Chicken Country Captain

photo 3My mom subscribes to House Beautiful magazine, and because I am always looking for ways to redecorate or remodel our home, I love taking old issues off of her hands. This time, instead of decorating ideas, however, I found a recipe that looked like something many of my clients would like, so I tore it out to be used at a later date.

This past November I found an opportunity to serve it at a business dinner for clients who wanted something easy to eat with just a fork, nothing too fancy, yet delicious. I thought “Chicken Country Captain” fit the bill.

This is a great make-ahead meal (in fact, the magazine article recommended making it at least one full day before you serve it, so the flavors can blend), and it freezes well too, so you can always save the extra for a dinner next week!

Here’s a little of the backstory and some tips, from celebrity chef Alex Hitz, who created the recipe in House Beautiful:
A small bit of history: This dish, or at least its ancestor, is a by-product of the 18th-century spice trade routes and was likely a Colonial favorite that made its way from Charleston up through the country—just as quick as the curry from India landed ashore. Though mine is inspired by its classic predecessor, it is revolutionary in flavor and taken to the limit—revved up, I say modestly, for today’s foodie palates. I have served it numerous times to rave reviews.

When you make it, do yourself a favor and follow the recipe to a T. Sweat the small details—they’re there for a reason. Measure correctly. You don’t need to get fancy with the sausage—Jimmy Dean regular bulk is just right. Make sure all of your spices are fresh and new; it’ll make a huge difference. And be careful to just sear the chicken at first and then set it aside, only partially cooked. The liquid the chicken releases as it finishes cooking in the stew is an integral part of the dish’s flavor and consistency.

Tina’s Tip: I’m including the ingredients for the recipe as they appeared in the magazine, but when I served this dish in November, I substituted chicken sausage for the pork sausage, and a couple of other substitutions indicated by asterisks below.

Alex Hitz’s Chicken Country Captain
Serves 12 to 16

1 pound bulk pork sausage, mild *
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) salted butter, divided
3 cups medium-diced white or yellow onions
1 cup medium-diced red bell pepper
1 cup medium-diced celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
¾ cup flour *
2½ cups tomatoes, peeled *
5½ cups chicken stock
2½ cups white wine
½ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups golden raisins
4 cups cooked rice
¾ cup snipped chives
1½ cups toasted slivered almonds
½ cup chopped parsley

In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage*, fully breaking it up, and then drain off the excess fat. Set aside the sausage.
* Tina’s Tip: I substituted chicken sausage for the pork.

Rinse the chicken breasts and thighs and pat them dry.
Tina’s Tip: You always want to pat dry meat, so it browns instead of steams.

Place chicken pieces in a mixing bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper.

In another large, heavy skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. When the foaming has subsided, add the chicken in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan and make sure there is space between the pieces. Sear chicken on both sides until it is brown on the surface but still raw inside, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken from the heat, let it rest for at least 5 minutes, and then cut it into approximately 1½-inch chunks and reserve it in a bowl. Do not worry that the chicken is still raw on the inside, as it will finish cooking later.

photo 1In a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter. When the foaming has subsided, add the onions, and sauté for 3 minutes, until they start to get soft. Then add the peppers and celery, and sauté for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, the remaining tablespoon of salt, the remaining teaspoon of pepper, the dark brown sugar, and the curry, thyme, cumin, and ginger, and continue to sauté these ingredients until the onions are translucent, approximately 4-8 more minutes. Add the cooked sausage, then the flour*, and stir the mixture thoroughly. It will become very thick.
* Substitution: I used with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour on a 1:1 ratio.

Add the tomatoes*, chicken stock, wine, lemon juice, vinegar, and raisins, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes.
* Tina’s Tip: Instead of fresh tomatoes, I used good-quality canned tomatoes; I prefer the San Marzano brand.

Add the chicken and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes more, until the chicken is completely cooked through, and then turn off the heat. Stir in the cooked rice, chives, almonds, and parsley, and serve it with buttered crusty French bread.

Here’s a link to the original recipe in House Beautiful: Alex Hitz Chicken Country Captain Recipe

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