There are a variety of methods for making chicken biryani, the famously delicious chicken and rice dish originating from India. There’s the lovingly followed tradition of roasting aromatic biryani masala spices, frying the onions and preparing the rice in two separate batches before layering everything together in a pot for an hour-long steam session. Then there’s the throw everything in a pot together and mix it all up quick and easy but not quite the chicken biryani experience recipe.
Our chicken biryani recipe follows much closer to the traditional method, keeping the crucial spice-opening and onion caramelizing steps that will infuse your tender chicken and perfectly cooked rice with so much flavor you’ll think you stepped into an authentic Indian restaurant.
Rinse the chicken under cool running water and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut away any excess fat and then cut your cleaned chicken into bite size pieces.
Peel all of the onions. Set 5 aside for later.
Using a sharp knife, cut 2 of the onions into thin lengthwise slices.
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a pan and add the sliced onions. Sauté the onions for 10 – 15 minutes over medium (or until they become dark brown and caramelized). Stir the onions continuously for uniform browning. Once they become dark brown remove the onions, leaving the oil in the pan. Set the onions aside on paper towels for later use.
Peel the garlic. Using a grinder or chopper, finely chop 1 onion and the garlic cloves into a coarse paste.
In the same pan you used to caramelize the onion slices, add your garlic and onion paste. Sauté over medium-high to high heat while periodically stirring. The onion will produce a lot of water so for the first 8 to 10 minutes keep the heat high to quickly evaporate excess water. Add more oil as needed. (The temperature of your pan will vary depending on your stovetop. They key is to fry and brown the garlic-onion paste without burning it.)
While the garlic-onion mixture cooks, add the tomatoes to the your food chopper or blender and puree them.
Once all the water evaporates from the onions, reduce the heat to medium and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions turn crispy and light brown.
Use a mortar and pestle to grind any whole spices in the biryani masala spice mix.
Mix the spices into your garlic-onion paste and fry for a few more seconds. Add the tomato puree and yogurt into the masala. When the tomato puree and yogurt masala become watery, turn the heat to high for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the water evaporates quickly, and then turn the heat back down to medium.
Stir the masala frequently, until all the water evaporates and you see oil in the pan, indicating the masala is done.
Add the chicken pieces and tej patta bay leaf. Sprinkle with salt and add 2 cup of water. Use a spatula to mix all of the ingredients together. Cover the pan, lower the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Periodically stir the the pot so the masala coats the chicken during the entire cooking process.
While the chicken is cooking, peel and grate the ginger. Chop the green chili and coriander leaves. Set all aside until the chicken is done.
Once the chicken has become tender, add the following:
chopped green chili
Mix everything together and continue cooking over medium-low heat for 5 more minutes, or until the gravy thickens. Add 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves and mix to combine.
Wash the rice, changing the water several times until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in 4 cups of water for 15 to 20 minutes.
Chop 1 onion.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes (or until the onion becomes dark brown), stirring frequently.
Fry the whole spices for a few seconds, or until they become aromatic.
Drain the soaking rice and repeat the rinsing process in several changes of water, until the water runs clear. Add the drained rice to your browned onions and sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring carefully so the rice grains don’t break.
Add 1½ cup of water and sprinkle with salt. Stir water gently to mix with the rice and fried onions. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the water to a vigorous boil. Boil the rice for 2 to 3 minutes uncovered, and then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until most of the water has evaporated.
When you can see holes beginning to form in the rice, cover the pan and cook on low for another 5 to 6 minutes. Then turn the heat off, and—leaving the cover on the sauce pan—let the rice stand for at least 5 to 8 minutes on the cooling stovetop.
Remove the cover from the pan and gently fluff the rice with a fork.
While the rice is cooking, slice the remaining three onions: thinly slice 2 onions lengthwise and 1 onion crosswise. Thinly slice the tomato and chop the coriander leaves. Set all aside for the garnish.
Warm ¼ cup milk. Use your fingers to crush the saffron threads over the milk. Stir the warmed saffron milk and then keep it aside for later use.
Grease a 9″ x 12″ baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fluff the rice with a fork once more and then use a cooking spoon to gently scoop the rice from the sauce pan. Spread half of the cooked rice in an even layer in the bottom of the greased baking dish. Carefully pick out any whole spices you find and discard them.
Create an even layer of cooked chicken and its gravy over the rice in your baking dish, discarding the bay leaf from your chicken mixture.
On top of the layer of chicken, spread another even layer of freshly sliced onion and tomato rings. Optionally, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves or a sprig of parsley over the top. Next, add a final layer of cooked rice over the chicken, tomatoes and onions.
Use a spoon to sprinkle milk over the top of cooked rice. Cover the dish tightly. If the dish does not have a lid, you can use aluminum foil to cover the dish.
Place the dish in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the oven off, take the dish out and let it sit for 5 minutes. When you are ready to eat, take the cover off and garnish the top with the previously caramelized onions.
Serve your chicken biryani warm.