Friday, February 19, 2010

Country Captain Chicken — 1836

"Let every thing be done at a proper time, keep every thing in its proper place, and put every thing to its proper use. …Early rising is also essential to the good government of a family." 

 —Mrs. Mary Randolph. Washington, January, 1831

The Virginia Housewife or, Methodical Cook, published in 1836

Since this week we celebrate the 1st Anniversary of Foodie Friday, I thought I would post something a bit different and very special. All of us are obviously food fanatics and share a passion for recipes and for sharing our favorites. Earlier this month, Leah @ Who Moved My Cheese Straw posted a recipe for Country Captain Chicken and I became fascinated when I read that it was associated with early Georgia cooks. As I am in the midst of preparing to move back to Georgia, the State where I was born and the land of my ancestors, I decided I would do a bit more research on its origin.

In her book What's Cooking America, Linda Stradley writes, "This delicious dish, known through Georgia, dates to the early 1800s. It is thought that this dish was brought to Georgia by a British sea captain who had been stationed in Bengali, India and shared the recipe with some friends in the port city of Savannah, Georgia. Savannah was then a major shipping port for the spice trade. The dish was named for the officers in India called Country Captains."

In the 1940s, Franklin D. Roosevelt and George S. Patten dined on this dish at Warm Springs, Georgia and an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay proves this classic Southern dish is as popular today as it was back in the day.

The glossary at What's Cooking America describes this dish as, "A curried chicken dish. The chicken is browned and then stewed in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, garlic, and curry powder. At the end, golden raisins are added. The dish is served over rice sprinkled with toasted almonds. As with all chicken recipes in the South, Country Captain Chicken varies with the cook. Some recipes call for a long cooking time and other use quick-cooking chicken breasts. One thing is always certain about this dish; it is perfumed and slightly spiced with curry."

When I discovered that it dated to the early 1800s, I decided I would search through my collection of digital vintage cookbooks and see if the recipe showed up there. That is where I found the above quote from Mrs. Randolph and where I discovered what may well be the earliest version of this dish in America.

To Make A Dish of Curry After The East Indian Manner

Cut two chickens as for fricassee, wash them clean, and put them in a stew pan with as much water as will cover them; sprinkle them with a large spoonful of salt, and let them boil till tender, covered close all the time, and skim them well; when boiled enough, take up the chickens, and put the liquor of them into a pan, then put half a pound of fresh butter in the pan, and brown it a little; put into it two cloves of garlic, and a large onion sliced, and let these all fry till brown, often shaking the pan; then put in the chickens, and sprinkle over them two or three spoonsful of curry powder; then cover the pan close, and let the chickens do till brown, often shaking the pan; then put in the liquor the chickens were boiled in, and let all stew till tender, if acid is agreeable, squeeze the juice of a lemon or orange in it.

Dish of Rice To Be Served Up With The Curry, In A Dish By Itself

Take half a pound of rice, wash it clean in salt and water—then put it into two quarts of boiling water, and boil it briskly twenty minutes; strain it through a colander and shake it into a dish, but do not touch it with your fingers nor with a spoon.
Beef, veal, mutton, rabbits, fish, &c. may be curried and sent to table with or without the dish of rice.
Curry powder is used as a fine flavoured seasoning for fish, fowls, steaks, chops, veal cutlets, hashes, minces, alamodes, turtle soup, and in all rich dishes, gravies, sauce, &c. &c.

As I said, this dish was featured on Throwdown With Bobby and the challenger was the Lee Brothers. You can find their recipes by clicking on the captions below the photos: 

Leah came up with what she calls a "simple and very yummy version that I think you'll like." I tend to agree, it looks delicious and I know I'll be trying it once I get settled in to my new home. 

I also believe I'll try the recipe from 1836, in honor of all those early American cooks who were also foodies and passed their love of cooking and swapping recipes on to us.

Happy Foodie Friday Anniversary 
to everyone, especially our lovely hostess

whose passion for food and tablescapes has brought us all together today!

21 Thoughtful Comments:

Jane said...

Great information...I love historical recipes! It's amazing how our tastes and recipes change over the years. Just check the classic Better Homes and Garden cookbook. I have 4...beginning in the '30s up to the newest "pink" version. Amounts of salt and sugar are constantly changing in them...

I look forward to trying these new recipes...
Jane (artfully graced)

Lori E said...

The old cookbooks always make me chuckle. Even in the Joy of Cooking they tell you how to cook a boar's head. Brains too.
Ugh. No thanks.
I'll go with the Bobby Flay or Ina Gartner recipes thanks.

The Muse said...

Isn't it wonderful to be able to reach out and touch the past in such a glorious really have it come alive for us?

Still hoping your move is going smoothly and with great expectations to the future!

Beach House 27 said...

Love a good old fashioned recipe - lately I've been buying all the little old recipe boxes with worn out recipes I come across and I love them.

30 minute meals and semi homemades have been around for a loooong time. Of course, they take me 45 min and a trip to the market for the on hand store bought ingredients I never seem to have on hand.

Enjoy the weekend


Mary Bergfeld said...

Rhonda, it looks scrumptious and, as usual, your photos are gorgeous. I'm very fond of Country Captain and look forward to giving this a try.

Allie and Pattie said...

I love posts with history (as anyone who reads me knows!) We used to live in the Hudson Valley in NY and we served this dish at Historical Society dinners. Great post! And thank you so much for visiting us!
xoxo Pattie and Allie

Sue said...

That was interesting...and all of the versions look good! This was a great idea for the Foodie party!


Red Couch Recipes said...

What a great post! It was so interesting to read about some of the history of this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

The Fajdich Times said...

A lot of history there. So interesting. Such a great recipe. They all looked great:) Have a great weekend:)

The Charm of Home said...

This looks fantastic! Great information. I love the history behind anything. I love reading about the southern ports and the food that blended there. Wonderful.

George Gaston said...

Country Captains was my first introduction to curry at the age of 7 and I have loved it ever since. I really like the history behind this dish and I really enjoyed the old recipe, as well. Thanks...

From the Old InkWell said...

Thanks so much for your visit and kind words. I'll be praying for your nephew's safe return along with all the troops. Take care! :)

Sierra said...

I don't think I've ever had this dish, or perhaps I have but didn't recognize the name - looks yummy and happy Friday! Hope packing is going well for you.

Coralie Cederna Johnson said...

The vintage cookbooks are more than just books with recipes...they are our women's history in small but sturdy stories! Wonderful post...thanks for sharing and for your visit.
Best of all blessings on your move!

Magdalena said...

Shellbelle, What an exciting post! First of all the recipe, all versions of it look delicious! But I really love rescuing anything from the past and this definitely includes recipes. It is so much fun to try and decipher them and read about the women who created them. I find this recipe and cookbook from Georgia very interesting! I'd like to give it a try.
great post

Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magdalena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magdalena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rattlebridge Farm said...

So much fun--I love cookbooks that offer a window into kitchens from another era. The chicken recipe is going on my to-do list. Bandwidth and I have been trying to think of a new chicken recipe. This is it.

Our Porch in Hillsborough said...

I love old recipes and cookbooks. Thanks for a look at one of our favorite dishes! I'm inspired by your post to try the Lee Brothers recipe next time.
Have a great week,

Fifi Flowers said...

I'm starving... that looks FAB!!!

I love the beach and everything that goes with it! I love the waves lapping at my feet. I love the feel of the sand between my toes. I love the roar of the Pacific and the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Let's talk about beaches around the world, bonfires, building sandcastles, swaying palm trees, flamingos, clambakes, sunrises and sunsets. If it's tropical, it fits this blog!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Go to the Beach in Style!