Published March 1, 2004.
Chicken biryani is a complicated (and often greasy) "gourmet" Indian dish. Chicken and rice is a simple, but unremarkable, American one-pot meal. Could we find a happy medium?
Traditional biryani recipes are long in both ingredients and labor. The chicken is rubbed with spices and marinated before browning; the rice is soaked, blanched, and blended with a complex masala (blend) compiled of innumerous spices; the onions are deep-fried, and everything is finally layered--rice, onions, chicken, repeat--into a cooking vessel and baked or steamed until the flavors have blended. In addition, most biryani recipes we tested were greasy due to the deep-fried onions and the rice was often overcooked by the time the chicken was done.
In biryani, long-grain basmati rice takes center stage, enriched with butter, saffron, and a variety of fresh herbs and pungent spices. Pieces of tender chicken and browned onions are layered with the rice and baked until the flavors have mingled. This is India in a pot, a far cry from everyday chicken and rice.
Brown chicken thighs, then remove the skin and layer them with basmati rice, lots of caramelized onions, and just the right blend of spices. To get the most flavor out of the spices, tie them into a cheesecloth bundle and simmer in the rice cooking water for at least 15 minutes----then add some of that water to the biryani. Finish the dish with saffron, currants, and plenty of ginger and chiles.list of recipes