Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Sunset Crockery Cookbook" - Country Captain Chicken Breasts (Crock Pot Recipe)

Date I made this recipe: January 6, 2008

Sunset Crockery Cookbook by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine
Published by: Sunset Publishing Corporation
ISBN: 0-376-02224-8
© 1992
Recipe: Country Captain Chicken Breasts – p. 63

Back in the early 80’s my parents gave me a crock pot since it was the kitchen item that every busy working gal had to have. Not content to just leave it sit in my kitchen, I hauled that thing all over hell’s half acre, particularly up to northern Minnesota on cross-country ski weekends. And then, of course, crock pots fell out of favor and I relegated mine to the basement to collect dust for a considerable period of time.

This year, I hauled it out again, first to try out a recipe from one of my other crock pot cookbooks and then to make a pot roast for my family at Christmastime. My mom had fallen and needed a partial hip replacement and so to make it easy on everyone when she got out of the care facility, we decided on a crock pot meal—quick, easy and delicious.

And so as long as I had the thing out, I decided to cook yet another recipe, this time from this Sunset Cookbook and after a couple weeks of beef and pork roasts, I decided on chicken.

Until I started collecting southern cookbooks, I had never heard of Country Captain but I’d have to say at least one of out three southern cook books has a recipe for it. I also have to say that every time I see this recipe, I can't help but think of the (Walt Whitman) poem, "Oh Captain! My Captain! ...something, something, something, etc. etc. etc." Hey, it's been a long time since this English major hauled out a poetry book, I remember titles quite well, it's the text that is problematic!

Country Captain is an interesting mix of Indian cuisine (curry, raisins) and southern food (peppers, tomatoes and chicken—not that these are exclusive to the south but you get my point). From what I’ve read, British sea captains (hence, the name) brought back the concept, if not a recipe for this dish, home to the south in the late 1800’s.

This recipe was a little different from most of the other recipes I’ve found in that it uses currants instead of raisins (and might I say that cooked currents look like peppercorns and I kept thinking I had to remove them from my dish!) and included shrimp, turning this dish into something that resembled jambalaya.

Regardless of what you add, the curry and apples coupled with the green pepper and tomatoes made for one flavorful dish. But before posting the recipe, let’s talk about the rice.

Rice used to be the cash crop of the south, surpassing cotton as the big money maker in that part of the country. Rice is still used in a lot of southern dishes, including this one, and this gal can’t get enough of it. But for some reason, everything added to this crock pot cooked as it should have except for the rice. The rice on the bottom of the pot cooked just fine but the rice on the top of the pack did not. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Minute Rice, that oh-so-popular staple of many a kitchen (including my mother’s) in the 60’s and 70’s. So my suggestion as to how to avoid that problem is to make the rice separately, cooking it in either water or chicken broth (or a combination of both) and then add it before serving.

Country Captain Chicken Breasts – serve 6
2 medium-size Granny Smith apples
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons dried currants
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 can (about 14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
6 small, skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 ¾ pounds total)
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup long-grain rice
1 pound large, raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/3 cup slivered almonds
Chopped parsley

Quarter, core and dice unpeeled apples. In a 4-quart or larger electric slow cooker, combine apples, onion, bell pepper, garlic, currants, curry powder, ginger, and red pepper; stir in tomatoes. Rinse chicken and pat dry; then arrange, overlapping pieces slightly, on top of tomato mixture. Pour in broth. Cover and cook at low setting until chicken is very tender when pierced (6 to 7 hours).

Carefully lift chicken to warm plate, cover lightly, and keep warm in a 200 degree oven. Stir rice into cooking liquid (see above about rice). Increase cooker heat setting to high; cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is almost tender to the bite (30 to 35 minutes). Stir in shrimp, cover, and cook until shrimp are opaque in center; cut to test (about 10 more minutes).

Meanwhile, toast almonds in a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat until golden brown (5 to 8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Set aside.

To serve, season rice mixture to taste with salt. Mound in a warm serving dish; arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle with parsley and almonds.

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