The flavors of Indian food, in my opinion are so addicting. I use the term Indian very loosely in this recipe as many countries have their own version of what is called biryani. Biryani in its basic state is simply a dish containing meat, fish, or vegetables and rice that is flavored with some really amazing spices. I came across biryani years ago, I believe at some sort of Indian lunch buffet, and I was hooked, and when you become hooked, it is often difficult (or maybe I am just too lazy at times) to get in the car, and travel 25 minutes to seek out a great plate of biryani. That is when I take action, reminiscing on the wonderful flavor, texture, and aromas from this simple dish.
Let’s get started.
- 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 1 head of garlic, minced into a paste
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup of canola oil, plus 3 tbsp
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 1 large tomatoes, diced
- 6 whole cloves
- 3 whole Bay Leaves
- 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp Caraway seeds
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp tumeric powder (for color)
- 3 Thai Bird chili peppers, stem removed, chopped
- 1/4 cup of craisins
- 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 5 tbsp clarified butter
- 2 1/2 cups of Basmati rice
- large pot of boiling water
Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it is, but everything is well worth it in making this dish. So, lets begin by marinating the chicken, for at least 8 hours. To do this, combine one tablespoon of the garlic paste, and the ginger paste, the cup of yogurt, a pinch of salt, and the cubed chicken pieces. Seal in a plastic bag, giving it a good massage, and place in the refrigerator.
During this time, gather the rest of your ingredients, feeling free to slice, dice, and measure. There is nothing wrong with being prepared.
When you are ready to get this dish moving along, do the following:
Get a large skillet heated on the stove, along with a large pot of water, but lets not heat the water. Add the 1/4 cup of the oil into the skillet, and bring it to a medium-high heat. Add in all of the sliced onions, and lower the heat to medium. Give a nice stir, and let the onions begin to brown.
While the onions are cooking, add the rice to the pot of water, along with the cinnamon stick, cloves, and caraway seeds, along with about a teaspoon of salt. Give a good stir, and let the rice take on some of the flavor. Let the rice soak for about 30 minutes. Continue cooking the onions.
The onion process is going to take you about 25-35 minutes, keeping in mind that you want to stir, and stir frequently. The goal is to get the onions to caramelize, but at the same time get a certain crisp to them. When the onions have maintained this state, remove them from the skillet and place them on a paper lined plate, spreading them out, allowing them to drain, and crisp up a bit. Reserve the skillet for making the chicken mixture.
Strain the rice. Add a lot of water back to the large pot, and bring this to a boil. Salt the water, and place the strained rice, along with the other items we placed such as the cinnamon stick, etc, back into the boiling water, and cook for about 6 minutes, or until the rice is just slightly cooked through. The goal with this is to not overcook the rice, as we are going to layer the rice, along with the other items, and continue cooking the rice on very low heat. Once the rice has boiled for about 6 minutes, strain, and lay into a large dish, spreading out, and fanning if possible, to quickly cool.
As the rice cools, prepare the chicken mixture.
Take the same skillet you used to cook the onions, and add a few tablespoons of additional oil, bringing it to a medium-high heat.
Toss in two cloves, and the bay leaves, and let the sizzle for a minute. Next toss in the additional garlic and ginger paste, giving a quick stir. This process you want to go pretty quickly, almost like stir frying. Toss in the diced Thai chilies, and the chicken, with about half of the marinade. Give a good stir, and let the mixture reduce down. Once it reduces, add in the remaining dry spices, the craisins, as well as the tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Stir, and reduce down again. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks from the mixtures.
Now we are ready to layer the chicken biryani. To a large and heavy pot, I like to use my dutch oven for this one, add in about half of the clarified butter, swirling along the bottom, and sides of the pot.
To the bottom of the pot, add in a nice layer of the semi-cooked basmati rice. Next add a layer of the chicken mixture. Top that with some of the cilantro and fried onions. Repeat this process, eyeballing how much you have of each layer, until you have the last layer being the rice. Drizzle with the remaining butter, along the top, and on around the sides.
Cover the entire top of the pot with aluminum foil before placing the cover on top. The goal here is to not let any steam escape during the next slow cooking process.
So, to the stove, add the large pot and cook over very low heat for approximately 40-50 minutes. Once that time is up, remove from the burner, and let it rest for about 15 minutes before uncovering.
Prepare yourself. Remove the cover, and the foil, and as stated, prepare yourself for your house to be smelling so delicious. You get cinnamon off the bat, plus the clove, then the garlic and ginger. I am not kidding when I say that this simple dish is one that you can keep out on a Sunday afternoon as your family will keep coming back for more.
Every bite is packed with great textures, and one where the aroma just hits your nose. The smell before eat bite is really divine. Enjoy.