Chicken Biryani is a delicious Indian casserole that calls for a paste of spices, herbs and chilies. I made it easy by using a prepared curry paste and other fresh ingredients.
We all have our favorite comfort foods. In this country most people will list something cheesy, chocolatey, or baked as their comfort food. At the top of my list are my chocolate chip cookies. You might say mac n'cheese or even pancakes.
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In parts of India folks grew up with biryani as one of those dishes at the top of the comfort-food list! I have to say, it's pretty darn delicious, and comforting. A pleasant mix of spices, just the right amount of veggies, tasty chicken and rice can't go wrong.
How do you make chicken biryani:
First you have to know that the word Biryani comes from the Persian word Birian which means "fried before cooking." I am down with anything fried! I also love the technique of frying before cooking–I use this technique for most rice casseroles, and and pilafs.
You simply sauté (or fry) the onions, spices and chicken before adding any liquid. This softens the onions, mellows the spices and gives the chicken a head start on cooking.
Other than that you cover and simmer. So it's very hands-off once you do your initial chopping and sautéing.
Make it in a Dutch oven like this gorgeous one from Anolon Dutch oven like this gorgeous one from Anolon, or a covered casserole pan on the stovetop.
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How do you use curry paste?
Many Indian dishes start with a combination of spices called a curry. Each household has their own proportional blend for specific meals. Spice companies have come up with curry powders and curry pastes that resemble these blends and that is what we have become used to tasting.
A curry paste usually includes spices plus onions, peppers, garlic or other aromatic veggies, blended into what we call a paste. My Curry Chicken Drumsticks with Chickpeas is a super tasty dinner where I made my own curry paste.
You typically cook the curry paste with your vegetables and meat or add it to a sauce and let the flavors cook and mix together. For the chicken biryani I did just that, adding a prepared curry paste to the pan along with the chicken. Using a prepared curry paste saves me from grinding peppers or compiling twenty different spices!
I typically grab Patak's brand (found in most grocery stores) for my chicken biryani. But you can use any mild to medium Indian curry paste.
Why do you soak basmati rice before cooking?
I always use a long grain rice like basmati or jasmine for my Indian dishes. They are both long grain, aromatic rices. And my aromatic I mean they smell lovely! Really, if you take a whiff of uncooked jasmine rice it smells like fresh popcorn! While they are both long grain rices, jasmine rice is a little shorter and fatter than basmati; but both are miles longer than the typical American long grain rice.
Basmati rice is so long that it needs to be soaked before cooking. The length makes it quite fragile. Soaking allows the grains to absorb water and soften the starches so that it cooks evenly, and doesn't break while it's bumping around in the simmering water.
Now that you're an expert on all things curry paste and basmati rice, you can make this chicken biryani and enjoy!
- 1½ cups basmati rice
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion sliced root to tip
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp turmeric
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 4 (about 1¾ lbs) boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into large pieces
- 5 tbsp biryani curry paste or mild curry paste
- ½ cup raisins or currants
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup frozen peas thawed
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup sliced almonds toasted
- Soak rice in warm water for 10 min, then rinse in cold water until the water runs clear; drain well in a fine sieve.
- Heat butter in a 4- to 5-qt casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion and bay leaf; cook until soft, about 10 min. Stir in the cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, chicken and curry paste and cook until aromatic, about 2 min. Stir in rice, raisins and broth. Cover, increase heat and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done, 15 to 18 min. Uncover and cook until liquid is gone, about 5 min. Turn off heat, replace lid and let stand for 10 min.
- Gently stir in the peas and half the cilantro. Top with the rest of the cilantro and almonds.
Be sure to check out these other great international recipes from some of my fellow food bloggers.
Recipe by Tara Bench. Photographs by Hallie Burton. Originally published in LHJ Sept 2010