Friday, June 12, 2015

Captain's Chicken ~ Papaya Curry Bread Dressing










     An Old Traditional Yacht Club Recipe!
     There are several Captain's Chicken recipes on the internet and in book form.  Most of them do not resemble today's old original recipe that was popular in Florida yacht clubs.

     Many chefs claim that Captain's Chicken is made with a Curry Cream Sauce, just like Chicken Lord Baltimore is claimed to be.  Based upon the knowledge of several senior chefs that I apprenticed with the curry style Captain's Chicken recipe is not correct.  These elder chefs actually were active in fine dining way back in the 1920's through the 1960's.  When these chefs apprenticed, they learned from senior chefs that were active in fine dining restaurants starting around 1890.
     Many classic American and European fine dining recipes were developed or refined in the late 1800's.  Both Captain's Chicken and Chicken Lord Baltimore (or Crab Cakes Lord Baltimore) were popular item back in to days.
     According to the line of senior chef food knowledge that dates back to the late 1800's, which was passed on to me during apprenticeship, many recipes back in those days were mimicked by food writers, then slightly modified by the food writer and then the recipe was published for profit.  Recipe jockeying was rampant in the late 1800's.  Even renowned French chefs like Auguste Escoffier have been accused of this practice.  
     One of the easiest ways to modify a recipe was to add curry spices to a sauce of some kind.  Any recipe that had curry in the list of ingredients was a smash hit with the societal elite during the English Victorian age.  Many traditional late 1800's recipes that originally required a Sherry Cream Sauce, were republished in cookbooks written by dubious food writers and suddenly the sauce was switched to a Curry Cream Sauce (Sauce Indienne.)
     According to the "ancient" senior chefs that I worked with early in my career, both Captain's Chicken and Chicken Lord Baltimore originally were designed with a Sherry Cream Sauce.  Both of these recipes were invented before the rampant Curry Spice trade took place in the Victorian age.  Using a Sherry Cream Sauce does make a world of difference in these two old recipe examples.  The character of Captain's Chicken completely changes for the better and the same can be said about Chicken Lord Baltimore.

     The original Captain's Chicken is a post American Civil War recipe that was created during the historical age of steamships.  The original recipe was first documented sometime in the 1870's.  Basically, the original Captain's Chicken was just a recipe that steamship captains liked.  Word got around and the recipe spread from one steamboat to the next and then it was adopted by fine dining restaurant chefs.
     The old original Captain's Chicken recipe was a chicken breast or half chicken with blue cheese stuffed under the skin.  The chicken was roasted, served with a Sherry Crème sauce and Bacon Lardons were sprinkled over the entrée.
     Later on, near the turn of the century, the recipe was somehow altered by overzealous food writers and chefs that had nothing to do with steamboat galley cooking at all.  On printed cookbook paper, Captain's Chicken then became just another a chicken breast with a curry crème sauce recipe.

     I actually had a job cooking in the galley of an old paddlewheel boat early in my career.  I also was a saucier and sauté cook at an exclusive yacht club for 2 years.  On jobs like this, any kind of old traditional maritime theme recipe was held in the highest regard and the recipe was preserved within the bounds of the galley or yacht club forever, with no regard for landlubber versions of the original recipe!
     All I can say is that I apprenticed with several "ancient knowledge keeper senior chefs" that knew their stuff and I did a few years of high class cooking with old senior maritime chefs.  On my opinion, all arguments about how Curry is the original flavor of items like Captain's Chicken are null and void.  Today's Captain's Chicken recipe is as close to the original recipe as it gets!  
   
     Papaya Curry Bread Dressing: 
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 accompanying portions.
     Dressing is a culinary term that refers to an American style bread stuffing, especially for stuffing turkey or chicken.  
     Curry spiced papaya dressing is a nice accompaniment.  The dressing is not part of the original Captain's Chicken recipe.  
     The dressing can be baked at the same time that the chicken is roasting.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped celery.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala.  (Garam masala spice mix contains both white pepper and black pepper, so there is no need to add pepper when seasoning!)
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Stir the mixture.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a container.  Set both the vegetables and liquid aside.
     Step 4:  Dice some stale French bread into 1/4" cube shape pieces.  (About 1 1/2 cups will be needed.)
     Step 5:  Place the diced bread in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of diced peeled and seeded ripe papaya.
     Add 1/2 of a thin sliced green onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add the reserved cooked vegetables.
     Step 6:  Add just enough of the indienne broth to moisten the bread stuffing.  The bread should just be damp and not soggy wet.  (Any extra broth can be saved for another recipe.)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of whisked egg.
     Gently toss and mix the ingredients together.
     Step 7:  Brush a 2 to 3 individual size soufflé ramekins or a muffin pan with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the dressing mixture in the soufflé cups.
     Step 8:  Bake in a 325ºF oven, till the dressing is lightly toasted on top.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF)
     Keep the dressing warm on a stove top.

     Sherry Crème Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup of sauce.  (about 3 or 4 servings)
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly stir, till the roux becomes a pale golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock.
     Add 1/2 cup of dry sherry.
     Add 3/4 cup of milk.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Stir with a whisk, till the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce is a thin, yet rich, cream sauce consistency.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Keep the sherry crème sauce warm in a 135ºF bain marie or reheat it to order.
     
     Banquet Style Chicken Breast Fabrication: 
     The skin on the chicken breast must be intact and undamaged for this recipe!
     Cut a chicken in half through the breast plate and on both sides of the backbone.
     Cut off the leg off the leg section.
     Cut the wing joint off, but leave the drummette attached to the chicken breast.
     Leave the chicken breast bones and skin intact.  (The finished banquet chicken breast should weigh about 8 or 9 ounces)
  
     Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette:  
     This recipe yield enough for 1 Captain's Chicken recipe.  
     This bleu cheese vinaigrette dressing has to be made thick!
     Step 1:  Place 1 minced small garlic clove in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Danish Bleu Cheese or Maytag Bleu Cheese.
     Step 2:  Coarsely mash and mix the ingredients, till it looks creamy, with exposed little pieces of bleu cheese.  The sauce should look more like a sandwich spread than a vinaigrette for salads.
     Chill the sauce till it is needed.
  
     Captain's Chicken Breast:
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped hickory smoked bacon.
     Sauté the chopped bacon, till the bacon bits are crispy golden brown.
     Place the bacon bits in a fine mesh strainer to drain any grease.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 of the bacon bits to the bleu cheese vinaegrette.
     Reserve the other half of the bacon bits for later in the recipe.
     Step 3:  Stick your fingers under the chicken breast skin and gently loosen the skin, so that it forms a central shallow pocket.
     Spoon the bleu cheese bacon vinaigrette under the chicken skin.
     Step 4:  Place the chicken on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Roast the chicken in a 325ºF oven till the chicken is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF)
     Step 5:  Pass the chicken under a broiler to crisp the skin and give it a light golden brown color.
   
     Cebollitas: 
     Cebollitas are an optional vegetable accompaniment.
     The cebollitas can be cooked while the chicken is roasting.
     Trim the ends off of about 6 to 8 cebollita onions.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Sauté the cebollitas, till a few light brown highlights appear.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Keep the grilled cebollitas warm on a stove top.  
     
     Captain's Chicken ... with Papaya Curry Bread Dressing & Grilled Cebollitas:
     Step 1:  Place the Captain's Chicken on a plate.
     Spoon a little bit of the sherry créme sauce over the chicken and on the plate.
     Sprinkle the reserved crispy bacon bits over the chicken.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of chopped Italian Parsley over the chicken.
     Step 2:  Run a sharp knife around the edge of the stuffing in the soufflé ramekin.
     Invert the stuffing onto a cutting board.
     Place the papaya indienne stuffing on the plate, with the toasted side facing up.
     Place the grilled cebollitas on the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!
    
     It is hard to describe how great tasting a classic Captain's Chicken entrée is!  If you have never dined in a yacht club, then you probably have never seen this entrée.  There are many old recipes that have been served exclusively in yacht clubs for many years.  This old original Captain's Chicken is one of the best of the timeless yacht club recipes! 

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