Chicken Biryani a l’George

The semiURBAN Kitchen:
Because a
 complete life includes cooking!


We love Indian food. Love. And although we can simply walk over to our favorite spot, we can also give it a go in our own kitchen. After all, we love attempting new recipes, and we’ve got a stocked pantry. (Gotta love the extra room that comes with living just outside of the city.)  But first, we need to send a shout out to our good friend George, who prepared this fantastic Chicken Biryani recipe when we visited him in DC. After all, we liked it enough to give it a shot ourselves. And much to our surprise, we found it’s super easy, takes less than an hour to prepare, and can be made with dry spices if you are lacking in the fresh department. We’re not entirely sure where the recipe comes from – possibly from Mark Bittman – but we changed it up a bit and took some liberties.

Here it goes in 7 basic steps. Don’t be fooled by all the ingredients. This is really a simple meal. Simply delicious.

Step 1: Gather all the goods/go shopping.

This is pretty self-explanatory. First, check your cabinets or pantry. See what you have. Go to the store and get the rest. Just make sure you have all of the below.


5 tablespoons butter
Medium onion chopped
2 cinnamon sticks (a little powdered cinnamon works too)
12 cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch saffron (expensive, but worth it)
1 tablespoon ginger
Salt  (coarse is best)
Ground black pepper
1½ cups basmati rice
3 cups chicken stock
¼-cup golden raisins
¼-cup sliced almonds
3-4 lbs chicken thighs
1-2 lemons sliced in thin pieces (Meyer lemons if the store has them.)

Got all that? Good. Let’s give this recipe a shot. (Note: Not all supermarkets carry saffron. Check with your local grocer (Luckily, ours has it!), or head to Whole Foods, who we find always has it. Market Basket ,on the other hand, has it but you have to request it from customer service.  The stuff is just too valuable to keep on the shelves apparently.)

Step 2: Let the cooking begin.

Once home, grab a deep skillet (one that can eventually be covered) and place on a medium high burner with 3 tablespoons of butter, some salt and pepper (up to you how much), and the chopped medium onion. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Add the rice and spice.

To the onions, add the basmati rice and all those other spices. All of them. The cinnamon sticks and a dash or two of cinnamon powder if you’ve got it. The ground cloves. One pinch of saffron. (This is the most expensive spice. Be gentle.) The ginger. (Fresh is best, but dry will do.) Cardamom pods. Mix together well, and cook for a few minutes.

Step 4: Add the chicken stock and chicken thighs.

Pour the chicken stock into the onion, rice and spice mixture. Stir. Add the chicken thighs. (You can also use breasts, legs, etc. We just like the thighs best with this.) Mix together, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, put the lid on it and turn the burner down to medium/medium low. Let it simmer undisturbed for 25 minutes. Your chicken is cooking as the rice absorbs the spicy liquid.

*Important note. If liquid isn’t fully absorbed or the chicken isn’t completely cooked, add a little extra hot water to the pot (1/2-cup max). Recover and cook another 10 minutes or so, or until done.

Step 6:  Add the raisins and extra butter.

This is the easiest step. Take the remaining butter (2 tablespoons) and heat in a small sauté pan on medium heat. Dump the yellow raisins in and cook for a minute or two to soften.  You can also add some chopped almonds to the mix. Once done, remove raisins and almonds, and add to the main dish. Mix in a bit, but not too much.  Leave remaining butter in pan.

Step 6: Sear some lemons.

With butter still in pan, add thinly sliced lemons and brown in the pan. We’re big fans of Meyer lemons. So if they have them at the shop, buy them. If not, a regular lemon will do.  Once complete, place on top of the dish. It’s pretty, and adds a nice tangy taste.

Step 7: Serve and eat.

If you’ve cooked the meal in a nice Le Creuset dutch oven or something pretty like that, just grab a hot plate and serve directly from that. (We didn’t for some reason, which escapes us as we write this up. Weird. We love to cook with ours.)  Or grab a nice platter and present it family style. We are big fans of family style presentation. We think it makes for a more interactive, fun evening. Plus, it shows the food off nicely.

And there you have it. Chicken Biryani, semiUBAN Kitchen style! Give it a try.

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