Chicken Biryani

by Rachel on May 28, 2013

Chicken Biryani

This is a festive Indian dish often served at weddings, or important family holidays. My friend Asma taught me how to make this at an Indian cooking class she hosted in her home. If you read through the recipe you’ll see that the dish relies on lots of spices not typically used in American kitchens. This dish is flavorful rather than spicy hot. It can be made more spicy hot with the additional of Thai chilies. I leave that up to you. I like it as is. It would make an excellent weekend dinner for family or guests. I’m going to add it to my rotation soon. I loved it.

Chicken Biryani (makes 8 servings)

  • 5 onions, sliced lengthwise
  • Two whole chickens, cut up
  • 8 tablespoons ginger paste*
  • 8 tablespoons garlic paste*
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 16 whole black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken into bits
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups whole milk plain yogurt (not non-fat)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped
  • 8-10 cups prepared Jasmine Rice
  • Cardamom powder

*Asma makes her own garlic, ginger and green chili paste. All three of them can be purchased at a specialty market like Whole Foods, or an Indian market (if you have one near you) or online at Amazon. Truth be told, they are all extremely easy to make. Asma buys the large container of peeled garlic at Costco, places the garlic in a blender, adds a tiny quantity of water (a teaspoon or two) and processes the garlic until smooth. This paste will last in the fridge for a number of weeks, or can be frozen and straight from the freezer. Ginger paste is made in the same manner. Peel fresh ginger, cut it into chunks, place it in your blender with a small amount of water and process until smooth. For green chili paste Asma uses Thai green chilies. She removes the stems but NOT THE SEEDS (the seeds have most of the heat). She places her stemmed chilies in a blender with a small amount of water and processes the chilies until smooth. She then spreads the chili paste on a cutting board and puts that in the freezer. Once it’s frozen she chops the paste into small 1-inch squares, puts the squares in a ziplock bag and freezes them. When she needs green chili paste she grabs a frozen square (about a tablespoon each) and she’s off to the races.

Cut the onions into very thin rounds. Deep fry in canola or grapeseed oil until they have a light caramel brown color. Remove from oil and allow to cool. The onions will darken as they cool.

Marinate in the chicken in a large bowl. Add the chicken, yogurt, ginger paste, garlic paste, salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 2-3 hours. You can refrigerate this overnight if you wish.

Cover bottom of a large soup pot or Dutch oven with 1/3 of an inch of olive oil. Heat for a few minutes. Add the chicken with the marinade and stir for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Do not stir too much and do not add any water. The consistency of the sauce should be quite thick. Gently fold in the fried onions. Taste for salt and add as required.

To serve leave the cooked chicken at the bottom of your pot. Sprinkle a layer of cilantro over the chicken. Add a light rice layer (maybe just ½ inch of rice). Sprinkle cardamom powder over the rice. Add the rest of the rice. Asma garnishes the top of the dish with saffron powder. It is apparently a challenge to find saffron powder in the States. She suggests that one can use saffron threads. Pour boiling water over the threads and then using a diffuser, spray saffron water lightly over the top rice layer. When you are ready to serve, scoop out the whole dish, maintaining the layers and place on a large serving platter.

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