Thursday, February 5, 2009

NYT Mag Recipe Challenge #1 - Country Captain

I admit it, I suck at reading my Sunday New York Times in anything approaching a timely fashion. Because, honestly, I'm really only in it for three sections - Sunday Styles, Travel and the Magazine. Sure, if I need a new book to read I'll check out the Book Review. And if I feel like depressing the hell out of myself I'll read the front or Business sections. And maybe if there's a story on the Manning brothers I'll check out the (worst ever) Sports section. But for me, it's all about the Holy Trinity of fashion, travel... and food.

Which is where the Magazine section comes in. In their regular features they do a weekly column on food. It used to be a section where they took an old recipe and updated it with some high falutin (and most likely NYC) chef's spin on it. Recently they turned it into a rotation of three or four different columns per month, including the old version but adding in some new stuff. (The only new one I remember is this guy who is going to cook stuff with his pre-schooler foodie son. It's "aww, cute" but could get annoying.)

Anyway, they print a recipe or two with every column, which is nice. And for the first time in the many years of getting the Times, I've actually tried a recipe. And may do so again. Yep, it was good. And easy. But what was it? Country Captain. Whaaa???
Country Captain is a southern chicken dish (Charleston and Savannah like to argue over which city originated the dish) that reminds me quite a bit of a chicken version of my mom's shrimp creole crossed with Chicken Cacciatore. It was simple and tasty, two things anyone who doesn't feel like slaving in front of a stove for three hours on a weeknight is definitely looking for. Oh yes, and it was cheap - I'd guess under $20 for all the ingredients for a 4 person meal. The dish incorporates chicken thighs, an inexpensive cut of chicken. But you could probably use the breast, if dark meat doesn't do it for you*. You use canned tomatoes, green peppers, a little bacon for flavor and a side of rice for starchy goodtimes (or, if you're me and out of rice, couscous is a great substitute). And voila - dinner.

* If dark meat doesn't do it for you, you officially suck. Dark meat kicks light meats ass.


1/4 flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. butter
3 lbs. (about 8) chicken thighs
4 slices bacon
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. curry powder
3 tbsp. currants (I subbed raisins)
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes and their juices
3 tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted
Cooked white rice (or couscous)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and the thyme in a bowl. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it foams. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off excess, and fry, in batches if needed, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the skillet.
3. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the bacon and fry until crispy. Transfer to a plate. Once cool, crumble and set aside.
4. Add the onion, pepper, celery, garlic, curry powder and 1 tablespoon of the currants to the skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof casserole large enough to hold the chicken snugly in one layer. Arrange the chicken on top. Pour the remaining sauce over and around the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 15 minutes more.
6. Top with the crumbled bacon, remaining currants and slivered almonds. Serve with cooked rice and any condiments you wish.

Serves 4.

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