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Comfort in a Kettle
By Sally Belk King
Feb 12, 2008
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As I write this column, we're still deep into winter here in Montana.  And although I'm tired of chili and Superbowl fare (flashback:  How 'bout them New York Giants!), I'm still craving warming foods that soothe body and soul.  Making Country Captain--an old timey southern chicken dish--is definitely on my 'to do' list.  Like most long-cooked stews and soups, Country Captain can be made several days in advance; what a joy to have a semi-spicy dish in the refrigerator (or freezer) to reheat  for the snowy days and frigid nights still to come. 

The recipe below is from a new book by fellow southerner, Jean Anderson.  Jean's phenomenal book is getting rave reviews (well-deserved, I might add), and she graciously offered this recipe to Wine Review Online.  The spices (curry powder, black pepper, cloves and cayenne) make Country Captain a fine way to show off the dry Rieslings and Gewürztraminers tucked away in your cellar.

Although  I adore Rieslings and Gewurtz, this time of year (Valentine's Day is February 14--just a friendly reminder) my inner Cupid reaches instead for a bottle of the 2005 Hugel et Fils' Pinot Blanc Cuvée Les Amours ('lovers blend').  This Alsatian wine is elegant and aromatic, and marries will with spicy fare--like Country Captain. And believe it or not, there are some wine lovers (or just plain lovers) who prefer still wine over bubbly.  Love is strange (nod to songwriter Bo Diddley and his 1957 Top 40 hit by the same name).  Indeed, love is strange, but your wine choices don't have to be.

Jean Anderson's Country Captain

Recipe from A Love Affair with Southern Cooking: Recipes and Recollections by Jean Anderson (William Morrow, 2007)

Printed with permission from the author:

One 6- to 6 ½-pound ready-to-cook roasting chicken or, if you can get it, an old hen, stripped of as much fat as possible (freeze the giblets to use another time)
4 cups water
4 tablespoons fat (skimmed from the kettle liquid) or 4 tablespoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
3 large green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
3 large yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Three 14.5-ounce cans crushed tomatoes with their liquid
3 cups kettle liquid (in which chicken steamed)
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup dried currants
3 ½ cups converted rice, cooked by package directions
1 ½ cups lightly toasted slivered almonds

• Place the chicken on a rack in a large, heavy kettle and pour in the water.  Bring to a simmer, adjust the heat so that the water bubbles gently, cover, and steam the chicken for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the leg moves easily in the hip joint.
• Remove the chicken from the kettle; also pour the kettle liquid into a medium-size heatproof bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to proceed.  Cool the chicken until easy to handle, then remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and cut the light and dark meat into 2- to 3-inch pieces.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
• Spoon the 4 tablespoons fat into the kettle (if there is insufficient fat, round out the measure with bacon drippings or vegetable oil).  Heat for 1 minute over moderate heat, add the bell peppers, onions, parsley, curry powder, thyme, black pepper, cayenne, and cloves and cook, stirring now and then, until the peppers and onions are nicely softened but not brown--12 to 15 minutes.
• Add the tomatoes, 3 cups of the reserved kettle liquid, the salt, and the Worcestershire sauce and simmer uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld.
• Add the reserved chicken and dried currants and simmer uncovered 30 to 35 minutes longer until the flavors mellow and the currants plump.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.  Also add another ½ to 1 cup of the kettle liquid if the Country Captain seems thick and dry (it should not be soupy; there should be still enough liquid to soak down into the rice).
• To serve, bed the rice on a heated, very large, deep platter, ladle the Country Captain on top, and scatter with almonds.  Or if you prefer, plate each portion separately.

To read more about Jean Anderson, visit her website,
www.jeanandersoncooks.com