Country Captain – Chicken Curry

The original recipe comes from The Gasparilla Cookbook, published by the Tampa Junior League in the 1960s. How chicken curry got to Tampa in the 1950s I have no idea, although sea ports are probably the home of a lot of “fusion cuisine.” The original recipe calls for one bone-in fryer. I use two boneless breasts or four thighs. This version is less “saucy” than is traditional, because I needed to use a huge onion and two bell peppers. A medium onion and one pepper are probably suitable for most people.

One pound of raw chicken*- no bones

olive oil for sauteeing

One medium onion

one bell pepper (or two)

one dollop of garlic or to taste (1 T or so, less if you don’t like garlic)

one can crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes (15 oz or so can)

spices

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.** Bring the heat under the oil up to medium-high and saute the chicken. Reduce the heat once the outside of the chicken turns white, cover, and ignore. While ignoring the chicken, chop the onion. Add the onion and garlic to the Dutch oven, stir in with the chicken, and cover. Chop the bell pepper and open the can of tomatoes. Turn up the heat on the Dutch oven, add bell pepper and tomatoes, including juice from the can. Run a little water into the can to get all the tomato out, and to add some liquid to the meat. Stir and bring to a boil. Add your spices.

[I tend to use prepackaged spice blends, like Garam Masala, Maharaja Curry Powder, and others from my local dealer. You can find sweeter blends, hotter ones, classics, and the Old Fashioned “generic yellow curry powder” that I remember from growing up. If you have not tried a particular blend before, add a little, sample after a few minutes, and then add more. Thai blends tend to be hotter than most Indian/Pakistani blends, but not always. Season to taste is the rule.]

Turn the heat down to a low simmer and ignore for half an hour or so, although you might want to stir from time to time, and check the moisture level. I prefer a drier curry, others like more sauce. While the dish cooks, make your rice or other starch (for sopping the juice). Also get ready your chutney (Major Gray’s or Mrs. Ball’s are the house favorites), slivered almonds or other nuts, raisins, and other trimmings.

Serve the Country Captain over rice or with bread on the side, with the chutney and trimmings for people to pick from. It serves about six people, and can easily be scaled up. It tastes very good as left-overs, because the flavors have had time to mellow and blend.

*I have used pork, once, just because I was feeling curious. It was OK, but the texture didn’t seem right.

** If the chicken is still a little frozen, use a knife. If it is fully thawed, scissors are a lot easier than a knife, and probably a little safer since they are less prone to slip on uneven pieces of slippery meat. But that’s just me. Wash the scissors very carefully before and after cutting up chicken, to be sure to get all the bits out of the hinge.

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