Rich, savory and fragrant Biryani Gosht is fit for a celebration and can be made with any red meat.
I know it is kind of lame to resort to
bitching about discussing the weather, but you guys know those classic scenes in various movies and tv shows where the violence increases as the heat index rises? Yeah I think multiple snow days have the heat index beat. I have watched my normally pleasant, friendly small town become a morass of people quibbling, arguing and calling one another out on Facebook the past week. I would just turn off notifications except I am the administrator for one of the groups.
Between PARCC testing, Blizzard Bags and everyone going crazy I am ready to become a hermit for the rest of winter. (If you are curious where I stand I am probably against the testing but annoyed by the parents who think it is abusive or something, against the Blizzard Bags, and usually a fan of cozy snow days spent sipping hot chocolate.) Ironically I am thrilled it finally snowed because it is so gorgeous out, but tempers are definitely running short around here!
This is the view going out past my backyard. Sadly I do not own this gorgeous Sycamore tree–it grows along the creek just past my property and I will cry if anyone ever cuts it down. Its stark, bone-white beauty is one of my favorite things about the winter landscape. I took this while out playing in the snow with Alex last weekend.
So, apropos of nothing other than to cheer me up, let’s talk biryani!
This is a Biryani Gosht, which contrary to what some people believe, does not translate as Lamb Biryani necessarily. It could be a lamb biryani, but it could also be mutton or goat (traditionally speaking) or any red meat. Gosht more or less means flesh meat. So because I am me–not disrespectful of other cultures’ food restrictions but certainly not inclined to worry about them myself, I made it with pork and beef. Definitely untraditional, but also definitely easier for most people around here to come by and, as long as it works with your diet, definitely, definitely delicious. (And if it does not fit in your diet, just sub in your favorite braising cuts of lamb or some other red meat.)
This is the first time in a while that I have managed to really do up John’s birthday the way I used to (for a while there we were knocked out by school germs every February), and he adores biryani. (Stay tuned for his dessert!) We all loved this–the slow cooked, falling apart pork and beef permeate the entire dish, as well as richness from the mushrooms, ghee, yogurt and cream. So definitely not an everyday kind of dish! It is perfumed with saffron, garam masala, and many of the traditional “sweet” whole spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. And the whole thing is smothered in caramelized onions. Heaven. The deep orange that you may be used to in Indian cuisine is not there, because this biryani is a Moghul style biryani, and as such uses saffron rather than turmeric, and the pricier saffron is used much more sparingly than turmeric and frankly is just not as strong of a dye.
- 1-2 T ghee, divided
- 3 lbs total pork shoulder and beef chuck, cut into large chunks and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 leaves bay
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inches ginger, minced
- 3 small-medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 T double strength tomato paste
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt with a little heavy cream mixed in because I used 2%--if you have whole yogurt use all yogurt
- 3 t garam masala, divided
- 3 cups raw Basmati rice, cooked in salted water
- 1-2 T ghee
- 2 t cumin seeds
- 16 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets, or 2 small
- 2-4 T water, as needed
- 1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
- 3 T heavy cream
- 3 T low fat milk (or use 6 T total half and half in place of cream and milk)
- 1 hefty pinch saffron
- 6 medium onions, sliced, caramelized in ghee or butter with salt
- 1-3 t garam masala to taste
- chopped cilantro for garnish
Heat a large Dutch oven or a cooktop-safe slow cooker insert (preheat the oven to 300 F if using the Dutch oven), over medium high heat. Add one tablespoon of ghee; when it is melted and the pan is hot, add the meat in batches and brown all over. As each batch browns, remove it to a large bowl and brown the next batch.
When all of the meat has browned, add the cinnamon sticks and more ghee if needed (chances are you will have enough fat from the meat). When the cinnamon is starting to sizzle, add the bay leaves, cardamom pods and cloves. Stir occasionally, and pay close attention with your nose. You do not want the spices to burn, but you do want their oils to have released, so the air above the pot should be quite fragrant.
When this happens, add the finely chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. If any of the browned bits are sticking in the pan, add a few splashes of water and scrape them up. Then add the garlic and ginger and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stir in, continuing to scrape the bottom of the pot for anything sticking. Let the tomatoes cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and 2 teaspoons of garam masala. Turn the heat off and stir in the yogurt. Stir the meat back into the pan. Place the slow cooker insert onto its base, cover and cook for 8 hours on low (or put a heavy lid on the Dutch oven and cook for 4-5 hours in the 300 F oven).
When done, taste for salt, garam masala, and of course to make sure the meat is tender. It should be rich and spicy--not in the heat sense, but in the sense of tasting the spices, because remember this is being layered with rice.
In an ideal world, by doing this either very early or the day before, you will have time to let the meat chill. Then you can remove some of the fat from the top. I encourage you to not remove all fat--fat IS flavor and this is a celebration dish. But depending on your cuts of meat, for example my pork shoulder was quite fatty, you may still want to remove some.
You can caramelize the onions either before beginning the assembly or you could caramelize them on day 1 and then just refrigerate until needed.
First, cook the rice. I prefer the pasta method for Basmati, but use whatever method you feel most comfortable with. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
While the rice is cooking, heat the ghee in a large, deep pan, with the cumin seeds. Keep a close eye on them--they roast and therefore burn much more quickly. When they have darkened and are fragrant, add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Toss and cook. When they have released some of their water and are starting to brown, go ahead and add the cauliflower with a few tablespoons of water. Toss occasionally, and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon garam masala--if the pot looks really dry add another tablespoon or two of water, and this time reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan to let the cauliflower steam.
While the cauliflower is steaming, Place the cream and milk (or half and half) into a small saucepan with the saffron. Heat until just below a boil and then turn the heat off and cover to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside.
Check on the cauliflower every 5 minutes or so. When it is mostly tender, turn the heat up and remove the lid to allow the excess water to cook off. When the liquid is mostly gone (some saucy flavor is a good thing), mix the rice into this mixture (or mix this mixture into the rice depending on what size pot either is in).
I used my large Dutch oven to bake the biryani, which was the same pot I had cooked the cauliflower and mushrooms in. So the bottom layer is the rice-mushroom-cauliflower mixture. Then I drizzled the saffron milk over that. Then spread the meat (including all of its yummy juices) over that. End with the caramelized onions. Cover the pot (or cover tightly with foil if using a deep casserole dish) and bake for 15-30 minutes (if you are starting with cold meat, expect it to take more like 30 minutes). The biryani is ready when the casserole is steaming and hot throughout.
Sprinkle another teaspoon of garam masala over the hot biryani. Serve garnished generously with cilantro.