Recipe : Chicken Biryani

 

For quite a while now I have been getting requests for the recipe to my Chicken Biryani.  Some of you have had it at my house, others have read about it on an earlier post (refer to “The Biryani Challenge”).  A part of my hesitation is a reluctance to part with this recipe and yet, I believe it may be quite difficult to replicate.  So I finally decided to publish it to you.  I really hope you have a go at it…
 
It all started in Frieberg, Germany in 1996.  I was on vacation and at the last minute decided to visit an uncle who lives there.  In true Indian fashion, a dinner invitation was extended and Biryani was on the menu.  My uncle is a chef and makes amazing food.  After being in Germany, Austria & Switzerland for nearly three weeks and eating largely bland, albeit delicious, food, the thought of Indian spices made my mouth water.  The biryani was delicious and something I will always remember and while he wouldn’t give me the full recipe, the ending of cream & butter is his secret to a moist and rich end result.  Nonetheless, it inspired me to develop my own recipe which, over the years, has turned into what I’m sharing with you today. 
 
So I hope you will try this recipe and let me know what you think.  I never make biryani in small batches so this recipe serves 10 – 12.  Even if you’re only cooking it for four, trust me you’ll enjoy the leftovers for a few nights.

 

Stage 1 – Prep & cook the chicken

Ingredients

15 – 20 Bone in Chicken thighs (about 5-6 lbs)
2 Tbsp finely minced garlic
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
6 – 8 Thai green chilis finely chopped (can be eliminated or reduced for personal heat preference)
1 Cup Yogurt
1 Tbsp Garam Masala
1 Tsp Turmeric
2 Tsps Red Chili Powder (Adjust to your preference on heat)
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 Tsp ground cumin
2 Tsps ground coriander
1/8 Cup Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
½ Cup Olive Oil or Canola Oil
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Combine all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl.  Remove skin from thighs if they are not skinless, rinse and add to the marinade.  Mix well to coat all pieces and allow to marinate for a minimum of 6 hours and preferably overnight.
 
Remove chicken from the refrigerator about 1 hour prior to cooking time to bring to room temperature.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line  2 or 3 cookie sheets (depending on size) with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray with oil.  Place chicken in a single layer.  Drizzle with more oil and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until cooked.
Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to be handled.  Remove all meat from the bones trying to leave the pieces large and as intact as possible.  When completed, add any pan juices to the bowl with the deboned meat in it and cover until ready to use.

 

Stage 2 – Get the layer fillers ready

Ingredients

1 Dozen Eggs
4 lbs of red onions sliced thinly
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Boil, peel and slice the eggs and set aside covered.
 In a large sauté pan, heat ¼ cup canola oil on medium high heat.  Add 1 Tsp ground cinnamon and when hot, add the sliced onion.  You may need to add a little at a time till the onion reduces in size to fit  in the pan.  Add 1 Tsp salt.  Keep the heat on medium high and continuously stir the onions until they are sautéed and almost “red” in color and caramelized.  Cool & set aside.

 

Stage 3 – Cook the rice in two separate pots

Pot 1 – Rinse 3 cups Basmati Rice and set aside.  Heat ¼ cup olive oil on medium heat.  Add 1 cinnamon stick, 5 whole cloves & 4 cardamom pods to the oil.  Once they sizzle, add rice and stir to coat.  Add 4 ½ Cups of cold water and 1 Tbsp salt.  Bring to a boil and continue to cook on medium heat until the water is nearly absorbed.  Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil, stir, cover the pot, reduce heat to lowest setting, and allow to steam for 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let rest covered for 5 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork and transfer the rice onto a large platter to keep it from getting sticky.  When cool enough I remove the cinnamon, cloves & cardamom but you can decide to leave them in if you wish.
Pot 2 – Rinse 1 cup Basmati Rice and set aside.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat.  Add 1 small cinnamon stick, 2 whole cloves & 2 cardamom pods to the oil.  Once they sizzle, add rice and stir to coat.  Add 1 ½ Cups of cold water and 1 Tsp salt.  Bring to a boil.  Once it is boiling, add about 10 threads of saffron (crushed in the palm of your hand) to the pot and continue to cook on medium heat until the water is nearly absorbed.  Drizzle 1 Tsp of olive oil, stir, cover the pot, turn heat to lowest setting, and allow to steam for 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let rest covered for 5 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork and transfer the rice onto a large platter to keep from getting sticky. When cool enough I remove the cinnamon, cloves & cardamom but you can decide to leave them in if you wish.

Stage 4 – Assembly

Preheat oven to 350 F
Place all ingredients in previous steps around you on a table to create an assembly station.  Add to these about 2 cups of chicken broth in a bowl.  Depending on time, I will make my own from the bones of the chicken but canned broth is just fine. 
In a large 8 Quart Dutch oven or other large oven proof pot, add ¼ Cup canola oil and use your fingers to coat the bottom and sides of the pot.  Divide the white rice, chicken, eggs, & sautéed onion into two equal parts.  Add one part of rice to cover the bottom of the pot in an even layer.  Then add a layer of chicken.  Next add the onion and then a single layer of egg slices.  Drizzle the layer with some chicken broth using a spoon (I find it easier to do this with the scoop of my hand).  Don’t use too much because it will make the biryani soggy instead of moist.  Continue with the next layer of rice, chicken, onion & eggs.  Drizzle a little more chicken broth.  Finally add the saffron rice as the last layer.  Cover the pot tightly.  If your pot does not have a tight lid, I would suggest covering tightly with heavy duty foil first and then place the lid on top.

 

Stage 5 – Cook & finish

Ingredients

1 Cup Heavy Cream
¼ pound unsalted butter (1 stick or 8 Tbsps)
8 – 10 threads of saffron crushed in palm of your hand
½ Cup slivered almonds
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Bake the Biryani for 45 minutes in the center of your oven.  At 45 minutes, remove from the oven and place on a rack but keep the oven on as we are not done yet.  In a microwave proof measuring cup, combine heavy cream and butter cut into slices.  Heat in the microwave until butter has melted and mixture is hot – about 1 – 1.5 minutes on high.  Stir the mixture and add the saffron into it and stir well until cream has changed color.  Uncover the biryani.  Spoon the hot cream/butter mixture onto the biryani making sure to cover all areas.  Sprinkle almonds over the top.
Place the pot back in the oven and bake UNCOVERED for 15 – 20 minutes more.  Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Serve with cucumber raita or your favorite accompaniment to this wonderful  and aromatic preparation. 
Important Note
When serving, be sure to use a large flatish spoon that allows you to dig to the bottom of the pot to get every layer.  Nothing irks me more than people who serve biryani and destroy it by scooping it only from the top as if it were any other dish.  It just doesn’t do it justice and you will not enjoy all the flavors.
 
Biryani can also be made with ground meat (kheema), lamb, or vegetables.  Feel free to comment on your own favorites.  If anyone local wants to make one with me, let me know…always fun to cook with others!
 
Enjoy!
Swati

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