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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chicken Biryani

Let me start by saying that when I started searching for a good biryani recipe, I quickly realized how serious this stuff is. You take so much for granted when you eat out - especially Indian food. I love it but I don't make it that often. You gotta have a stocked spice collection for this and if you don't, it's a good excuse to go out and buy some spices that you should  have. This takes a while but sometimes a good long cook is what the soul needs. Just make sure to open your windows...

PS - don't be alarmed by the number of ingredients - this serves about 4-5 people and is great for leftovers.

7-8 onions (very thinly sliced and deep fried until light brown - DON'T skip this step)
10 cashews, fried in a little clarified butter (recipe for clarified butter below)
4 - 6 skinless chicken thighs, quartered
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp garlic paste
2 cups basmati rice (washed and soaked in salted water for at least 30 mins)
4 tbsp oil and oil for frying the onions
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
4 cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
4 large tomatoes (finely chopped)
1/4 tsp mace powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
2-3 chopped green chilis (or you can use sambal for heat)
1 tbsp ginger, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1/2 cup milk
pinch of saffron
4 tbsp clarified butter
2 cups cilantro, chopped

1. Marinate the chicken in the yogurt, garlic paste and a pinch of salt for about 8 hours.

2. Heat oil in a dutch oven and fry the onions, separating with your fingers as you put them in. Keep stirring the onions as they fry so that they get evenly browned. Be careful not to have oil too hot - you don't want to burn them on the outside. Remove onions and set aside on a paper towel. They will crisp up once they cool. Drain most of the oil from the pot.

3. Boil the rice in a large pot - it's a lot of rice so use a big one! Put lots of water in the pot - you'll cook the rice like pasta. Also put in 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 2 cardamom pods, 1/4 tsp caraway seeds and salt. Boil for about 5-7 minutes or until rice is al dente. Be careful not to over cook - it'll cook more later. Drain rice and spread it on a cookie sheet to let cool.

4. In the dutch oven, add the bay leaves, and remaining cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. When they crackle, add the ginger, garlic and chiles. Saute for a minute and add the chicken and marinade. Cook until the liquids dry up.

5. Add the tomatoes, 1/3 of the fried onions, all of the powdered spices, salt and cook until the juices from the tomatoes evaporates. The chicken should be just cooked and most/all of the juices gone. Turn off the heat and set aside.

6. Warm the milk and add the saffron so it turns yellow.

7. In a deep, heavy-bottom pot (important to avoid burning) with a lid, spread some clarified butter. Then put a layer of rice, and a layer of chicken. Sprinkle a generous handful of cilantro and fried onions.  Repeat the layers and have rice be the top layer. Sprinkle remaining onions and all of the cashews over the top.

8. Pour the saffron milk on top using a spoon, evenly covering the whole area.

9. Cover the pot with foil and put the lid over it. Cook on very low heat for 45 minutes.

Clarified Butter
Heat 1 stick of butter over medium low. When melted, take off the heat and let sit until the butter settles and a translucent layer forms on top. Carefully spoon out the translucent layer and discard the rest.

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