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Friday, April 25, 2008

Chicken Biryani

Having gone out for Indian really whetted my appetite for more. So, once I had finally acquired all the ingredients, I moved up a recipe in my queue, from the Mar/Apr 2004 Cook's Illustrated, for Chicken Biryani with Yogurt Sauce. I served it with steamed cauliflower (though next time I might use a past recipe for Curried Cauliflower), and dang it! I forgot the naan (from Trader Joe's, in the freezer)!

You should make the yogurt sauce first so the flavors have time to meld, so:
Yogurt Sauce

1 C plain yogurt
1 medium garlic clove, pressed
2 T cilantro, minced
2 T mint, minced
salt and pepper

Mix and season to taste. Let stand at least a half-hour or so before serving.

Chicken Biryani
adapted from Cook's Illstrated Mar/Apr 2004

Equipment note: make this dish in a 3.5-4 qt saucepan about 8" in diameter. It won't work properly in a wide dutch oven or saute pan. I used a 3.75-qt soup pot that worked perfectly. You will also need a large nonstick skillet.

Spice bundle (sachet?):
10 green cardamom pods, whacked with flat side of chef's knife
1 cinnamon stick
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces and smashed with chef's knife
1/2 t cumin seed

Wrap spices in cheesecloth or something else porous, and secure with twine or whatever. I didn't have cheesecloth, so initially thought I'd bundle them in a coffee filter.

But then the coffee filter started to tear when I started to tighten the bundle. A quick rifle through a pantry cupboard turned up a length of nylon tulle that had been used as a bow on a hostess gift. My sewing machine was fortuitously already set up in the dining room, so I just cut off a piece of tulle, folded it around the spice-bearing coffee filter, and stitched around it to secure.

In that specially-sized saucepan, bring spice packet and 1 1/2 t salt to boil in 3 qts water. Simmer, at least partially covered, 15-30 minutes and no longer.
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lbs), trimmed and patted dry*
salt and pepper

Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside.

3 T unsalted butter*
2 medium onions, sliced thin (I used my mandoline)
4 medium garlic cloves, pressed
2 medium jalapenos, seeded and chopped as per your heat preference (the original recipe suggests using the seeds of one; I left them both out since I was feeding kids and personally did not feel like something was missing, though Mavis may differ)

Heat butter in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides, and add onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and browned around edges, 10-12 minutes. Add garlic (and jalapenos, if using) and cook another two minutes or so.

Transfer onion mixture to a bowl, season with a little salt, and set aside.

Wipe out skillet with paper towels and return to medium-high heat, and put chicken thighs in skin-side down. Cook without moving for about 5 minutes, until well-browned. Flip and brown for another five minutes on second side, then transfer to a plate, remove skin, and tent with foil to keep warm.

1 1/4 C basmati rice (preferably both Indian and aged--I bought mine bulk so don't know if it meets either of these criteria)
1/2 t saffron threads, crumbled
1/4 C dried currants or raisins (I used currants, but I think golden raisins would also be good)
2 T chopped cilantro
2 T chopped mint leaves

Add rice to boiling spice-infused water and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice through fine-mesh strainer, reserving about 3/4 C of the liquid, and discard spice packet. Transfer rice to bowl and stir in saffron and currants.

Spread half of rice in bottom of empty saucepan. Top with half of onion mixture, then chicken. Top chicken with cilantro and mint, then remaining halves of onions and rice, pressing layers down into pan. Sprinkle reserved cooking liquid evenly over rice.

Cover pan and cook over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Keep heat under pan low enough that not much steam is escaping. Scooping from bottom of pot with a large spoon, serve a chicken thigh to each person. Top with yogurt sauce.

*I thought this dinner was fantastically delicious, but no one else liked it quite as much as I did. My one complaint was that, although the article in Cook's Illustrated thought that the recipe sufficiently combatted the dish's tendency toward greasiness by removing the chicken skin and not deep-frying the onions, I still found it a bit greasy. If I were ever to make it again (oh how I wish I'd thought to make it for the book group at which we discussed The Namesake!), I might reduce the butter even further, or substitute bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (still removing skin after browning), since they have less internal fat than the thighs.

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Blogger J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Yum. And I'm not even a huge devotee of Indian food (totally have to be in the mood for it, otherwise, meh.) But, yum...

April 27, 2008 at 4:44 AM  
Blogger Swizzies said...

Yummay. I'm a major devotee of the Indian food, could eat it every day. But cooking it seems like a difficulty. Yours looks yummy, but I'm with Mavis -- needs to be hotter. ;-)

April 28, 2008 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Tanner Family Blog said...

you are amazing! Sometimes my "gourmet" meals include top ramen or frozen waffles. UGH - I know I'm a lame cook!

April 30, 2008 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Cafe Johnsonia said...

Um, yeah. I am totally going to make that now! Ever since I got that issue of Cooks' Illustrated I have wanted to try it. LOVE the step-by-step! I feel empowered now, like I can really do it!!!

May 14, 2008 at 4:55 AM  

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