19 December 2010

A Rare Kitchen Success

Although I'm not adept in the kitchen, I'm generally not afraid to attempt recipes. The combination of fearlessness and lack of basic culinary skills sometimes gets me into trouble, but occasionally I produce something of merit. Last week, I made a batch of fudge that really should have been called SLUDGE. Just a couple of days later, however, I found success with my first attempt at Indian cooking.

Had I studied up a little more, I would have learned that Indian cooking has a reputation for being time-consuming and somewhat complicated. I had a vague recollection of hearing that on The Food Network, but it did not stop me from attempting Chicken Biryani, a dish I recently enjoyed at an Indian restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana.

Aside from taking a couple of hours and using nearly every pan in the kitchen, this recipe was relatively easy to follow. And it turned out so well that it was worth every bit of the time spent!

I'll admit that it would have been even easier if I owned a larger skillet with a lid. (I would suggest thinking through your pots and pans before diving in to make this recipe!) On the plus side, Indian food is highly aromatic and I have to say that the scent coming from the kitchen was fabulous. (Believe me, that doesn't happen around here very often!) The downside was that I had enough Chicken Biryani to feed a small army. Next time, I'll cut the recipe in half.

I found the recipe here on AllRecipes.com. I followed it as written with a couple of exceptions: I did not buy the saffron. I knew it was an expensive ingredient and couldn't justify spending $17 for a small jar. I'm sure it would have made the completed dish even better. I also substituted ground cardamon for the pod version.

Chicken Biryani
Ingredients for main dish:
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 small potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces cut into chunks

Ingredients for rice:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 pinch powdered saffron
  • 5 pods cardamom
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 (1 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pound basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


  1. In a large skillet, in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or ghee) fry potatoes until brown, drain and reserve the potatoes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and fry onion, garlic and ginger until onion is soft and golden. Add chili, pepper, turmeric, cumin, salt and the tomatoes. Fry, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add yogurt, mint, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are cooked to a pulp. It may be necessary to add a little hot water if the mixture becomes too dry and starts to stick to the pan.
  2. When the mixture is thick and smooth, add the chicken pieces and stir well to coat them with the spice mixture. Cover and cook over very low heat until the chicken is tender, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. There should only be a little very thick gravy left when chicken is finished cooking. If necessary cook uncovered for a few minutes to reduce the gravy.
  3. Wash rice well and drain in colander for at least 30 minutes.
  4. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil (or ghee) and fry the onions until they are golden. Add saffron, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, ginger and rice. Stir continuously until the rice is coated with the spices.
  5. In a medium-size pot, heat the chicken stock and salt. When the mixture is hot pour it over the rice and stir well. Add the chicken mixture and the potatoes; gently mix them into the rice. Bring to boil. Cover the saucepan tightly, turn heat to very low and steam for 20 minutes. Do not lift lid or stir while cooking. Spoon biryani onto a warm serving dish.

1 comment:

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

That looks good! Maybe I should try it when we finish up with the bar mitzvah leftovers. Whatever that campfire skillet recipe with the eggs was that you made on here one time, I tried it & my gal LOVED it. She still asks for it. I need to look through your archives and make it for her again one of these days.