Kandy Spiced Chicken Biryani

Serves 4–6.

Biryani is a deeply fragrant Indian braise of rice, meat, and vegetables. Culinary historians disagree about its ancient origins, some tracing biryani’s roots to Persia and others to rice-growing regions of South India. Whatever its pedigree, it’s now made across the continent and makes a hearty, comforting meal.

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients — most are pantry staples. Take the time to prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking. Having all the chopping done and your ingredients arranged near the stove will let you enjoy the simple techniques used to layer and build flavor in the dish.

1¼ pounds skin on, bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks (or a combination of the two)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons Kandy Spice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or avocado
1 medium red onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 bell pepper (red or green), seeds removed, diced
2 large or 3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cardamom pods, lightly crushed (or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds)
1 sweet cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon asafoetida (optional)
2 cups uncooked basmati rice
½ cup frozen peas
1–2 teaspoons minced hot chile, such as jalapeño, or ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
4 cups chicken broth

For serving:
Fresh lime juice
Handful of cilantro leaves (optional) 

Put the chicken into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1½ teaspoons each of the salt, Kandy Spice, and cumin, plus ½ teaspoon of the granulated garlic. Flip each piece over and repeat. Rub the spices over all sides of the chicken (and under the skin, where it’s loose). Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a Dutch oven set over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrot, celery, and pepper and sauté until they soften. Stir in the minced garlic and asafoetida (if using) and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add 1 tablespoon Kandy Spice, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, plus the cardamom, cinnamon stick, and paprika. Stir to thoroughly mix the spices with the vegetables until fragrant. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Set the Dutch oven back on the heat and add the remaining oil and butter to it. When the oil is hot and the butter has melted, add the chicken. Cover the Dutch oven and let the chicken cook until the skin has browned, 3–5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over, cover the pot, and cook for another 3–5 minutes to brown the other side.

Add the rice, cooked vegetables, peas, and chilies (if using) to the Dutch oven, on top of the chicken. Pour in the chicken broth. Give a gentle stir just to make sure the broth has saturated to the bottom of the pot and put the lid back on. Let the broth boil for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for 25–30 minutes without lifting the lid. Once the rice is tender and the chicken is completely cooked, stir gently to distribute the vegetables and rice. Taste for salt (and chilies), adding more if needed.

Just before serving, sprinkle with a few drops of lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves (if using).


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