From America's Test Kitchen Season 5: A Passage to India
Chicken biryani is a complicated (and often greasy) “gourmet” Indian dish. Chicken and rice is a simple, but unremarkable, American one-pot meal. We wanted to find a happy medium between the two. In biryani, long-grain basmati rice takes center stage, enriched with butter, saffron, and a variety of fresh herbs and pungent spices. Pieces of tender chicken and browned onions are layered with the rice and baked until the flavors have mingled. For our recipe, we browned bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, then removed the skin and layered them with basmati rice, lots of caramelized onions, and just the right blend of spices. To get the most flavor out of the spices, we tied them into a cheesecloth bundle and simmered them in the rice cooking water—then we added some of that water to the biryani. For a finishing touch, we added saffron, currants, and plenty of ginger and chiles.
This recipe requires a 3 1/2- 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.