The American South has lengthy laid declare to Nation Captain. As discovered on tables from Charleston to Savannah, it’s a dish of hen crisped then simmered with half-melted tomatoes and curry powder. It comes with toppings, decorous or wanton, as you would like: almonds and grated coconut for crunch, sweet-sour currants, nubs of bacon like a strafe of salt. The fixed is a mattress of Carolina rice, every grain fluffed and preening.
However curry powder isn’t any extra native to the USA than tomatoes (which grew wild within the Andes earlier than they had been cultivated by the Mayans in Central America and should have ended up within the Carolinas through the Caribbean). It was a British shortcut to Indian flavors, a spice combine first commercially packaged and offered within the late 18th century, after the London-based East India Firm seized management of a lot of the subcontinent, fielding a non-public military greater than Britain’s.
In “The Raj at Desk,” the New Zealander meals historian David Burton notes, “The time period ‘nation’ used to confer with something of Indian, versus British, origin.” So the nation captain of the recipe’s title wasn’t some sleepy rural squire however probably a commander, both of a ship plying the commerce routes to and from India or of Indian troops pressed into British service. As for curry powder, it was simply an approximation of the type of spice blends that Indian cooks tailor to every dish, “infinitely changeable,” because the Canadian author Naben Ruthnum places it in “Curry: Consuming, Studying, and Race.”
An earlier model of Nation Captain persists in Britain and India. Rohan Kamicheril, the founder and editor of Tiffin, a web site dedicated to the regional cuisines of India, and in nonpandemic occasions, a dapper supper-club host, grew up consuming the dish in Bangalore. His mom follows the recipe of her mom, who was of Anglo-Indian descent. It has not one of the soupy tomatoes of its American counterpart, no stew or gravy, nothing so thick as to represent a sauce. All you want are the recent juices working from the hen.
There may be immediacy, and intimacy, to this seemingly plain-spoken dish.
Just a few spices are referred to as for: turmeric, ginger-garlic paste — which you’ll be able to mash up shortly in a mortar and pestle or purchase premade — and Kashmiri chile powder, pink as a blood moon and barely hotter than paprika, though the warmth, faintly candy, lingers. (Paprika and cayenne collectively will yield an identical taste, if not as ardent a colour.) Vinegar is the final, very important contact, the sourness that twangs the nerve and startles the opposite flavors into focus.
Kamicheril’s mom considers Nation Captain a British dish, and accordingly she serves it not with rice however with what she calls “good smooth bread.” This implies white bread, however handled like chapati, torn by hand and wrapped across the hunks of hen, potato and tangled onions. “It’s English meals, however refracted by means of an Indian lens,” Kamicheril says — a legacy of colonials with palates newly woke up to the chances of spice.
To Kamicheril, Nation Captain is luxurious. The recipe is easy, but it surely takes talent and care to make. It’s important to hold your eye on the pan, alert to the darkening of onions, able to rescue the potatoes earlier than they hit the far aspect of gold. Save a number of the frying oil to gloss the pan for the hen, and also you’ll get an additional carry of taste.
It will probably take talent to eat too. The recipe right here makes use of boneless, skinless hen thighs, however in Bangalore, Kamicheril’s mom begins with a complete hen, purchased not from a butcher however from “the hen man,” Kamicheril says. Virtually each half is used, reduce down into knobby little items, bones and all. The bones deliver their very own meatiness. Some have sharp edges, though this isn’t an impediment, Kamicheril insists: Grappling with them is half the enjoyable, forcing you “to get in there and use your tooth.”
There may be immediacy, and intimacy, to this seemingly plain-spoken dish. “In large Indian celebrations, you cook dinner every part forward of time,” Kamicheril explains. However Nation Captain should be eaten as quickly because it’s made. “It’s a fleeting, lovely factor,” he says. You may’t make it for a crowd, solely a selected few, who should collect shortly on the desk and be ready to pounce.
Recipe: Country Captain
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