Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chicken and Veggie Brown Rice Biryani: Instant Pot and Stovetop versions

I think my love for biryani comes from growing up in Louisiana and eating jambalaya. Biryani really is the jambalaya of India. Vegetables and sometimes meats are cooked together with warm Indian spices, and rice is cooked in this mixture, soaking up all the flavors. Much like when making jambalaya, it is crucial to get just the right ratio of rice, liquid, and seasoning so that the rice absorbs all the liquid as it cooks to create fluffy, perfectly seasoned rice.

I use brown basmati rice in this recipe. Basmati is that delicious, ultra-long grained rice that is typically served with Indian food. Before cooking, it should be rinsed to remove excess starch, and soaked for up to 30 minutes, which helps it to cook more evenly. It's also important to avoid stirring the rice as it cooks. Doing so will break the long, delicate grains and turn it gummy.


Most traditional biryani recipes call for parcooking the rice separately from the other ingredients, and mixing it together halfway through. I wanted to streamline my recipe, because I love the simplicity of a one-pot meal. To keep it healthy, I add a lot more vegetables than a traditional biryani. I like to add peas and cauliflower. The cauliflower is a real dark horse in this recipe. I'm normally not a huge fan, but in this dish, it steams in the spicy broth and becomes nutty and creamy.
I like to serve my biryani with a simple cilantro chutney.

Update: now that I have my Instant Pot, I am in love with this recipe all over again. The Instant Pot really excels in cooking rice dishes to the perfect consistency quickly. 

Chicken and Veggie Biryani
2 cups brown basmati rice
1 T butter
1.5 lbs chicken thighs, bone in or out
1 large onion, diced
4 jalapenos, diced
1 T minced garlic 

2 t minced ginger
1 1/2 T garam masala (or make your own: 2 t cumin, 2 t coriander, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t cardamom, 1/4 t cloves)
1 t tumeric
2 bay leaves
1/4 t chili flakes (omit if you don't want it spicy)
lots of black pepper, to taste
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 t salt
1 t sugar or splenda
3/4 lb cauliflower florets
1 1/4 cups chicken broth

2 T lemon juice
1/2 lb frozen peas


Stovetop version: 

Rinse rice and soak while prepping the rest of the dish, approximately 20-30 minutes. In a Dutch oven, melt butter and brown chicken. Remove and set aside. Saute onions, jalapenos, garlic, and ginger until caramelized. Add spices and saute, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients except rice, peas and cilantro chutney. Cover, bring to a simmer, and pour in drained rice. Return to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to very low. After 50 minutes, stir and check the rice to ensure it is cooked through. If not, cover for a few more minutes until rice is cooked through. Remove chicken and shred it gently. Pour in frozen peas (don't worry, they will warm up instantly) and stir gently.

Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker version:
Rinse rice and soak while prepping the rest of the dish, approximately 20-30 minutes. In the Instant Pot, melt butter and brown chicken. Remove and set aside. Saute onions, jalapenos, garlic, and ginger until caramelized. Add spices and saute, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients except peas and cilantro chutney and stir. Set Instant Pot to manual pressure for 20 minutes. Use natural pressure release for 5 minutes, then release pressure manually. Remove chicken and shred it gently. Pour in frozen peas (don't worry, they will warm up instantly) and stir gently.

Simple Cilantro Chutney (optional):
1 T lemon or lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, stems included, brown ends removed (cilantro stems are soft and flavorful, so waste not want not!)
water
pinch of salt 

While biryani is cooking, put cilantro chutney ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve with cilantro chutney. This makes a lot; serves approximately 10 people.

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