Country Captain Chicken… Indian curry meets Lowcountry cooking. Simply known as Country Captain, this is a Southern Icon you may have never tasted.
Often found on tables from Charleston to Savannah, it’s a delicious Southern curried chicken simmered in tomato sauce, a simple dish layered with vibrant spices resulting in amazing flavors.
It comes with toppings of slivered almonds, raisins, currents, toasted coconut or crumbled bacon, and is always served with a plateful of fluffy rice. An Indian legacy from British Raj to the Western world. The story goes that Country Captain Chicken probably crossed over the Atlantic at the helm of some vessel with the captain of that ship from exotic lands. Read on...
You coming across country captain chicken is mighty high if you frequent some local restaurants in the Lowcountry region of the American South. This is a mildly spicy chicken dish braised in a Creole-like sauce of onion, garlic, bell peppers and tomatoes, but with the exotic addition of curry powder.
It’s one of those legendary regional classics that many natives either grew up eating all the time, or have never heard of before.
What is Country Captain Chicken
Country captain chicken is a traditional chicken recipe from the Lowcountry region of the American South, but it finds its roots in India’s Colonial past.
It is believed that the dish originated in the Indian subcontinent during the 18th century as a chicken curry prepared by Indian cooks for English officials during the British Raj, the colonial period when Great Britain ruled India. The dish traveled with returning sailors back to England, and then across the Atlantic to the seaports of Charleston and Savannah.
Country captain chicken became a popular dish in home kitchens throughout the American South. It was served to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia, and became one of his favorite dishes.
This dish was a staple of Junior League Cookbooks in the 1950s and 1960s. It soon became a popular entertaining dish for military wives, because it could be prepared ahead of time and kept warm, giving the hostesses time to socialize with their guests. Military families have to move frequently, and the recipe for country captain chicken traveled with them to new military bases across the country.
It’s not surprising that such a recipe would appeal to American cooks around the turn of the 20th century, for exoticism was very much in vogue. Curry powder was quite fashionable, and “chicken curry” was a popular recipe. You would find many curried chicken recipes very similar to country captain coming from that era.
Ingredients for Country Captain Chicken
- Chicken – Mostly cut up whole chicken, or bone in chicken like drumsticks or thighs, is used for in depth flavor.
- For the base – onions, bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, oil and butter.
- Spices – Curry powder, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, salt and black pepper.
- Flour – for thickening.
- Dried fruits – raisins and almonds.
How to Make Country Captain Chicken
This is a dish where chicken is braised in a tasty sauce seasoned with exotic spices. But first, the chicken is crisped up by quickly frying in oil and butter to get the beautiful color on the skin.
Combine flour, paprika, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Coat chicken thighs on both sides with the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook until well browned and crisp on one side, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer thighs to a plate, reserving the drippings in Dutch oven.
Add chopped onions, bell peppers, parsley to the same pot and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, black pepper, nutmeg, and remaining butter and salt. Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
Add in chicken thighs, keeping the skin side on top. Add in raisins and simmer covered for 45 minutes to an hour, till the chicken is fall off the bone tender. Stir it occasionally.
You can adjust the consistency of the curry by adding little chicken stock if you like thinner sauce. For a thicker sauce, cook the last 5-10 minutes uncovered.
Garnish with slivered almonds and serve immediately.
What to Serve Country Captain With
Of course, with a plateful of fluffy white rice. It’s very common and loved through the Lowcountry, as rice was staple crop in the old days all over the South .
We can see it going well with any Indian breads like naan, rotis and parathas.
- Try other toppings like crumbled bacon, toasted coconut or currants instead of raisins. In the case of bacon, you can cook the bacon in the beginning and start the curry in bacon drippings instead of oil and butter.
- Add other veggies like peas, carrots or even potatoes into the curry.
- Play with spices like adding cinnamon or garam masala powder for a slightly different flavor profile.
How to Store Leftovers
As with any other curry or stew, country captain will enhance its flavors as it sits in your refrigerator for a few days. Refrigerate in an air tight container up to 3-4 days for best taste.
This also freezes well in an air tight container up to 3 months. Simply thaw and reheat it over stovetop until heated throughout, stirring occasionally.
Wouldn’t you love to make this Country Captain Chicken in your kitchen? Believe me, it’s instantly very lovable. It’s your chicken and gravy, but a very flavorful gravy.
You’ve eaten enough of shrimp and grits and hoppin’ John from the South, now try this Lowcountry classic. Give this dish the fame it deserves by making it popular with your friends and family.
Tell them the tale of this exotic dish over a meal. Thank that certain Captain who was smart enough to carry his favorite food to distant lands in some long forgotten time… Country Captain Chicken.
Would you help GypsyPlate to spread this recipe around the world. Make it tonight and share it with your friends and family, and all over the internet… Have fun!
Country Captain Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
To season chicken
- 6 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp oil
- 4 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 medium onion, chopped
- 3 small bell peppers (red, yellow, green), diced
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 15oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup raisins
- salt to taste
- slivered almonds, for garnish
- Combine flour, paprika, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt. Coat chicken thighs on both sides with flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
- Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook until well browned and crisp on one side, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer thighs to a plate, reserving drippings in the Dutch oven.
- Add chopped onions, bell peppers and parsely to the same pot and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, black pepper, nutmeg, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender.
- Stir in tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add in chicken thighs, keeping the skin side on top. Reduce heat to medium low. Add in raisins and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, till chicken is fall off the bone tender. Stir occasionally. For a thicker sauce, cook the last 5-10 minutes uncovered.
- Garnish with slivered almonds and serve immediately.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 507Total Fat 30gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 187mgSodium 943mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 6gSugar 15gProtein 35g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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