Chicken Vegetable Biryani with Spicy Tomato Chutney


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Unless you count fried chicken and collard greens and TexMex and Cajun (which I do) or all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets (which I don’t) as ethnic food, I was exposed to very little variety around the dinner table growing up. When I was very young, my mother kept up a vegetable garden so thankfully I was exposed to different types of greens and squashes and tomatoes at an early age. For the most part however, our diet primarily consisted of processed boxed and canned foods, fast food drive-thrus, and a whole lot of lard. I was 21 years old the first time I tried a Maki roll (with imitation crab and cream cheese of course) and 24 years old before I was exposed to Indian cuisine. I was on one of my very first dates with Amy at a restaurant called Nirvana in Wilmington, DE (which is now closed) the first time I smelled the aromatic warmth of curry and turmeric and Garam Masala. I did grow up eating more than my share of spicy food and plenty of rice and gravy dishes, but what arrived at the table after I had ordered Chicken Vindaloo, at Amy’s recommendation, completely blew my mind however. I’ve been in love with Indian cuisine ever since and very much enjoy cooking it at home on occasion.

Amy brought home a package of plump, sweet dates a few days ago, which I’m not a big fan of and asked me if I’d mind using some of them in an Indian dish. The only time I’ve eaten dates and enjoyed them was in the first vegetable biryani dish I tried on my year and half long journey of strict vegetarianism, that began after rummaging through several copies of Amy’s food politic books I’d found in her non-fiction, zenful library. Vegetarianism wasn’t the right path for me and luckily Michael Pollan helped me navigate towards one that was. Currently, I try to cook predominantly plant based and when I do cook with meat, I do my best to ensure that it is locally pasture raised. Fortunately I live in an area surrounded by small farmers and Amish communities so Locavorism is easy for me to maintain. This chicken and vegetable biryani recipe of mine does require a bit of time and patience but the flavor is phenomenal and so definitely worth the bit of extra effort.

Chicken Vegetable Biryani 

Ingredients:

4 good quality, skin on, bone-in Chicken Thighs

1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed

about 1 cup chopped vegetables, such as Carrots and Mushrooms

10 Dates, pits removed and rough chopped

2 cups water or stock

about 1/4 tsp Cumin Seeds

about 1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds

about 1/4 tsp Fenugreek

about 1″ knob of fresh Ginger, skin removed and minced

2 cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 a Sweet Onion, diced

2-3 Black Cardamom Pods

1 sm stick of Cinnamon

2 to 3 tbsp Garam Masala

2 tbsp Turmeric powder

1 to tbsp Ghee or Oil of choice

Salt and Pepper to taste

a couple tbsp of chopped Fresh Cilantro for garnish, optional

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large dutch oven over medium high flame, add in the Ghee or oil. Once the oil is shimmering add in the Cumin, Mustard, and Fenugreek. Cover slightly with a lid until the mustard seeds stop popping. Then add in the cardamom and cinnamon stick. Once the spices are fragrant, add in the chicken thighs skin side down and sear until the skin is golden and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Once the skin easily releases from the bottom of the pan it should be crisp. Flip the thighs and continue cooking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes just until it’s seared on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. To the same pan, add in the onion and carrots and cook about 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are dark brown and beginning to caramelize and the carrots are tender. Next stir in the rinsed Basmati rice and toast the rice, stirring frequently for several minutes until the grains are slightly golden in color. Add in the stock, the dates, and remaining seasonings and then bring the rice up to a boil. Reduce the flame, cover the rice and allow to cook until at least half of the stock has absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the flame then nestle the chicken thighs into the partially cooked rice, cover with lid, and transfer to the oven. Cook the biryani in the oven until all the liquid has absorbed and the chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 175 degrees. At this point you can opt to debone the chicken or serve it whole. There should also be a nice crust of crispy rice along the sides and bottom of the dutch oven so be sure to scrape that up. It adds a delightful texture and nutty flavor to the dish. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if using and serve with your favorite chutney.

Tomato Chutney

Ingredients:

4 large Tomatoes, quartered

4 Garlic cloves, chopped

1 Sweet Onion, chopped

1 small pinch of Raw Sugar

1 tablespoon EVOO

1/2 teaspoon Mustard seed

about 10 Cumin seeds

2 teaspoons Garam Masla

1 teaspoon Curry powder

1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder

4 dried Chile de arbol, optional

1 teaspoon Ghee

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Cilantro

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the tomatoes with the EVOO and salt and pepper. Add tomatoes to a foil lined sheet tray and roast in the oven about 45 minutes. Once roasted remove the tomatoes from the oven and set aside. In a small dutch oven over med heat add the Ghee, mustard and cumin seeds. Have a lid ready, as the seeds will pop. Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, lightly cover the pot with the lid until they stop. Next add the onion and pinch of sugar. Salt and pepper the onions and saute on low heat until they start to slightly caramelize about 15 minutes. Next turn the heat back up to med and add the chopped garlic, roasted tomatoes and any juices from the pan. Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher until they are the consistency of canned crushed tomatoes. Add the dried Chile de arbol, if using. We like our tomato chutney extra spicy. You could also sub a pinch of red pepper flakes for a milder heat. Continue simmering the chutney until the tomatoes have thickened about 30 minutes. Serve as a garnish with your favorite Indian dishes or as a spread with Garlic Naan.

 

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