Chicken Biryani

IMG_5631It is snowing here and we are deep into Winter, “the season that refuses to be ignored,” as so eloquently put by Jerry Apps.  He is a great storyteller and in his PBS documentary, A Farm Winter, he remembers fondly the warmth he experienced coming home from school to a simmering pot of homemade soup.  I love the image and I know first hand that food and their aromas can conjure up vivid memories of times pasts.  It doesn’t matter what food it is but if made with love it exudes a warm and cozy comfort.

This is my sweet hobbit house that sits on 12 1/2 acres and where I live with my husband and dog,

This is my sweet hobbit house that sits on 12 1/2 acres and where I live with my husband and dog,

Seeking comfort on a recent cold day coupled with the need to use leftover turkey, I made this rice dish that was both deliciously satisfying and helped make the weather feel less severe.  It can be made with chicken, turkey, goat, or lamb, either fresh or leftover.  It is also often served vegetarian using vegetables and possibly fish.  Although this is not a dish I experienced as a child, it is a serious comfort food and one you might want to incorporate into your repertoire.  Biryani (beer-YAH-nee) is a rice based dish popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and surrounding countries.  Although there are many variations it is basically a mixture of rice, herbs, spices and other ingredients such as vegetables and/or meat or fish.  Each country has its own version and method of cooking, either cooking in layers or mixed all together.  I have come up with a simple preparation that comes together to form a composed dish with many layers of flavor and texture.

Here’s how it goes down.

I used this mild curry paste but you could use a medium or hot or make your own.  My dish had nice subtle heat.  Suit yourself.

I used this mild curry paste but you could use a medium or hot or make your own. My dish had nice subtle heat. Suit yourself.

CHICKENBIRYANI                                                    Makes 6 servings Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1 ½ c basmati rice

2T ghee or unsalted butter

I medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced thin

1 bay leaf

¼ t ground cardamom

¼ t ground cinnamon

¾ t turmeric

¾ t sea salt

4 boneless, skinless thighs or breasts (about 1 ¾ lb.), cut into small pieces

(or use leftover turkey, chicken, lamb or add another vegetable and make it vegetarian)

5T mild curry paste

½ c currants or golden raisins

3c chicken stock

¾ c frozen or fresh blanched peas

½ c fresh cilantro, chopped, divided in half

½ c slivered almonds, toasted, divided in half (sliced almonds could also be used)

  1. Soak rice in warm water for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water until water runs clear, drain well.
  2. Heat ghee or butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan or pot with tight-fitting lid.  Add the onion and bay leaf and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

    Love this pan!

    Love this pan!

  3. Stir in the cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, salt and chicken (if raw, otherwise wait until step 4) and curry paste and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the rice currants or raisins and stock.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 15-20 or until chicken is cooked through and much of the liquid is absorbed.  Uncover, (if using leftover precooked meats, add it at this stage) and cook, stirring until liquid is gone, about 5 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat, scatter the peas just over the top, replace lid and let stand for 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the peas, ¼ c of the almonds and ¼ c of the chopped cilantro. Top with remaining almonds and cilantro.  Serve hot.

The sweetness of the currants or raisins, the crunch and nuttiness of the toasted almonds, the subtle heat of the curry paste and the softness of the rice and veggies make this a an incomparable mouth celebration.  My husband’s comment was, “every bite gives you a new experience.”  This is so true and each experience is pure delight.  As I mentioned this is a great way to use leftovers and I provided a guideline for cooking whether you are using raw or cooked ingredients.

Remember comfort in the eyes of the beholder so make this recipe your own, add your special love and you will be serving a great big delicious hug.  I will leave you with this thought written so nicely by Judy Rogers in her book, The Zuni Café Cookbook“Recipes do not make food taste good, people do.”


Until next time, stay warm and keep spreading the love and comfort, one dish at a time.  From my kitchen to yours, Queen Jeanne.


7 responses to “Chicken Biryani

  1. Elizabeth Palmer

    Looks like a perfect dish for this weather, Jeanne. Didn’t know if you’d heard that Judy Rogers just recently passed away, so this dish and her lovely quote is a nice way to remember her.

  2. Hi Elizabeth. Tragically, I heard she passed away recently. Quite a loss. This is a delicious preparation. Let me know if you try it. Stay warm.

  3. Elizabeth Palmer

    You’re welcome, Jeanne, and Merry Christmas to you and your family as well! Stay cozy in your little “Hobbit” House.

  4. Cruel Wisconsin temperatures made this the perfect day to spend inside cooking comfort food. I warmed up my kitchen with Chicken Biryani and I may never leave! If you like something with a little kick and enjoy a bit of crunch, this is it. I was surprised at how much the raisins added to this dish. Blog on, Queen Jeanne. It’s gonna be a long winter.
    P.S. I love the pan and your house is cuter than cute with all that snow.

  5. Thanks, Terri. So glad you enjoyed the dish. I find it comforting in this cold cruel weather. Something simmering on the stove does make it a little better. Notice, I say a little. A warm sandy beach would make it a lot better. Keep cooking and spreading the love. I appreciate your comments. Thanks so much. Jeanne

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