Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tandoori Chicken, Kitchen Sink Biryani & Raita, Oh My

Sapteengala? [A traditional South Indian greeting, "Have you eaten?"]
This is a wonderful meal to make for anyone interested in "trying" Indian food for the first time, or attempting to cook it at home. This is not a south Indian meal. For those who are afraid of the dreaded word "curry" as it pertains to the spice mix used in the biryani; the curry powder itself can be omitted, and this would be closer to a "pilau." Additionally, Indians like texture with their food. It's not uncommon to see them eat crispy papads crunched on top of their rice (potato chips, Funyons, or even French's Fried Onions in a can would be a great garnish, too).

A day ahead, marinate a package of skinless chicken legs (between 6-8 legs) in a mixture of:
1 Cup yogurt (I use Dannon fat free)
Juice of 1/2 Lime
2 Tablespoons of TANDOORI Spice (I have Rajah brand on hand; however my
first choice is ALWAYS Penzeys! Check out sidepanel for link!)

  1. Cook chicken legs in a shallow baking dish in a preheated 500 degree oven for about an hour. They should look bright red and dry on the surface.
Once you put your chicken in the oven, start the biryani.

Kitchen Sink Biryani (Everything in it except the kitchen sink...)*

Into your rice cooker add:
1 Cup Basmati Rice
2 Cups water
Big pinch of salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 smallish bay leaves

Into a wok or skillet while rice is cooking add:
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons chopped cashews or pistaschios
1 Tablespoon dried, split moong or other smallish lentil
1 teaspoon Cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon dark mustard seed
1 Tablespoon dried, ground coconut
1 Tablespoon Seasoned Pioneers Sri Lankan Curry Powder (THIS STUFF ROCKS!!!)

  1. Over medium heat, stir A LOT to keep from burning. The idea is to TOAST all of the above!
  2. To spice mixture add a diced up medium red onion and cook until golden. Then toss in a chopped plum tomato and a cup of frozen green peas and a handful of golden raisins.
  3. Once rice cooker is done, add rice to spice mix. Stir a lot. Add more butter if you wish. Add a few pinches of ground cardamom, salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro leaves

Tomato Onion Raita
1 Small red onion, finely minced
1 Plum tomato, diced
Finely mince about 1 inch's worth of stems off a bunch of cilantro (don't toss out your stems, there's plenty of flavor in them! Save leaves for garnish)
1 Cup Yogurt (I had Greek styled Fage on hand)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (if yogurt is mild)
Salt and pepper to taste
If available, toss in a handful of BOONDI right before serving

  1. Mix all of the above ingredients well and put in a container and in the fridge so flavors can meld.
*Mr. Nugget doesn't think this is a "true" biryani, but is enjoying it, and calling it a "vegetable bath (pronounced baht)" or "vegetable rice."

I couldn't have timed this more perfectly. The chicken legs had five more minutes to go, the biryani and raita were done, and he finally came home after a long-assed day, where he had to drive 200 miles to someplace out past Lancaster, PA for a meeting; and of course 200 miles back home. Long day for him, and glad, for once, I had a hot meal waiting for him when he got home.

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