Sunday, February 7, 2010

Inglis Fletcher, Meet the Country Captain

Have you dined with the Country Captain? Or read one of Inglis Fletcher's novels? Both are a bit dated - having reached their popularity peak in the '50s. One, however, is making a comeback . . . and I think you'll be glad.

Country Captain is a chicken curry dish from the 1880s that is mostly associated with the coastal Carolinas and Georgia. It became famous after FDR and George S. Patton dined on it in Warm Springs, Georgia in the 1940s. For me, it has a connection with the author Inglis Fletcher because it's listed as her specialty for 'Sunday Supper Parties' in two local cookbooks.

You probably aren't familiar with Inglis Fletcher. She's widely known in North Carolina because she wrote a series of historical novels set in our state covering the years 1585 to 1789. She and her husband bought an 1804 plantation house outside Edenton, NC in the '40s and she was instrumental in many early preservation efforts in the state - from Tryon Palace to Bath to Edenton (where several outbuilding from her home now stand). Her 'Carolina Series' books, published from the mid-40s to 1964, were meticulously researched and are interesting reads - if you're a history or NC buff. Otherwise, they're typical for the era and as a result are not widely read or even known.

The Fletchers welcoming you to Sunday Supper!

In local antique shops, her books are pricey, but over the years I've found many of them in hardback on eBay. I even have a few signed first editions (yes, there were many editions in several languages as she was quite the thing in her day!) which were under $10 - isn't that the beauty of eBay?

So this brings up to the second part of this story - the yummy Country Captain. Everyone from the Lee Brothers to the New York Times have featured recipes for this in recent years. I'm not sure why it's in the spotlight again - maybe just because it's so delish! Fletcher's recipes involved cutting up whole chickens and many modern recipes have unnecessary ingredients (like bacon - which I love, but it's really not needed here). I've come up with a simple and very yummy version that I think you'll like. This is like a vegetable soup, you can't really go wrong so my directions are not as precise as many recipes.

Country Captain

Preheat oven to 350

2-3 pounds chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
all-purpose flour for coating - seasoned w/ salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 24 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons currants or golden raisins
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds (350 for 3-5 minutes)


Cut chicken into 2-3" pieces. Heat olive oil (EVOO) in large skillet over med-high heat (1 T. is probably enough to start). Lightly coat chicken pieces with flour, shaking off excess. Brown in EVOO on both sides - you may need to do this in batches, adding more oil and reducing heat as necessary. Remove chicken and place in baking dish.

Add onion, pepper, garlic and spices to skillet. Saute until softened then add tomatoes. Simmer until the pan is deglazed. Pour sauce over chicken and bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Add raisins and bake 5-10 more minutes. (My husband hates raisins, but loves this - they plump up and are really sweet and unraisin-like.)

Serve with rice (saffron rice is really nice with this) and garnish with almonds. Parsley also adds a nice pop of color.



  1. This sounds like a much healthier and lighter version of this classic Southern dish, using boneless chicken breasts and just a touch of oil. I am definitely going to try it your way, it sounds delish!

    Thanks for the introduction to Inglis Fletcher, she sounds like a fascinating woman. My first husband and my children carry the last name of Inglis. I've never seen it used as a first name, but I know in naming children there was a custom with some of naming a child with the mother's maiden name. I wonder if this was the case here? Very interesting!

  2. what a wonderful post! I read "Lusty Wind for the Carolinas' in the Exuma Islands where part of this novel was set. Thanks for remembering Inglis Fletcher.

  3. I'm reading Inglis Fletcher's NC books. I wade through the "tawney" hair, "tawney eyes" and even the "tawney" Albemarle sound and I find myself saying: "I didn't know that!" and I go look it up to see if she got it right. She's making me learn NC history and I'm loving it. Nellie

  4. Very interesting. She was my great-grandmothers 1st cousin. And odd--I named my first daughter Tawnyah and my mother used to call her Tawney! Fascinating lady.


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