Difficulty: Hard but worth it.
From Cook’s Illustrated
This is a classic Indian dish with a myriad of complex flavors. In biryani, long-grain basmati rice takes center stage, enriched with butter, saffron, and a variety of fresh herbs and pungent spices. Pieces of tender chicken and browned onions are layered with the rice and baked until the flavors have mingled. This is India in a pot, a far cry from everyday chicken and rice. We love it and I make every few months. Chicken thighs ensure the meat stays moist during the cooking time and to cool it off a creamy yogurt sauce with fresh mint and cilantro. To save money and time find the spices at your local whole foods store where they sell in bulk, just buy what you need.
This recipe requires a 3 ½- to 4-quart saucepan about 8 inches in diameter. Do not use a large, wide Dutch oven, as it will adversely affect both the layering of the dish and the final cooking times. Begin simmering the spices in the water prior to preparing the remaining ingredients; the more time the spices have to infuse the water (up to half an hour), the more flavor they will give to the rice. Biryani is traditionally served with a cooling yogurt sauce; ideally, you should make it before starting the biryani to allow the flavors in the sauce to meld.
10 cardamom pods, smashed with knife
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches), cut into 1/2-inch thick coins and smashed
1/2 tsp cumin
3 quarts water
4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
3 TBS butter
2 onions, sliced thin
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped, leave some seeds if you want some heat
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups basmati rice
1/2 tsp saffron threads, lightly crumbled
1/4 cup raisins
2 TBS fresh mint, chopped
2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped
Directions: Wrap cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger, and cumin seed in small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine. In 3½- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan about 8 inches in diameter, bring water, spice bundle, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt to boil over medium-high heat; reduce to medium and simmer, partially covered, until spices have infused water, at least 15 minutes (but no longer than 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and dark brown about edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Add jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to bowl, season lightly with salt, and set aside. Wipe out skillet with paper towels, return heat to medium-high, and place chicken thighs skin-side down in skillet; cook, without moving chicken, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken and brown second side, 4 to 5 minutes longer; transfer chicken to plate and remove and discard skin. Tent with foil to keep warm.
If necessary, return spice-infused water to boil over high heat; stir in rice and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice through fine-mesh strainer, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid; discard spice bundle. Transfer rice to medium bowl; stir in saffron and currants (rice will turn splotchy yellow). Spread half of rice evenly in bottom of now-empty saucepan using rubber spatula. Scatter half of onion mixture over rice, then place chicken thighs, skinned-side up, on top of onions; add any accumulated chicken juices. Evenly sprinkle with cilantro and mint, scatter remaining onions over herbs, then cover with remaining rice; pour reserved cooking liquid evenly over rice.
Cover saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes (if large amount of steam is escaping from pot, reduce heat to low). Run heatproof rubber spatula around inside rim of saucepan to loosen any affixed rice; using large serving spoon, spoon biryani into individual bowls, scooping from bottom of pot and serving 1 chicken thigh per person.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1 cup whole milk or low-fat plain yogurt
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
Combine first four ingredients in small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.
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