Monday, May 30, 2016

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani
Biryani is a delicious and wholesome combination of rice, layered with meat or vegetables and potatoes, cooked with aromatic spices and garnished with deep fried onions. Making a traditional biryani is a long and complicated process which was beyond my comprehension until my brother who is a wonderful cook, allowed me to watch him produce outstanding results using a very simple process. I came back home after that weekend in Toronto and tried it without the same success.

Chicken Biryani Plated
My brother cooks the chicken on the stovetop, cooks the rice in a rice cooker and pours the chicken and all its juices over the rice and sets the biryani aside until dinnertime. His biryani tastes simply awesome, but I was not able to replicate it. 

My way is to cook chicken and potatoes in a big saucepan, cover the top with Greek yogurt, top it with rice that has been soaked and strained well, add chicken broth in proportion to the rice, bring it to a boil and then cover and simmer it over low heat for 25 minutes. It sounds complicated, but is really easy to do.

Varieties of Ready-Made Birista

Birista or deep fried onions are an essential garnish for both pulaos and biryanis. They're easy to make but is a tedious and long process. Much easier to pick up a bottle or package of birista at the oriental markets.
Shan Pilau Biryani Mix

Recipe on back of package
The recipe that follows was inspired by the recipe on the back of the spice mix with a few modifications which were made to simplify the process. 

Simple Salad
Serve this biryani with a simple salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green chilies, salt and lime juice. Or accompany the biryani with one of the following raitas.

Fuji Apple Raita
Tzatziki or Cucumber Raita

2 cups Basmati rice, washed, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained well
2 large russet potatoes, each peeled and cut into 16 cubes
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-sized pieces
3 large onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced in thin crescents
2 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
2+2 Tbsp. Shan Pilau/Biryani mix
2+2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth + 1 cup water, set to simmer
2 Tbsp. ghee
1 tsp. Shan tandoori masala
salt to taste
1 (5 oz.) plain Greek yogurt, whipped
1/2 cup milk
1 cup deep-fried onions or birista

  1. Sift pulao/biryani masala in a tea strainer over a plate and set solids aside.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a pressure cooker or skillet over medium-high heat, brown potatoes and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, heat remaining oil, sputter sifted solids from pulao/biryani masala, remove solids from oil, enclose in a tea ball or tie in cheesecloth and set aside.
  4. In the same oil, fry bay leaves, add onions and stir-fry until translucent.
  5. Add ginger-garlic paste, 2 Tbsp. sifted biryani masala and chicken pieces, stir well and brown.
  6. Add 1 cup simmering broth and bring to a boil.
  7. If using a skillet, cover and simmer over medium heat for half an hour until chicken is tender.
  8. Otherwise, cover pressure cooker and bring up to full pressure over high heat, lower heat to medium, simmer for 10 minutes & turn stove off.
  9. Allow pressure cooker to depressurize (takes 10-15 minutes) before opening the lid.
  10. Adjust salt to taste and transfer chicken to a large saucepan along with fried potatoes and spoon whipped yogurt evenly over chicken and potatoes.
  11. Scatter drained rice over chicken and potatoes, sprinkle with remaining sifted pulao/biryani spices and dot with ghee and milk.
  12. Add remaining simmering broth around the edges, but do not stir.
  13. Adjust salt to taste and submerge the tea ball or cheesecloth bundle into the saucepan.
  14. Bring to a boil, cover saucepan and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes.
  15. Sprinkle tandoori masala over cooked rice, cover and remove from heat.
  16. Set aside for 10 minutes, garnish with ghee and birista and serve with a salad or raita.

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