Although Country Captain Chicken’s exact origins are difficult to disentangle, most food specialists seem to agree that the dish likely got its name from the captains of East India Company ships that were responsible for delivering spices and other goods from overseas to southern port cities such as Charleston and Savannah in the 1800s. .
What’s not in dispute is that Carolina’s chicken curry and white rice mixture found its way onto George S. Patton’s dinner table, and the general quickly fell in love with the captain to the point that the U.S. Army honored Old Blood and Guts by serving the dish to soldiers in the field via ready-to-eat (MRE) packaged meals In 2000. (It was not a great success and is no longer served to the troops.)
Chef Thomas Boemer, who left his native Minnesota at age five and first had a country captain as a school lunch in the Carolinas, has a different recipe for the one-pot dish than the one the Pentagon has created to honor Patton, and it’s on the menu alongside a number of other Southern-style specialties at its restaurant The comeback in the twin cities. The captain’s boarding at Revival, however, did not go smoothly, as his business partner and chef had never heard of the dish.
“In the Carolinas, people eat a lot of rice. In Minnesota, nobody eats rice, they eat potatoes. They just thought I was completely crazy,” Boemer told InsideHook. “We were talking about the menu and they were like, ‘I’ve never heard of it. It’s not a real thing. I don’t think it’s Southern food. I was like, ‘Well, I tell you, it’s southern food. That’s what we ate.
Made with golden raisins, almonds, jalapeno peppers, and rice simmered with coconut milk, Country Captain’s version of Boemer calls for the chicken to be prepared bone-in with the skin intact.
“You lose so much without cooking a chicken on the bone. The raisins, almonds and peppers add a lot of texture to the dish. There are hints of sweetness and a complexity of spice,” he says. You have all of these great textures and flavors from the vegetables and the curry, and it creates a dish that I think has a very contemporary feel to it and is really quite complex but can be put together very easily.
Boemer’s Country Captain, who can also be made vegetarian by swapping cauliflower instead of chicken, is emblematic of his desire to put things on the menu at The comeback that challenge people’s preconceptions of what Southern cuisine is.
“Especially in places that aren’t Southern, people have this idea of what Southern food is. But the complexity of Southern cuisine and its history really goes in many different directions,” says Boemer. “Even though we’re a fried chicken restaurant for all intents and purposes, I want to expand people’s ideas and notions of what Southern cuisine is and can be. Country Captain is one of the go-to dishes for me because it comes from a time when the South and those coastal towns were a mecca for people all over the world. That’s why it continues to find its place on my menu.
And now it can navigate yours.
Chef Thomas Boemer’s Country Captain Chicken
- Whole chicken (cut into 10pc)
- Large red onion (small dice 1/4 inch)
- Red bell pepper (small dice 1/4 in)
- Jalapeno pepper (small dice 1/4 inch)
- 2 large tomatoes (medium 1/2 inch dice)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon chilli
- 3 large bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup toasted slivered almonds
- 3 bunches green onions, chopped (1/8 inch rings)
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 can of coconut milk
- Cut chicken into 10 pieces (thigh, thigh, wing, bone-in breast with attached rib meat cut in half). This cut will leave all the chicken pieces the same size so they cook at the same rate.
- Season with salt and pepper and place skin side down in a braising pan or Dutch oven.
- Brown all the pieces well and set aside.
- Add the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno to the pot with a pinch of salt and sweat over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen and brown the chicken pieces.
- When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the minced garlic. Sweat the garlic until aromatic (30 seconds) and add all the dry spices.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the spices to a boil in a hot skillet, being careful not to burn them.
- Stir in the tomatoes and add the chicken broth.
- Bring to a boil and return your chicken and bay leaves.
- Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake until the chicken is fully cooked (about 30 minutes).
- For the rice, place the rice in a medium saucepan with the chicken broth and coconut milk on the stove and bring gently to a boil. Cover with a lid and place in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked.
- To serve, place the cooked coconut rice in a large bowl and top with a piece or two of chicken. Spoon curry sauce and vegetables on top and garnish with scallions, golden raisins and slivered almonds.
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