“Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming.” -J.B. Wirthlin
Often we can remember exactly what we were doing or where we were or how we were feeling before major life events. Some of those moments for me include the day I moved from Florida, the evening I met my husband, my last sleep before getting married, the first popcorn like feelings of Little Mirchi moving and the second she was placed in my arms. Similarly, I recall the night before Little Mirchi was born as if it was yesterday, the excitement, anxiousness, the love – everything is still so fresh. The Husband and my mom were watching a marathon of Bollywood movies ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (1 & 2) and I was in full nesting mode, insisting they let me be in the kitchen; my happy place to make Chicken Dum Biryani. It wasn’t the first time I had made this Biryani, but ever since that night, it’s officially become a part of Little Mirchi’s birth story.
Biryani is a casserole type meal made with meat, rice and spices. It’s a special dish that’s often made for guests, at weddings and celebratory occasions. There are many ways of making the dish and the spices, methods, proteins used vary regionally across India. ‘Dum’ in cooking, means to cook with steam. This recipe incorporates cooked chicken with al dente rice that’s covered and baked until the rice has fully cooked from the steam. Ironically enough, Chicken Dum Biryani was the dish my mom made when my brother first met my husband during our courtship. It was also one of the first dishes I made for The Husband (looking back I don’t know how he ate my food then; I’ve come a long way!)
As with most Indian meat and gravy dishes, this gets better with time. We look forward to left overs as the spices soak in the rice and flavors deeply develop. Because this is a bit of a time consuming recipe (completely worth the efforts I assure you) I generally make it in large batches, dividing one for now and one for later in the week. It also reheats wonderfully and can be made ahead of time.
Sticking with tradition I’m sharing this recipe a day before Little Mirchi’s birthday.
- 1 whole chicken (3-4lbs) (cut into 2 inch pieces)
- 3½ cups basmati rice
- 2 large onions; thinly sliced
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 6 cardamom pods
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 4-5 whole black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 green chili pepper; slit in middle
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon red chili powder
- 3 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 star anise
- 3 teaspoon salt; adjust to taste
- 7-8 saffron strands (soaked in 4 tablespoons warm milk & 1 teaspoon rose water)
- 1 tablespoon whole tamarind (soaked in tablespoon of water)
- 3 tablespoon cooking oil
- Marinate the chicken with yogurt, crushed fennel seeds, ginger garlic paste, red chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and turmeric – set aside for at least an hour.
- Heat oil (on medium heat), add the green chili pepper, cumin, black peppercorns, cloves, three cardamom pods, one bay leaf and one cinnamon stick. Once spices start sputtering add the onions, mix and cook until translucent. Add two teaspoons salt and crushed tomatoes, simmer until the liquids reduce. Once reduced add chicken and let cook for 25-30 minutes – mix in garam masala once cooked.
- In a large pot add rice, one teaspoon salt, three cardamoms, one bay leaf, one cinnamon stick and star anise in eight cups of water. Bring to a boil until rice is cooked al dente (one boil should be enough.) Strain water and set aside.
- In a deep baking dish start with the chicken as the first layer, the next layer should be the rice, spoon the saffron milk over the rice and spread the pre soaked tamarind evenly in the dish; continue this layering with rice being the final layer. Cover the baking dish and bake in a 400 F preheated oven for 45 minutes. Once done, let sit for 10-15 minutes before topping liberally with fried onions and chopped cilantro. Serve hot with yogurt or raita. Enjoy