Chicken Pilau Biryani

Everyone has a dish that is their knock out dish, and Pilau Biryani is mine.  I’ve made it for graduations, parties and most recently for a wedding.  (5 catering trays worth!)  It’s a fairly simple dish, but so ridiculously tasty.  I use a spice mix called Shan Pilau Biryani mix, which is available online or in Indian grocery stores.

This makes a really nice big batch, but leftovers never last at our house.  I do make the recipe a little differently than on the box, but it’s still pretty close.  If you decide to make a half box, try to make sure you get roughly half of the big spices as well. It is also traditional to leave big spices like cardamom, cloves, black peppers , pieces of cinnamon etc. in the dish that you simply pick out while you are eating.

1 box Shan Pilau Biryani Mix
2 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp crushed Garlic
1 1/2  Tbsp crushed fresh Ginger
3 cups water
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred well plus more for serving
3 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
6 1/4 cups of water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3-4 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil

In  large pot, mix the chicken, spice mix, garlic, ginger and water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer until chicken is cooked and soft.  (Probably about an hour.)  You want to end up with about 2 cups of liquid gravy (in addition to the chicken of course) so if you end up with much more, just cook it a little longer.  If you have less, add more water during cooking.

Remove from heat.  (If you want to pour it into a catering tray or baking dish and freeze it at this point, you can. Otherwise, just leave it in the pot.)

Stir the yogurt well and pour it over the chicken mixture evenly.

Cook the rice with the 1 Tbsp salt until just about done, and layer it on top of the chicken and gravy. It is important to make sure the rice isn’t overcooked and too soft, since the moisture in the gravy will add moisture to the rice.

If you get a red powder packet in the biryani mix, sprinkle it on top of the rice for nice bits of yellow color. Sometimes it’s not in the box – which is a bummer, but not a fatal flaw.

Fry the thinly sliced onions in olive oil, stirring frequently until they are dark golden brown and caramelized. This does take quite a while. Keep the onions and the oil they were fried in – you will use it all in the dish.  (I often start the onions before I even start the chicken to save time.  You can also cook the onions and then freeze them, and heat them just before you assemble the dish.)  For the wedding this summer, I fried two big bags of onions from Costco.  I think you could smell onions frying from two blocks away!

Ladle the fried onions and the oil on top of the rice, and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  (If you start with a frozen base, you’ll need to either cook it longer or you’ll want to thaw the base for a couple of hours.)

Remove from the oven and gently mix up the chicken and rice portion with a big spoon or saucer , and serve on a big platter. Serve with plain yogurt or a simple raita (spiced yogurt and vegetables.)

For a vegan version, substitute 3 cans of washed garbanzo beans, one cup of shelled pistachios, and 1 cup of frozen peas for the meat.  Add the peas until the very last minute or they get mushy.  (I sometimes just put the peas on top of the mixture in the tray since it all gets mixed up anyway.  That way they stay nice and green, but still absorb plenty of flavor.)

Florentine Chicken & Spinach Casserole

Served this amazing casserole for Christmas Dinner, along with a salad dressed with Ina Garten’s Green Goddess Dressing. It was posted by Bryan0320 on allrecipes, and although in a 1970s throwback with a can of cream of mushroom soup, it deserves every one of the 4.5 stars it got from over 3000 reviews!  I know I’ll make this recipe often.  (Returning after making it a couple of times and simplifying the process a bit.)

Of course I made a few changes as noted below.


6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10.75 oz.)
4 tsp Italian seasoning, or:
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Marjoram
1 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Rosemary
1/2 tsp Thyme
pinch Garlic Powder
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
16 oz. fresh baby spinach
1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, broken into 1/2 inch pieces (Could just use a package of fresh mushrooms chopped, too.)
1/3 cup sherry (optional if you are using fresh mushrooms.)
6 slices of bacon, diced
2-3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, or mozzarella

Bake boneless thighs on a baking sheet at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven heat up to 400 degrees.

At the same time, in a little pan bring sherry and 1/2 cup water to the boil. Add the shiitake mushrooms, and turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes until the mushrooms are softened.

In a large pot, fry the bacon until nicely browned. Remove all but a Tbsp of the bacon drippings. Add the spinach and saute until completely wilted. It may take several batches to wilt a whole pound, but just keep adding and  cooking. You can add a little water to keep the pan from burning.  Push the spinach to the edges, and add the butter, garlic, lemon juice, cream of mushroom soup, Italian seasoning and mushrooms. Bring to a simmer. Stir spinach from edges into sauce.  Remove from heat and add half & half and Parmesan cheese.

In a 9×12 baking dish, lay half the spinach/cheese mixture in an even layer. Lay the chicken thighs on top. Pour remaining sauce over the top with Mexican Cheese (or Mozzarella) and bake 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly browned.


Camp Chicken Noodle Soup

Just back from Niobrara and while we were there, I made chicken noodle soup that was so easy and so good – just with what I had on hand. Chicken thighs have  enough fat and flavor to make chicken broth unnecessary, and while we were in a cabin, this would be great for camping, too.  See my notes below to prep this recipe for camping.

1 onion, cut up
2 carrots, cut up
2 stalks celery, cut up
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
pinch of ground cloves
2 tsp dried parsley
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (mine were frozen in a lump, from Costco)
7-8 cups water
1 package noodles

Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil. Add spices and stir in. Add chicken and water. Cook 20 minutes.

If chicken is frozen, just cook it in a lump and after 10 minutes or so, you should be able to start pulling it apart. Fish out the bigger pieces, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Return to pot. Finish cooking. Add noodles and cook for another 8-10 minutes until noodles are done.

To prep this for camping: cut up veggies and bag them with oil and spices. Bring frozen chicken and noodles in their bag. The frozen chicken helps keep the veggies cool.  A really satisfying supper.

Chicken Fried Rice for a Crowd

Maya and the gals were all at our house a year or so ago, and so were Sammy and Taylor when I suddenly realized it was supper time! Maya’s friend Madeline loves stir-fried rice and often makes it, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Once you understand the mechanics of it: use cold rice, cook meat, then veggies, then sauce, then add everything back together again, you can use whatever you have on hand. I like it with lots of veggies and meat so I add a lot. It’s pretty easy and it’s delicious – anyway, the gals and our family demolished it!

3 cups rice
5 7/8 cup water
2 tsp salt

Make rice and spread out on a tray or any dish that will fit in your freezer. The rice needs to be cooled down.

olive oil
3 eggs

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (thighs and/or breast)
6 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Sambal Oelek (a great hot sauce – or you could use Sriracha, or Tabasco)
8 cloves of garlic, crushed, or 1 tsp garlic powder

1 cup diced carrots
1 1/2 cup peas
1 1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup bell pepper

Heat a Tbsp of oil in a wok or large, wide skillet. Scramble eggs with a few drops of soy sauce. Remove and cut into chunks.

Mix chicken with 1 Tbsp of the soy sauce, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Fry the meat, stirring frequently until it looks cooked. Remove from the heat.

Add another Tbsp oil to the pan. Dump in carrots and onions and saute for a few minutes. Add peas and bell peppers and saute for a minute more. Push veggies to the outer edges.

Mix garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, chicken broth and Sambal Oelek in a bowl and pour into the middle of the veggies. Cook for a few minutes.

Add eggs and chicken back in. Stir veggies, sauce and meat together until everything is nice and saucy.

Add rice back in and cook,stirring to toss the rice with the meat and veggies. Check seasonings, and add red pepper and soy sauce as needed.

Chicken Picatta

I love the tart flavors of lemon juice and capers in this classic Italian dish, and it’s so quick! I often serve it with smashed potatoes sauteed in butter, since the tartness of the sauce blends really well with the potatoes. This recipe makes enough for 6-8 people.


8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, flattened between layers of plastic wrap.  (I used a rolling pin to smash them and make them even. It’s important to get the chicken quite thin so it cooks quickly.)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour (use more if needed)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup capers, drained
2 more Tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
One more squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Heat oil and butter over medium heat in your largest frying pan.  Season flattened thighs with salt and pepper.  Put flour in a flat bowl or pie pan, and dredge the thighs, shaking off the excess.  Drop the floured thighs into the frying pan without crowding, and fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until they are starting to get golden bits on them.  Remove from pan and add more thighs. Continue until all the chicken is cooked.

Add in the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and add the chicken thighs back in along with any juices that have collected on the plate.  Cook for about 5 more minutes, turning the chicken so both sides are saucy. Add the last 2 Tbsp of butter and stir gently to distribute it.  Taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper.  Place in a serving dish, give one more good squeeze of lemon juice, and sprinkle parsley.