This gorgeous chicken dish is one of those regional classics that many natives either grew up eating all the time or have never heard of before—but no one should miss out. It originated in the Lowcountry, that sunny area around Charleston and Savannah known for deep ports, salt marshes, and excellent cuisine. Country Captain Chicken has been a staple of Junior League cookbooks in the Southeast since at least the 1950s and is found in various forms in cookbooks from as far back as the 19th century. Chicken pieces are browned in butter or bacon fat and then braised in tomato sauce redolent with aromatic spices such as curry powder, nutmeg, and plenty of pepper. Lowcountry cooking often makes brilliant use of the spices that arrived aboard ships that sailed into the local harbors, perhaps with a country captain at the helm. This recipe was originally prepared with drumsticks, but we prefer using chicken thighs. The key to creating a depth of flavor in this dish is to use high-quality curry powder. It should be so fresh that opening the jar perfumes the kitchen.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium onions)
3 cups chopped green pepper (about 3 medium peppers)
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp.)
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (14.5-oz.) cans chopped tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup raisins
6 cups hot cooked rice
Toasted slivered almonds
How to Make It
Combine flour, paprika, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a large ziplock plastic freezer bag. Place chicken thighs, a few at a time, in bag of flour mixture, shaking to coat. When all chicken thighs are coated, discard flour mixture.
Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium, stirring until melted. Add 4 to 5 chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook until well browned and crisp on 1 side, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer thighs to a plate, reserving drippings in Dutch oven. Repeat twice with remaining thighs.
Add chopped parsley, onions, bell peppers, garlic, curry powder, black pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon salt to reserved drippings in Dutch oven; cook over medium, stirring often, until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and raisins.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high; reduce heat to medium-low, and return chicken to Dutch oven. Cover and simmer 15 minutes; uncover and cook until a thermometer inserted into chicken thighs registers 165°F, about 15 minutes. Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with almonds and reserved chopped parsley.