Indian Chicken Biryani
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste, divided
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 to 3 whole chilis, sliced
1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
1 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cups long grain basmati rice
3 to 4 whole black cardamom pods
3 to 4 whole green cardamom pods
2-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 to 2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/3 cup milk, cold or room temperature
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 teaspoon ghee or unsalted butter
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mint, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
2 to 3 tablespoons pomegranate arils
Combine 1 teaspoon of the ginger garlic paste, turmeric, sliced chilis, yogurt, olive oil, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and massage well to coat with marinade.
Cover and pop in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Wash rice in 2 to 3 batches of water. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, add the salt, the whole spices, and lots of water. There should be enough water for the rice to float around freely when boiling . Bring it to a rolling boil. Add the rice to the pot. Cook until the rice is 90 percent done and still slightly crunchy in the middle; the rice will finish cooking in the dish. Drain the rice through a sieve, then spread it on a baking sheet or a large plate to cool. Set aside for later. Do not discard whole spices in the rice.
Stir the saffron strands into the milk. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes or until ready to layer the biryani.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat. Drop a strand of onion into the hot oil. If it sizzles loudly, then the oil is hot enough. The pan should be wide enough to accommodate all the onion slices without crowding. Set a plate lined with a paper towel nearby for draining the finished onions. Carefully drop the onions into hot oil . Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions are brown and crispy. It’s easy to overcook and burn the onion so keep a constant eye on the pan. Carefully remove all the onions with a slotted spoon or spider and transfer to the paper-towel lined plate.
Once the chicken has finished marinating, melt 1 tablespoon ghee in a medium-sized pot or pan on medium heat. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste. Cook for a minute or until the paste begins to turn golden brown. Add the finely chopped red onion. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes on medium heat until the onion softens and begins to turn golden. Add marinated chicken and the marinade. Stir well. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken is about 90 percent cooked. The chicken will finish cooking in the oven after being layered with other components of the biryani. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Grease a 3-quart oval baking dish with 1 teaspoon ghee. Spread half of the rice in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Press down gently with your hand to pack the rice layer. Arrange the chicken and its sauce in a single layer on top of the rice, then top with the cilantro, mint, half of the fried onions, the yogurt, and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. Follow with the rest of the rice. Press down again gently to pack everything. Spread the rest of the fried onion over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of garam masala. Evenly pour the saffron milk over everything.
Tightly cover the dish with 2 to 3 layers of aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the rice and rest of the ingredients are cooked through. The foil creates steam for the rice; just uncover a corner and check for doneness by pressing rice between your thumb and index finger.
Transfer the biryani to a cooling rack and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes before uncovering the dish.
Gently use a fork to mix all the layers together before serving with a side raita and/or a simple salad. Garnish with the pomegranate arils .