Chicken Biryani
            (from America's Test Kitchen)

Disclaimer: I’m not happy with this recipe and haven’t done much with it.

This recipe requires a 3½- to 4-quart saucepan about 8 inches in diameter. Do not use a large, wide Dutch oven, as it will adversely affect both the layering of the dish and the final cooking times. Begin simmering the spices in the water prior to preparing the remaining ingredients; the more time the spices have to infuse the water (up to half an hour), the more flavor they will give to the rice. Biryani is traditionally served with a cooling yogurt sauce; ideally, you should make it before starting the biryani to allow the flavors in the sauce to meld.

Basmati is a variety of very long-grain rice most commonly grown in northern India and Pakistan. It is aged for a minimum of a year, though often much longer, before being packaged. Aging dehydrates the rice, which translates into grains that, once cooked, expand greatly, and more so than any other long-grain rice.

Several American rice growers now sell their own basmati. Unfortunately, the two products we tasted couldn't compare with the real thing. Their flavor was not nearly as aromatic as Indian-grown basmati, and the cooked grains were soft and stubby. I later learned that American-grown basmati is not aged and hence doesn't expand as much as Indian-grown rice. Luckily, Indian rice is widely available in most supermarkets and costs about the same as domestic. Make sure that the label indicates that the rice has been aged; otherwise your biryani might be uncharacteristically mushy.


Serves 4


  10 green cardamom pods, smashed with chef's knife
  1 stick cinnamon
  2 inch piece fresh ginger, cut into ½-inch-thick coins and smashed with chef's knife
  ½ tsp cumin seed
  3 qt water
  table salt
  4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1½ lbs), trimmed of excess skin and fat and patted dry with paper towels
  ground black pepper
  3 tbsp unsalted butter
  2 medium onions, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
  2 medium jalapeño peppers, one seeded and chopped fine, the other chopped fine with seeds
  4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1½ tbsp)
  1¼ cups basmati rice
  ½ tsp saffron threads, lightly crumbled
  ¼ cup dried currants or raisins
  2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  Yogurt sauce (recipe unnoted, sorry)


1. Wrap cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger, and cumin seed in small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine. In 3½- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan about 8 inches in diameter, bring water, spice bundle, and 1½ tsp salt to boil over medium-high heat; reduce to medium and simmer, partially covered, until spices have infused water, at least 15 minutes (but no longer than 30 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and dark brown about edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Add jalapeņos and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to bowl, season lightly with salt, and set aside. Wipe out skillet with paper towels, return heat to medium-high, and place chicken thighs skin-side down in skillet; cook, without moving chicken, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken and brown second side, 4 to 5 minutes longer; transfer chicken to plate and remove and discard skin. Tent with foil to keep warm.

3. If necessary, return spice-infused water to boil over high heat; stir in rice and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice through fine-mesh strainer, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid; discard spice bundle. Transfer rice to medium bowl; stir in saffron and currants (rice will turn splotchy yellow). Spread half of rice evenly in bottom of now-empty saucepan using rubber spatula. Scatter half of onion mixture over rice, then place chicken thighs, skinned-side up, on top of onions; add any accumulated chicken juices. Evenly sprinkle with cilantro and mint, scatter remaining onions over herbs, then cover with remaining rice; pour reserved cooking liquid evenly over rice.

4. Cover saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes (if large amount of steam is escaping from pot, reduce heat to low). Run heatproof rubber spatula around inside rim of saucepan to loosen any affixed rice; using large serving spoon, spoon biryani into individual bowls, scooping from bottom of pot and serving 1 chicken thigh per person.