Biriyani and Chicken Chaap

Momma and me and love our share of Biriyani.  Bro loves it with a hearty helping of Rezala, Baba loves Mutton Chaap as an accompaniment. Husband also seems to be a member of the same Mughlai gang.The Kolkattan heart has these Mughlai pangs every now and then, which are shushed by the brain. Kansas City and its numerous Indian restaurants, but not a single one, which can satisfy the palate when there is a craving for Calcutta Biryani.  There is a common saying about Bongs from Kolkata. That eating out for them means either digging into 
lip smaking Biriyani or munching on Chinese. Over the years, Kolkata has been flooded with culinary variations and menus from literally all across the globe, but the Kolkttan  heart, loves to maintain its love story with Mughlai food. 

The age old debate about Biriyani continues, whenever Indians from different parts of the country get together, and Mughlai food seems to be the favored topic. Who makes the best Biriyani? Be it the extreme northern decadence, or the southern delicacy, or the Eastern Masterpice. Well, the Bengali foodie in me, always shouts the loudest for the typical Kolkattan biriyani, which I have grown up loving. Nizams, Aminia in the New Market area,no matter which part of the day it is. Arsalan, in Park Circus, for picking up biriyani after all the dirty dancing late into the night, or lunch at Shiraz, in Mallick Bazar, when the pocket money was suited for indulgence of the foodie soul during Xaverian days. Recently heard from all the chatter around the social networking sites, is that Chhote Nawab, in Beckbagan area, is the latest Mughlai hot spot. Not to forget Zeeshaan, in Park Circus, where a certain guy(now my husband) had stood me up on a promised date more than decade back. Zeeshan's Daal Gosht is a great side for the King of all entrees: Biriyani. 
It was another of those cravings, a few weekends back, when it was too late to cook up, yet the heart yearned for Biriyani. The first Indian restaurant, Flavours of India, we drove down to, was closed for a private party. But the Biriyani desire was pretty high. So the next closest Indian Joint: Masalas. What they served as mutton Biriyani was the Hyderabadi version, but yes, it was some respite to the crazy cravings of an almost neurotic foodie. The meat and the aromatic rice, was so much welcome. By the time we came back home and were resting on our favorite couches in the living room, that my biriyani loving soul was not totally satisfied. Will hubby be alritey with another Mughlai meal, this time at home. He seemed exuberant, and offered to make Chicken Chaap. The deal was done. 

I remember the first time I had tried to make Biriyani.The result was a disaster almost, as I was so confused with all the recipes I had read in Blogosphere. No offence meant to anyone.Then one of my juniors from college and my mashi gave me their recipes. Both of them make awesome biriyani. Checked notes and saw that both the recipes were almost similar. I have adapted the recipes to my tastes. I do not claim that this is exactly the Biriyani I grew up loving, but yes, it satisfies the foodie soul of mine, and is better than the stuff served at the desi joints in KC. 

Chicken Biriyani: 

Basmati rice: 1 1/2 cup
Chicken: 1 whole bird, cut and cleaned. 
Ginger paste; 2 tbsp
Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Chopped onions: 2 big onions
Yoghurt; 1/2 cup
Whole garam masala
Garam masala powder
Biriyani powder: 2-3 tbsp
Kewra essence
Canola Oil
Tomatoes: 2 : Chopped

Wash the rice very well, and soak it in water for at least half an hour. This ensures that all the grains are uniformly cooked.
Prepare a marinade with the yoghurt, 1 tbsp of garlic paste, 1 tbsp of ginger paste, salt, garam masala powder. 
Marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least two hours. This helps tenderize the meat. So increase the marination time, if you plan to replace the chicken with mutton.
Brown the chopped onions and keep aside. 
In a pan, add hot water, salt to taste, whole garam masala, and add in the soaked rice. Cook it till its 3/4th done, and drain and keep aside. Mix some kewra essence in the cooked rice. Mix well.
In another pan, add half the browned chopped onions, the rest of the ginger garlic paste, and add the biriyani masala, to some canola oil. Cook it for a few minutes, and add in the chopped tomatoes. Cook them till the fat separates. 
Add in the marinated chicken, cover and cook till the chicken is cooked and the gravy has almost dried. 
Take a fresh pan, and line it with a layer of cooked chicken. Add in a layer of the cooked rice with the spices in it over the chicken. Put some browned onions over it, and repeat the layering with alternate layers of chicken and rice. The last layer has to be a layer of rice. Close the pan with a tight lid or aluminum foil. 
Place the pan on a tawa or gridle, and place that on heat, to ensure that the biriyani does not get direct heat. 
Slow cook it on low heat for around 20 minutes. Keep the lid sealed, till its time to eat. 

Chicken Chaap: courtesy Deb

Chicken leg quarters: 2
Poppy seed: 2tbsp
Onion paste: 1 onion
Ginger garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Black cardamom: 1
Cloves; 5-6
Pepper powder; 1 tbsp
Green chillies: 2-3
Canoila oil: for frying

Besides the chicken and the oil, mix all the other ingredients in a blender. 
Make slits across the skinned chicken leg quarters, and marinate it overnight in the mixture. If you are short of time, then just marinate it for a couple of hours. 
Heat canola oil in a heavy pan, and slow fry the chicken pieces in a way, so that half the piece is immersed in oil. Keep it on low heat. 
Once the chicken pieces are cooked through, keep them aside.Reduce the oil in the pan, and cook the marinade like a gravy. When the fat starts floating, transfer the cooked chicken pieces in the decadent gravy,and let it bubble away for around 5-10 minutes. 
Dig into chicken chaap and biriyani. Bon appetit. 


The Alaskan Comedy: Joie de Vivre

Alaska: my last vacation. Something for which my husband had been planning for almost the last two years. A coveted trip for him. A trip where I had family for company, other than hubby's same old office crowd, who are obsessed with their life with software codes. So a great trip which we were both looking forward to, in our own ways. Not to forget the midnight sun, which was the cherry on the cake. It surely gave us more hours in a day to be tourists.

There are many sides to this prism called Alaskan Holiday:  Nature in general, wildlife in particular, food and not to forget all the funny things which rocked us. I have been criticised for being a bit too pessimistic when I write about personal stuff, so thought of sharing memories which tickled all my funny bones. Sinking in glacial moraines, being chased by a drunk Eskimo in the middle of the night, or bathing in soft drinks, or hubby doing a Ranboor Kapoor's Saawariya act, or having my bag up in fire in the middle of a pub. It was all packed into this super hectic and super fun trip.

The airlines messed up our seats in the first flight from Kansas City to Phoenix, and the pessimist me, naturally blamed the poor boy for being careless again. My reason, well, didn't the same thing happen earlier as well. I was super pissed. Lets say royally angry. No amount of persuasions were working for me. Even debated heading back to KC, and dumping Alaska altogether. But then, hubby managed to get seats together in the next long flight to Anchorage after convincing a bit too many people. The man could not run from pillar to post in his seat, but almost tried to speak to all around his seat, to exchange with mine. At last, I could rest my head on the broad shoulders, and sleep it out. Had forgotten my pillow, and airline seats can get uncomfortable for long hauls. My cola addiction took the better of me, and I thought of downing just one swig of the pet bottle which hubby had so affectionately purchased for me. What could go wrong in that?! Well, I was mistaken. The bottle opened with more than fizz. and before I could realize I was bathed in a black sticky drink. From head to toe. From my hair to my shorts, from my flip flops to hands, everything was doused in Coke. And the flight was just taking off then, so no chance of hitting the restroom. I had the brilliant idea of doing a kerb side check in of my other hand baggage which had a change of clothes, so that meant 5 hours in the sticky mess. Getting drenched in the rain with your partner can be romantic, but doused in an aerated drink, in a cramped space, and literally sticking to the seat, is what one calls, absolutely bugging. Somehow, I guess, all that the situation brought to our faces, was just a stream of laughter. What else could we do? the day had been bad, and it was just getting worse. We could only laugh about it. My bangs were like tendrils dipped in glue, my white shorts had batches of light brown on them, not to mention the irritating feeling of being sticky right upto the bone. Luckily Anchorage greeted us with lovely rains and a beautiful rainbow, so that made a nice ending and a cleaner feeling. The hot shower never felt any better than that particular night.

My Mashi and cousin had joined us the next day, and the touristy journey began from one corner of the final frontier to the other. Crazy driving, long hours, cold winds, picturesque locales, and lots of good food. The mountain air was even making an anorexic like me, super hungry. After day long scenic darshans, we decided to head for one of the pubs in Anchorage. Chilkoot Charlie's. Supposedly the wildest night spot in the city. A confusion regarding who should place the order for the booze, led us to not even drinking a drop of any intoxicants. But what happened, was even funnier. Was so busy soaking in all the fun happening in front, with guys almost stripping in a contest, that I didnt realise that my brand new hand bag was on fire. Yes, on fire. There was  a candle on the table, which I had mistaken as just a falsy light, and my poor bag had leaned over a bit too precariously over the dancing little flames, and there it was all up in smoke. And there were too many voices all around. My bother was checking whether I was alright, hubby was shouting as to how could I do this to a bag which he had presented to me, my mashi was reassuring me that it was just a bag, and I was reassuring myself that it was just GAP, and not my GUCCIs or COACHes.  So far the trip was becoming really eventful. Lots of Breaking News, in the typical journo lingo.

The Alaskan holiday had a bevy of glacier sightings: Portage glacier, Matanuska Glacier, Prince William Sound Glacier and Aialik Glacier to name a few. For all those planning on Alaskan trips, do not make the mistakes we made. If you want to feel what its like to walk on a glacier, then make your way towards Matanuska. But please spend some time, in figuring out which way to walk. We were so enthused about being able to walk on a moving river of ice, that we forgot to find out which is the correct way to cross the moraines and then reach the moving ice. We absolutely missed the right way, and rather than approaching the glacier from one side, we thought of approaching it from upfront. Big Mistake! Sliding up and down the moraines was initially fun, but we had to remember that we had senior citizen with us. It was all fun and laughter, and crazy photographs. My Mashi had slowed her pace down, so  bro and me decided to do the same. Hubby dearest was busy in his nature photography and didnt notice that there was a distance between him and the party following him. It was just then that Mashi  started laughing that her feet were almost sinking in the ground. It was all clayey moraines all around. Bro and me approached her, only to realise we were going down too. It was like in all those B grade Bollywood films, where the hero or the heroine gets stuck in sinking sand. We were actually sinking and actually laughing about it. Mashi kept calling out for hubby, and he thought it was for taking pictures. It was then we realised that her laughter had turned to tears of fear, and she was calling out for help. So in trying to bail Mashi out, all of us were stuck in knee deep clay, which was taking us further down. There were no other people around us, and calling for 911 was not an option, as the cell phone was out of network. The only saving grace was the broad daylight. The heart feels stronger when there is light on our side. Somehow we bailed each other out, but the shoes decided to stay within the muck. So had to dig out the shoes, and then walk back to the car. And then we saw around, we were certainly lost. We could figure out no way, to reach the car. One trail we took, landed us near the glacial river, so a detour had to be on the cards. Somehow found our way back. We just could not help laughing at our follies all the way back from the glacier. How did we pay money, and sign up for death, almost to be sunk in a glacial mud field. It was almost as they say in Hindi," Aa bail, mujhe maaar."  Did I mention that when we were leaving, we managed to locate the right trail to the glacier.

We had a lovely creek side log cabin, which also had a small pub close by in Denali. But all that we got of the lovely log cabin, was a chance to take a shower. Hubby's trip planning had hit an all time low, and he had grossly miscalculated the time. So it was just a lot of lustful glances at dawn, as we left the cabins. The lovely patio, and  the gurgling brook running right in front, the lofty mountains rising up not so far away, but all that we could hope for, was ways of rewinding time. No one knew how to go back in time, so alas, we were again on our way. Yes, I know, its just one of those Namesake like trips, where desis pile on to mini vans and drive on for long distances, in a a crazy bid to see more and more places. Somehow I find it very meaningless, but hey, I am not the one paying for the trip, am I?!

It was just one night in the whole trip when we reached out hotel in a respectable time. As my cousin  had made last minute reservations, he could not manage to get hotel rooms for that night. So we were all tucked in to one big rooom. It was super fun, for it was so full of Kolkattan adda. We decided to go downstairs for a ciggy break, and what do we find on our way back, an Eskimo all set to play cat and mouse with us. The man was drunk. It was just the morning before that I had seen the Ulu knives that these people are known to carry at all times. So when he menacingly told us,"Come on, Come on," we decided to just run. He was blocking the elevator, so scrambling up three floors, when one has downed martinis, was not an easy task. Luckily he couldnot match his swagger to our desperate dash. Chased by an Eskimo! Did I ever think that would happen to me, when I had studied about these people in middle school. We were finally back in the room, panting and out of breath, and also trying to relate to the other inmates what had just happened. And it was just then, that hubby did a Saawariya act. Well, lets say, it was purely accidental, after all that nervous running. But we were all in splits. We did not need fireworks on the 4th of July, there was enough happening in our own lives.
Image courtesy: Google