Pre-pandemic, my nephew, Noah, and I were texting about an episode of Chef’s Table that featured Asma Khan and her amazing looking biryani recipe. We vowed to make it someday. I got all the ingredients … and there are a lot of them … and did a dry run a few years ago. It was very flavorful, but I didn’t like the original recipe with skin on (kind of rubbery) and some other things that weren’t quite right, not to mention it literally took hours to make.
Well, last week, after 3+ years, we finally got the chance to enjoy this meal together, with his parents and the Collery Clan. I tweaked quite a few things from the original and it came out so good, and took half the time! This recipe fills a large pot almost 3/4 of the way up and we had no leftovers, which is a good sign. So, without further adieu, I give you my tweaked and easier version of Chicken Biryani.
3 3/4 cups onion (I didn’t measure, just sliced, very thinly, a large onion)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 TBS ghee
4 cloves garlic, chopped (I used my TJ garlic cubes)
1 tsp ginger, chopped (I used my TJ ginger cubes)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder (I didn’t want mine too spicy, so just threw in a couple of shakes)
1 1/4 tsp turmeric
12 green cardamom pods
6 pieces cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 oz container plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 tsp lime juice
1 green serrano chili, seeded & chopped
1 small bunch cilantro
1 small bunch mint leaf
2 cups white or brown basmati rice
enough chicken broth or stock to cover rice
1 tsp saffron
Step 1 … Caramelize the onions. Pour some oil (enough to cover the bottom) into a large pot or dutch oven (large spaghetti pot is fine). Throw in the sliced onion and caramelize them until they’re a deep brown color. It takes quite a while to caramelize onions, but it’s worth it. Pour off most of the oil into a jar to keep in the fridge, but leave a bit of it in the pot. (I found this recipe for quicker caramelized onions, which I think I’ll try the next time I need a bunch of caramelized onions.)
Step 2 … Marinate the chicken. Pour all the marinade ingredients, plus half the caramelized onions, half the cilantro and half the mint, into a large ziploc bag and just squish it all together. Cut up the chicken into large chunks and throw it in the bag. Let marinate the whole day in the fridge or even overnight.
note … you can do the 2 steps above the day before if it’s easier, but make sure to take them out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before you cook everything so they come to room temp. The rice should be hot/warm when you do the assembly below.
Step 3 … Make the rice. I have a rice cooker, so I used that to cook my rice in chicken stock and added the saffron to the liquid. Of course if you use white basmati you’ll get that nice yellow saffron color, but I wanted to go with brown rice. Do you know the easy way to measure your rice to liquid ratio? Use the first knuckle of your index finger! I never measure my rice. Just wash your hands, pour the amount of rice you want (sometimes it’s just me, so I only need a little bit), then pour over your liquid until it looks about an inch above the rice. Stick you finger in the pot until it’s just touching the rice and the liquid should come up to that first knuckle on your index finger. If not, add more liquid until it does, or if it’s too much just add more rice. Works every time!
Cooking and Assembly … Heat up the oil that’s in the bottom of the onion pan and add your chicken with the marinade, removing those bay leaves. I browned the chicken on all sides, probably around 5 minutes or so. Reduce your heat to low and add half the rice, spread some of the onions, cilantro and mint, then the rest of the rice and the remainder of the onions, cilantro and mint. Add a little bit of ghee.
Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and put the lid on. Cook on low for about 15-20 minutes. This finishes cooking the chicken and gets all that flavor from the chicken up into the rice.
Optional … put out some little bowls with a bit of chopped cilantro, mint and some cashews for people to add on top.
That’s it! We served it with Naan, that Noah had bought at an Indian restaurant. Soooo good!! I also made a simple tomato, cucumber salad with lime, mint and S&P. Traditionally biryani is eaten with your hands…scooping it up using the Naan. I tried, but it was a little messy, so we ended up using forks.
bhojan ka anand lijiye … that’s Hindi for “Enjoy your meal!”
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!