i am happy to report that chicken biryani at home is not very hard. my husband is absolutely crazy for biryani, so that i was able to make a decent version at home the first time is like well, magic. abracadabra.
usually the recipes i post on cup and table are tried and true and i have been making them for years, years. but this, this i've only made once, so it is a recipe under development. most likely it will change over time, as things tend to do around here. one great thing about biryani is that it has few ingredients. namely rice, chicken, yogurt, onions, cilantro and spices. it is not really that spicy in that it is mostly rice. and you can control it to make it as crazy spicy or super mild as you like at your place. we like it moderately spicy here. who knew this could be conjured up with so little skill? not me. a great secret. adding beneficial spices like turmeric, garlic, ginger, cayenne, couldn't be much easier.
phase 1: marinate
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into medium size chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
3 teaspoons garlic smashed (in a mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon smashed fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
cut chicken and place in a bowl to marinate. smash garlic and fresh ginger with 1 teaspoon sea salt in a mortar if you've got one, if not finely mince and mix together with the salt. add in the coriander cayenne turmeric cumin pepper and paprika. sprinkle the spice mixture onto the chicken. mix in the yogurt and stir to combine the spices, yogurt and meat pieces thoroughly. marinate for several hours, at least 2, as many as 6 hours.
next make the rice. you don't want to cook the rice all the way. just get it started. basmati is the best rice for this dish, traditionally. it cooks fast.
phase 2: prepare for the oven
now is a good time preaheat your oven to 375 degrees farneheit
2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt
3 large onions
1 /2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1 cup coriander leaves, freshly washed, separated from the stems
1/4 cup water
to make the rice, first rinse and then soak it for half an hour or so. drain. boil a medium pot of water. (about 8 cups or so). add in a teaspoon of salt. when the water begins to boil add in the rice. cook vigorously for 5 minutes, until the rice is tender but still quite firm, not done yet but a good way there. drain and reserve.
now the onions. slice up the onions and cook them in the pot you plan to bake the biryani in. you will need a dutch oven type pan with a good lid on it. i am lucky enough to have a cast iron pan that worked beautifully. any sort of dutch oven type pot with lid would work great. otherwise you will need to fashion a tight fitting foil lid underneath the lid of your regular pot.
and for the onions, saute them on medium high heat in the butter/olive oil mixture for 10 minutes until they are soft, translucent and have some lightly browned edges. remove them from the pan and reserve 2 TBSP of the oil you used for cooking and leave the rest in the pan.
now begin your layering. place in half the chicken, spacing it over the bottom of your pot, add half the rice over top, next layer half the onions, then half the coriander leaves, then repeat: chicken; rice; onions; coriander. now pour 1/4 cup water over the whole mixture. and the 2 TBSP reserved butter/oil from cooking the onions.
phase 3: bake for one hour
seal the top nice and tight, if you don't have a dutch oven you'll want to use foil to real seal the pan underneath the lid. cover it up and place it in your preheated oven for one hour.
phase 4: enjoy
when the hour is up remove the pot, remember both the lids and handles will be searing hot, use mitts. serve immediately with some plain yogurt, maybe a nice salad and or maybe some toasted naan. the crispy browned bits along the bottom and sides of the pan are delicious and highly sought after in my house, make sure to dig these magical crusty yummy bits out of the pan when serving. biryani at home, a new favorite.
note: for this recipe, i adapted one from naomi duguid and jeffrey alford's book mangoes & curry leaves, i changed several of the details and ingredients to fit my families' tastes, and to more closely mimic the texture of biryani's we've enjoyed in the past, but the process is nearly the same. their book is wonderful and the pictures alone are worth the price, but the recipes....superlative. very inspiring those two. and they really walk you through the recipes, which i both need and love when tackling a new cuisine.