America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Check out Chicken One's related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. And give Chicken Two's very relevant blog, Poop from the Coop, a read. There you can find stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away. Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.
The complete recipes appear at the end of this post.
|From Chicken One:
Chicken Biryani from Ambur in Southern India
This recipe is from one of my favorite Indian food blogs, Indian Kitchen. I've learned so much from the author, Preeti Tamilarasan, and will try to pass along what I've learned here.
The dish this time is biryani, variably spelled biriyani. It's a spicy (of course) meat and rice dish and could easily be confused with curry. I think the difference is that, for biryani, the rice is cooked with the meat and spices instead of being served along with them.
Biryani is made with what is called a "dum" process. Basically, it's layering the meat and spice mixture with partially cooked rice in a tightly covered pan for the final cooking stage. This effectively steams the rice done and allows the flavors to marry and permeate the rice.
Another thing about this recipe is that (it seems to me) many Indian recipes call for, or mention as optional, adding food coloring. It's true for many tandoori recipes and also for this one. I don't like to add colors, but maybe it's a characteristic of the cuisine to do so. In my opinion, turmeric is enough food coloring!
One more note: this recipe (and many of Preeti's recipes) call for ginger-garlic paste. It's simply equal measures of fresh garlic and ginger all mashed together with a little olive oil to form a paste. I make my own, though I've seen it at the Indian market for sale in jars.
As is typical for Indian cuisine, this recipe starts with infusing some hot oil with a few spices before adding anything else to the pan:
There are a lot of different spices in this dish, as well as chicken, onions, tomatoes, mint and cilantro. The chicken is cooked with some of the spices first, then the rest of the ingredients are added:This is known as a chicken masala (="mixture"). It's set aside while you partially cook some basmati rice. And here is where the one SCAFU (Situation Chicken All Fowled Up) occurred. I overcooked the rice, which resulted in the biryani being kind of mushy. But the taste was there and I'll know better next time.
Just cook the rice barely halfway so it's still crunchy and remove from the heat. Then layer the masala with the rice in the original masala pan, cover tightly and cook on low for about 30 minutes.
At the end, stir it all up together and serve hot.
Preeti's instructions state you can pressure cook this recipe. She writes this intriguing note at the end: "Pressure cook for 2 whistles and serve hot."
What? I've used pressure cookers but had no idea what that meant! With some internet sleuthing, I found a comment in a Chowhound.com forum. It said pressure cook three minutes for every whistle the recipe calls for.
From Chicken Two:
Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
Well, what's a great dinner without a tasty desert?
I got this recipe from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer, my go-to cookbook for all things Indian.
If you're a beginner like me, I highly recommend it.
This recipe combines an old comfort food, bread pudding, with wonderful chai spices and fresh fruit.
I used a day old french baguette.
Fresh mangoes, cubed.
I used a coffee grinder for the spices (not the same one I use for coffee). Be sure to grind to a fine consistency or you will be picking spices out of your teeth! Been there, done that!
Chicken Biryani from Ambur (South India)
- 10 ounces chicken, cubed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 cloves
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 2 to 3 bay leaves
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
- 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked
- salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
- 3 medium onions, chopped fine
- 1 to 2 green chilis (serrano or jalepeno), chopped
- 3 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves, moderately packed
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 9 cups water
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- For the chicken masala:
- Marinate chicken turmeric for 10 minutes.
- Heat oil in a heavy pan large enough to hold the chicken mixture and the cooked rice. Infuse the oil by adding cloves, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaf and cardamom. Cook for a minute or two.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and saute til hot through. Add 1 tablespoon yogurt and cook for a minute on low.
- Add marinated chicken and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, on low for 10 minutes.
- Add chopped onions and green chilies. Cook for a minute.
- Add chopped tomatoes and mash the pulp. Cook for a minute.
- Add mint and cilantro. Saute for 2 minutes. Add cayenne, coriander powder and remaining yogurt.
- Mix well everything and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and transfer this masala to another bowl. Set aside.
- For the rice :
- Soak rice for 20 minutes, drain and rinse.
- Boil 9 cups water in a large saucepan. Once it starts boiling, add rice.
- Add salt to taste, about 2 teaspoons, and sprinkle with lemon juice.
- Cook, uncovered,on medium-low til half cooked (about 6 to 10 minutes). The grains will be long & firm but not hard. And the grains will be separate.
- Remove from the heat and drain the water completely. Set aside.
- For the dum process:
- In the same pan in which you cooked the chicken masala, pour a ladle full of masala to the pan and spread to cover the bottom.
- Spread a layer of rice to cover the chicken.
- Continue layering chicken masala with rice until you use up the ingredients. End with a layer of rice.
- Cook, tightly covered (use aluminum foil if you need to), over a low flame for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat just before serving.
- Mix everything well and serve hot.
Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
- nonfat cooking spray
- 4 cups stale bread, cubed
- 2 large ripe mangoes, cubed - about 4 cups
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1 piece cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 large egg whites, slightly beaten
- 12 cup tightly packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- whipped cream - optional
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Lightly spray a 9 inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Pile the bread and mango cubes into the baking dish, distributing them evenly.
3. Grind peppercorns, cloves, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon stick to the consistency of finely ground pepper.
4. Place the milk, egg whites, brown sugar, vanilla and freshly ground spices in a medium size bowl ans whisk to mix. Pour over the bread and mangoes and allow to sit for about 5 minutes to get thoroughly soaked.
5. Bake the pudding, uncovered, until it appears to have set and an inserted knife comes out clean - about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
6. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired. It was wonderfully sweet and spicy, so I chose not to use the topping.