This is one celebratory dish and after the magnificent wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex I strongly believe we need more dishes like this. Don’t you think this world could use a few more celebrations? Perhaps a bit more kindness and recognition of actual joy? I guess it boils down to BEing NICE instead of just sporting the “be nice” bumper sticker on the back of your car. I don’t long for days gone by as much as the respect, consideration and honesty which I grew up knowing and that now seem to have been thrown to the side of the road. Kindness in the form of philanthropy is back “in”, as is Botswana, and I am thrilled. I’m fully aware our world is still a troubled place and I will do my part to make this world a better place, however, I also crave celebrations of love and joy and peace and I kind of think the rest of the world does, too. We were privy to some of the royal couple’s dating and engagement details showing us, in no uncertain terms, these are two people who want to be of use and come to the aid of those who have nothing. I don’t mean to preach but, really, how hard is is to buy a deli-sandwich, a bag of chips and a jug of water for the homeless man with barely any teeth in his head standing outside the grocery store? You’re about to buy food anyway, so how about helping someone who’s life is so fragile? A bunch of wings and a jug of water could make an enormous difference in someone’s day. Celebrate the joy and happiness you feel by spreading a little love to those who so desperately need it. You may not BE a royal when you give but you certainly will feel royal. Deli mac ‘n cheese never tasted so good!
Country Captain is an easy dish, perfect to prepare for festive gatherings or Sunday dinner. Served over fluffy, long grain rice, this chicken dish is also great prepared in advance and here’s some more good news. The flavors really bloom and become full and mellow the following day so leftovers are a delight. Country Captain is not a spicy dish but a perfectly seasoned one. It hails from the South, specifically Georgia, and is a favorite throughout the state served often at brunch and on stately sideboards.. I suppose we can thank all the curry spices coming into the port of Savannah. This aromatic one-pot stew is well-rounded and flavorful, dotted with green peppers, onion and garlic, bits of sweet tomato and fat raisins. It is truly a delight. I brown in butter both skinless boneless chicken breasts and thighs to add more of a rich flavor. The thighs also add to the richness and, in the end, everyone seems to get the piece they want. Country Captain can be prepared in a high-sided skillet or a heavy bottomed dutch oven. I use both. Either golden seedless or the common brown raisin may be used with excellent results and the recipe doubles easily. I hope for your next gathering you’ll try this dish. It’s quite the celebration!
Country Captain or Southern Curried Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, each half breast cut into thirds
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 generous tablespoons good quality curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes with juice
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
- hot cooked rice, to serve
- Mix flour, salt and pepper together in a bowl and lightly dredge chicken, shaking off excess flour. Set aside.
- In a high sided skillet of dutch oven melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the vegetable oil.
- Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, carefully add the chicken and brown on both sides but do not cook all the way through.
- Remove from the pan and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, curry powder and nutmeg stirring well. Cook about 3 minutes the vegetables are soft but not browned.
- Add the tomatoes and juice and stir well.
- Add the chicken and any juices plus the raisins to the pan covering the chicken with the sauce.
- Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes so the chicken becomes tender.
- Garnish with almonds and serve over hot, buttered rice.
Isn’t it great when family members can help other family members with academics, college or careers? One of our nieces, Meg, reached out to her Uncle Jimmy for help with a skype interview for a summer internship. We’re so happy to learn she got it! When Delta Airlines made moves to open a reservations office in San Juan my aunt, Madrinita, helped me out and secured an interview for me. It was certainly no guarantee of being hired but it got my toe in the door. The rest was up to me. Hundreds and hundreds of people were interviewed for 13 positions. I was just out of college, young and foolish and completely unaware of any competition for these highly coveted positions. With the beauty and confidence of one in their early 20’s, I sailed through all my interviews happy to be on a mini-vacation during the day while spending precious moments with my family at night, secure in the knowledge that the world truly was my oyster. I scored that position myself but had my aunt not let me know, had she not set up the initial interview, that chapter of my life would have been rewritten. I lived with my relatives for some time and although we had a few disagreements, (for instance, how can I be home by 10:00 pm if I’m not leaving the house until 11:00pm. Right?), we all enjoyed this unexpected gift of time spent with each other. I gained a fierce loyalty and love of the island and its people, from the cool, wet mountains down to the white, hot beaches. I had some great times and, of course, some not so great moments but regardless, Puerto Rico is my safe haven, my refuge, the stuff of my dreams. My hope is that you’ll pour “dos dedos”, two fingers, of rum, crank the salsa and explore this island recipe. Buen provecho!
This recipe has so many Caribbean flavors. Sweet potato and pumpkin are huge in the islands and linger softly in the background tone of so many dishes such as beans, soups and curries. Coconut milk is used in both sweet and savory dishes while cilantro plays a major role in countless savory dishes. I put a whole scotch bonnet pepper in the the pot and fish it out before serving. If one of your guests mistakes it for a chunk of tomato they’re in for one helluva bad surprise. If you like your food screaming hot then, by all means mince two or three of the peppers and throw them in but I find one is just fine. This curry is served over rice and I prefer an organic, short grain brown. Short grain is sweeter than long and pairs well with this dish. Please know all these ingredient amounts are easily changed. If you’re not crazy about pumpkin then leave it out and double up on the sweet potato. Not a fan of zucchini? Add carrots or potatoes instead. And basil is brilliant in place of cilantro so play around with this forgiving dish until you come up with your own island version. Enjoy!
Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped, approximately a generous 1/2 cup
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2-3 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 1 medium size bell pepper, seeded and cut into small thin strips
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 13.5 cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite or reduced fat is fine
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 pound calabasa squash, peeled and cut into 2 1/2″ pieces
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional
- 4 medium size zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters then chopped into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, with or without the tail, it’s your choice
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped and divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large, deep-sided saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until soft but not browned, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the bay leaves, bell pepper, tomatoes and curry powder, stirring for several minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water and gently stir.
- Simmer 10 minutes then add the squash and scotch bonnet, if using. Gently stir.
- Simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes and calabasa are fork tender.
- Add the zucchini and cook 3-4 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and 1/2 cup of the cilantro and cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
- Scatter remaining cilantro over curry and serve.
I was recently invited to help with a wedding shower for a sweet, sweet girl who also happens to be of the millennial generation. From what I’ve been told these young men and women are more than reluctant to entertain because they just don’t know how. I was fortunate in that my mother was all about the party and although she didn’t cook she was a great hostess, always in the know about the town’s premier caterers, florists and bartenders. Mama made certain we, my sisters and brother, all knew how to prep the house before a party, how to lay a table and how to arrange the flowers in every room. I am eternally thankful. Over the years I’ve built up a stable of no-fail recipes for all manner of get-togethers. Here in the South chicken salad is the queen of ladies luncheons, wedding and baby showers and lunch out with the girls. This curried chicken salad recipe is outstanding in flavor, ease and portability. It actually should be prepared one day in advance of serving thus freeing up more precious time. I’ve taken it to the Keys for Girl’s Weekend in a gallon size freezer bags and to friend’s houses in plastic quart containers for baby showers and funerals. I’m telling you, it travels well. The sweetness of the curry, pineapple and banana marry well with the savory flavors of the roasted chicken, celery and Greek yoghurt. There is a slight departure from the Southern chicken salad rule. In the South only white meat, the breast, is used. Thigh meat or any dark meat in this dish is considered downright trashy but I’m here to say that’s old school! I find solely using breast meat leaves your salad flat and lacking somewhat in flavor whereas the addition of dark meat gives an added richness and succulence. And by all means, take advantage of grocery store rotisserie chickens. Many a time I’ve used them and do they save time. I use my hands to pick off every bit of skin and and fat. If the grocery store birds are small you’ll need two. If large, one will suffice. Lordy, but it’s good. Whether or not you toast the pecans is strictly up to you. Toasted or untoasted, both yield a gorgeous flavor. A fat dollop of chutney on top is a lovely touch and won’t be unnoticed by your guests. I typically use whatever homemade I have on hand but on those occasions I’ve been without I use Crosse & Blackwell’s Hot Mango Chutney. It’s not really hot; in fact it’s barely spicy and the chutney needs to have a little backbone if you are going to include it in this dish. The salad may be plated on a bed of baby greens or as a sandwich on crunchy French bread. Along side some sliced fresh fruit and a handful of cold, lightly steamed haricot vert you will have a luncheon to be proud of!
Curried Chicken Salad
- 3 1/2 cups cubed roasted chicken
- 1 1/4 cups finely diced celery
- 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted or untoasted, cashews may be substituted
- 2 medium bananas, sliced just before serving
- 1 cup homemade or good mayonnaise, (Duke’s is my preferred)
- 1/2 cup Greek plain yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- chutney, (optional)
- In a large bowl combine roasted chicken, pineapple, celery and pecans. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, yoghurt, curry powder, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Add curry mix to chicken and gently toss until all ingredients are completely coated.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.
- Right before serving slice bananas and gently fold into salad until completely coated with curry dressing.
- Serve chutney on the side or atop each portion of chicken salad.