Being a California native, I asked myself in my head, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” the first time I heard of it. During my first years of teaching, one of my colleagues, originally from West Virginia, said she was making this for her son that night because he was coming home from college for the weekend and this was his favorite. When I heard this, I asked her, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” I received but a nebulous answer that it was chicken. And lastly, when I was looking through my Weight Watchers cookbook, I saw a Country Captain Chicken recipe, and I therefore inquired aloud, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” I am somewhat implacable concerning some things.
Briefly, Country Captain Chicken is a full-on American dish comprised of Chicken (told you), mushrooms, tomatoes, raisins, and curry over rice. I would never have guessed, based on the ingredients, that it would be a southern tradition, but ’tis, and ’tis another reason I love the south.
Wikipedia, a reference that I mock and scorn as a teacher teaching research (yet I embrace as a lover of easily-accessible information in my private life), indicates that Country Captain Chicken could be regarded, as Chef Mamrej Khan has said, as one of the world’s first fusion foods. Wow. Wikipedia also describes that it was brought over here by the British probably through the port of Savannah with which the British East India Company traded. Therefore, my Anglophilia is satisfied by this account and it is an Indian-British-American South dish.
Now with Weight Watchers, stews are very prominent because they fill you up, they can made without a lot of fat, and they still pack tons o’ flavor. The Country Captain, whoever he is, does that job brilliantly here. The curry ties everything together, and you get a huge portion (2 1/4 cups) on rice (1/2 cup) for only 7 points on the old WW system (Points Plus and 360° can both fuck off indefinitely). Moreover, it’s a slow-cooker recipe, so you can put this baby together before work and, when it’s time to eat, all you have to make is the rice. Easier than a curious college student on Mardi Gras.
Slow Cooker Country Captain Chicken
3 cups mushrooms, sliced (any mushroom variety would work)
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 chopped bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs), chopped into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth, fat free if possible
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes crushed by hand
1/4 cup raisins or dried fruit
2 cups cooked rice, white or brown
fresh basil leaves (optional)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray or a tiny bit o’ olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute these guys until they’re tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add these to the slow cooker along with the chicken and mix it all up.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the broth until it’s smooth. Add it to the slow cooker. Add in the curry powder, salt, pepper, paprika, tomatoes, and raisins. Stir this together until it’s well-blended.
Cover and cook on the low setting for 5 hours. Spoon 1/2 cup o’ rice on four plates (use a measuring cup to make the cool rice dome you see in my pictures). Ladle the chicken and sauce on each plate. You can serve it with fresh, torn basil leaves too, and it’s wonderful.
This has been a regular in my house for years. Taste it and you’ll know why.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013