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Chicken Biryani (with Brown Basmati Rice)

Posted Jan 27 2010 10:00pm
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Serves 4

This mildly spiced Indian dish combines aromatic brown basmati rice with delicate pieces of chicken for a flavorful all-in-one meal. This recipe uses many of the staple Indian spices, including a hint of mace and saffron for a distinctive biryani flavor. Chilis can be added for an extra kick, if desired.

Cooking Tip: Basmati is a special long-grain rice grown in the Northern regions of India and Nepal. It has a distinct nutty, earthy flavor that can’t be found in other rices. If you can’t find brown basmati, use brown jasmine. Basmati takes longer to cook than other rices – note that it should be soaked for an hour before cooking to get the right texture (especially if using brown). Always cover the the pan tightly to minimize steam loss; I use a kitchen towel under the lid to get a good seal. This recipe doesn’t call for an exact amount of water; the rice is cooked until only half-done, and the remaining water is discarded.

Cooking Tip: Make it easy on yourself and get these four easy steps out of the way while the rice is soaking:

BASMATI RICE
1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice, soaked in water to cover for 1 hour
2 quarts filtered water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon salt

CHICKEN
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 red onion, sliced thin
10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thirds
1  cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons salt

HERBS
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons water for 30 minutes or several hours
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Whole cilantro leaves (for garnish)

Drain the soaking water from the rice; discard the soaking water. Place the rice, 2 quarts water, oil and salt into a medium pot. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low, bring to a low simmer, cover tightly (place a kitchen towel under the lid to get a good seal) and cook for about 18 minutes, just until half-cooked (the rice should crush in your fingers but still be a bit hard).

About halfway through the rice cooking time, prepare the onions and chicken: Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until browned, 6-8 minutes.

Mix the yogurt with the spices and salt in a medium bowl.

When the rice is done cooking, strain through a sieve. Let the rice sit in the sieve while finishing the chicken; do not fluff or mix, or it may become starchy or gummy.

Add the chicken to the pan with the onions and brown about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix the spiced yogurt into the chicken. Turn the heat to the lowest setting.

Remove half of the chicken and sauce from the pan. Evenly spread half of the rice over the chicken in the pan and sprinkle the rice with half of the saffron water (including any saffron threads) and half of the fresh herbs. Arrange the other half of the chicken and sauce on top of the rice and spread the remaining rice on top; add the remaining saffron water and herbs.

Cover tightly (place a kitchen towel under the lid to get a good seal) and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. When done, the sauce should have completely cooked down, the rice should be soft and fluffy, and the chicken should be cooked through. Serve warm, garnished with the whole cilantro leaves.

Food photos by Jackson D. Carson

Copyright 2010. Alison Anton. All rights reserved.

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