Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Country Captain


Need an idea for dinner? Something different, yet easy to make and absolutely delicious? Let me introduce you to this tasty number, Country Captain. Not being from the south, I wasn't familiar with this dish, but it was given a make-over by Bon Appetit and one look was enough to convince me that I needed to try this. Originally, it's a saucy chicken dish flavored with curry powder and served over rice. There's an interesting article on the history of how it got its name here. But all you really need to know is that it's easy and mouth-watering and (if you're interested) good for you.


What makes this dish truly stunning is the toasted spices. I'm a spice-a-holic and I have a huge collection in my pantry. It's so worth it to invest in the whole spices and a coffee grinder. Your house will smell amazing. People will swoon. You will never buy pre-ground, pre-packaged curry powder again. Why would you when you could play around with spices and create your own favorite blend? This one is warm, spicy and exotic. I've never ground cinnamon and cloves before to use in a savory application, but I loved it. All the spices blend together and each lend their own note to the song. It's a beautiful thing.

The other component that makes this meal is the toasted coconut garnish. I found some in the bulk bins of a local heath food store and I would strongly encourage you to seek it out. It adds a sweet, toasty, nutty accent. Whatever you do, don't turn your back on it when it's in the oven. It burns very quickly. I found that out the hard way, I'm afraid. It was still good, but most of it was just this side of burned to a crisp. So check it often. You want golden, fragrant flakes, not dehydrated mushroom look-a-likes. Just so you know.

Country Captain with Cauliflower and Peas
Bon Appetit
Serves 6

Note: It's true that there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but it does come together quickly. I didn't have any dried cherries so I substituted dried currants. You could skip them, but I like the idea of something a little sweet in a spicy dish.


Spice Mixture

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds (from 3 whole green cardamom pods)
  • 1 1/2-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon (scant) cayenne pepper


  • 5 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, trimmed, cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, trimmed, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch green onions, dark green and white parts chopped separately
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 2/3 cups crushed tomatoes with added puree (from 28-ounce can)
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas (9 to 10 ounces; do not thaw)
  • 1/3 cup coconut shavings, lightly toasted


Spice Mixture

  • Place coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon stick in small dry skillet. Stir over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darker in color, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Finely grind spices in spice mill or in mortar with pestle. Transfer to small bowl; add turmeric and cayenne.


  • Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large deep pot over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower florets; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and sauté until beginning to soften and brown in spots, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl.
  • Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and half of chicken to same pot; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and sauté until chicken is light brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to large bowl. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  • Add white parts of green onions, finely grated ginger, and minced garlic to same pot; reduce heat to medium and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground spice mixture; stir 15 seconds. Stir in 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add crushed tomatoes; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in dried cherries and peanut butter; return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add sautéed cauliflower to pot; cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through and cauliflower is tender, adding more chicken broth by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry, about 10 minutes longer. Season with coarse salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.
  • Add frozen peas to stew and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. Ladle stew into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with green onion tops and toasted coconut shavings and serve.

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