Sunday, March 28, 2010

Country Captain Chicken

Bobby Flay's Food Network show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, is one of those shows that just sucks me in, no matter what I am doing at the moment. I get totally wrapped up in the competition of it. In the show, Bobby Flay "surprises" a cook or cooks that are well-known for cooking one particular thing very well. He shows up at an event where the cooks are going to be demonstrating how to make their signature dish, and challenges them to a head-to-head cook-off. Two impartial judges come in at the end and determine which dish reigns supreme. Usually, Bobby loses, and that's kind of the point. He prefers to showcase other peoples' legendary cuisine, rather than toot his own horn.

I happened to catch an episode a few weeks back where he challenged the Lee brothers, two chefs based out of Charleston, to a Country Captain Chicken throwdown. I had never heard of this dish, but I was instantly intrigued. After rendering some bacon or pork fat in a Dutch oven or pot, you brown some chicken thighs, then saute some vegetables and simmer them in a tomato-based sauce that contains a healthy dose of curry powder, as well as a couple other surprising ingredients (raisins, anyone?). You simmer the sauce, thicken it up, then serve the whole concoction with rice. Garnish with parsley, slivered almonds, and the bacon that was previously reserved, and you've got an incredible taste combination that literally sets off explosions of flavors in your mouth. It's unbelievable.

When I looked up this dish online (like, immediately after the show ended, because it seriously just looked that good), I read through both the Lee boys' and Bobby's recipes. Even though his version lost on the show, I decided I was going to try Bobby's, just because I thought my family would like his spin on it a little bit more. The Lee brothers' version looked awesome too, though, and I'm sure I'll be trying that one too someday!

It turns out that this takes quite a while to make, but I was confident that it would be worth it. The hardest part is waiting while it bubbles away on the stove,

and then waiting again when it is transferred to the oven to reduce further. The smell is just amazing. And even though these flavors may sound like they wouldn't work together, they totally do. They work so well, in fact, that I can't wait to make this again! It's the kind of dish you remember, long after the final dish is cleaned and put away.

I'm posting the recipe the way I did it, because I changed things just a bit from the original recipe. The exact version of Bobby's dish is found here. He makes his own spice blend for the curry powder, while I just used the hot curry powder from Penzey's. Their curry powder is delicious, by the way. In addition, he made a coconut rice to go alongside, while I just opted for the plain kind. Finally, I cut his recipe in half, since I was just feeding myself and the boys. Here's what I did:

Country Captain Chicken
adapted from Bobby Flay
serves 2-3

1 cup white rice
2 cups water
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 slices bacon, diced
1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-5 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (diced is fine, too)
2 Tbsp. raisins or currants
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup coarsely chopped freshly parsley
slivered almonds, lightly toasted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a Dutch oven or high-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crisp. Remove to a towel-lined plate and reserve. To the rendered bacon fat in the pan, add the oil and butter; heat until it begins to shimmer.
2. Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate and season liberally with salt and pepper. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, dredge each thigh in flour, then shake off the excess. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, then remove to a plate.
3. Add onion and bell pepper to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the red jalapeno and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the curry and ancho chili powders, and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by 3/4. Add the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, and reduce slightly. Stir in the tomatoes, raisins or currants, thyme, 1 teaspoon honey, and salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Nestle the chicken thighs into the pan, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and transfer into the oven to bake for 35 minutes.
4. Remove the lid after 35 minutes and continue to bake for 15 minutes. After removing the lid, start the rice in a different pot. Bring the 2 cups water to a boil, add the 1 cup rice, return to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 18-20 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Turn off heat, add green onions, fluff with a fork, and let stand for 5 minutes more.
5. After baking without the lid for the additional 15 minutes, remove the chicken mixture from the oven. Place it back on the burner over high heat and let it come to a boil. Allow mixture to reduce slightly (I just did so until I liked the consistency, about 5 minutes), then remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, and honey, to taste.
6. To serve: place rice in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add 1 or 2 chicken thighs, then spoon the sauce mixture over the chicken. Garnish with reserved bacon, parsley, and slivered almonds.
Savor and enjoy!

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