Chicken Biriyani

Chicken Biriyani
From Cooking Light 

Ok, I know we’ve been doing a lot of Indian lately and not everyone likes (or thinks they like) Indian.  But if we’ve piqued your interest at all, perhaps you’ve slowed up a bit walking through the ethnic aisle at the grocery store, maybe even picked up a package of naan with curiosity, then today is the day to give it a whirl.  If you like Chinese fried rice then biriyani is the perfect gateway drug into the world of Indian food.  It uses some of the common Indian spices, but the base is delectable, creamy, familiar rice.  The vibrant yellow color comes from saffron threads added to the rice while it cooks.  There’s sweetness from the golden raisins, spice from the ground red pepper and crunch from the cashews.  Yes there’s curry powder, and yes it’s a necessary ingredient.  If that’s the part that makes you hesitant, it might be worth checking out the Wikipedia entry for “Curry.”  In summary, it’s a word Western society made up to mean pretty much nothing.  At best it’s defined as a mixture of spices.  So if “Italian Seasoning” or “Lawry’s Seasoned Salt” scare you, then fair enough, don’t make this dish.  As for the rest of you, no more excuses, go get your Indian on!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads, crushed (Trader Joe’s carries the cheapest, smallest jar of saffron I’ve been able to find)
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (the recipe called for thighs, which we used, but I think breasts or a mix would be good too)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp curry powder (should be easy to find in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store)
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (we bought a jar of the whole pods, which you can crack open and smash up the innards with a motor and pestle, but I imagine they sell it ground as well)
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt (the recipe notes claim you shouldn’t use reduced fat yogurt because it will curdle, however all we had was some fat free plain greek yogurt and some full fat sour cream and we used a half cup of each – it was fine)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted cashews, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Preparation

  1. Bring water, 1 teaspoon salt and saffron to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add rice and cinnamon stick to the pan.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Discard cinnamon stick.
  2. Alternatively, you can make the rice in a rice cooker (which is what we did).  Just throw the water, 1 teaspoon salt, saffron, rice and cinnamon stick right into the rice cooker and let it do its thing.
  3. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  4. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and saute for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove chicken from pan, cover to keep warm and set aside.
  5. Add onion and 1/2 tsp salt to pan.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
  6. Add curry, ginger, cardamom, red pepper, garlic and serranos and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Add yogurt and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  8. Add chicken and raisins.  Cook 4 minutes or until heated through.
  9. Add rice and stir well to combine.  Sprinkle with cashews and cilantro.
Serves 6.
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