

  1. 1

    Cut chicken into 8 pieces (2 breast, 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs). Reserve back, wing tips, neck, and giblets for another use. Was and drain chicken; coat with a mixture of the flour, salt, and pepper. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown the chicken.

  2. 2

    Remove chicken; add the onion, green pepper, garlic, curry powder, and thyme to skillet. Reduce heat to low and loosen any browned particles. Add the stewed tomatoes with their liquid; return chicken to skillet, skin side up. Cover and cook slowly until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir currants into the sauce. Serve accompanied by almonds.

  3. 3

    Note: After chicken is browned and sauce is made, the dish may be baked, covered, in a 325°F oven until tender, about 45 minutes.

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