Considering Britain’s historical relationship with India, particularly as it pertains to food, it should come as no surprise that that my leftover milk-braised chicken and rice, courtesy Jamie Oliver, could be so readily transformed into a sort of Indian casserole. I had originally thought to do some sort of rice salad with chicken and lemon cucumbers, but my rice was on the mushy side, and a little more digging turned up a leftovers version of chicken biryani. Granted, I’ve never had authentic chicken biryani, so for all I know this is not remotely similar, but I can tell you that it was an incredibly tasty way to get another meal out of those elements.
Essentially, I made a spiced tomato gravy for the chicken, starting with a base of onion, garlic and ginger (dried slices since I was out of the fresh stuff). To this I added about 3 tablespoons of my precious homemade tomato paste and enough chicken stock to lubricate the works. Once it thickened to the consistency I wanted, I added several handfuls of shredded chicken and some garam masala (I am perfectly happy to use the Penzey’s blend rather than toasting and grinding it myself, in this case). This fragrant gravy was layered with the leftover rice in a small casserole dish, covered, and baked until everything was steaming hot. Jeremy inhaled his portion in mere minutes and went back for seconds, Nolan had a grand time squishing the rice between his fingers and selecting all the morsels of chicken out to eat, and I thought it was fragrant, comforting, and not too complicated flavor-wise, as Indian food is wont to be (from this picky eater’s perspective, at least).
To go with the biryani, my mind went right back to those lemon cucumbers, perhaps in a raita. But in digging through the crisper for them, I ran across my last handful of baby okra and was reminded that it is a frequent ingredient in Indian cooking. Despite my concerns about their potential sliminess, I ended up making a stir-fry of okra and onions as a side dish. This consisted of splitting the pods lengthwise and sautéing them in olive oil with onion slices until very tender and lightly browned, and seasoning the skillet with a few key spices, a pinch of sugar and splash of lemon juice. The okra wasn’t slimy in the least and the dish complemented the biryani perfectly. I actually found myself wishing I had not pickled quite so much of my okra the day before (but more on that soon!).
Leftover Chicken Biryani with Sweet and Sour Okra Stir-Fry
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 T ginger, minced
2 T garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
3 T tomato paste
2 C chicken stock
1 T garam masala
About 1-2 C leftover cooked chicken, shredded
About 2-3 C leftover cooked rice
1/2 lb baby okra, rinsed and dried very well, tops removed and sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 large sweet onion, cut into 1/4″ slices
2 T olive oil or chicken fat
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp granulated sugar
1-2 T lemon juice
In a hot wok or pan, heat the oil then sauté the diced onion on medium high heat until they are golden brown; add ginger and garlic and sauté on high heat for another minute. Add the tomato paste and stock; cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated and you have a gravy-like consistency. Add the garam masala, chicken and salt to taste, and let simmer on low heat for about 3-5 minutes to let the flavors meld.
Preheat over to 325F. In a glass casserole dish, layer half of the rice and top with half of the chicken mixture; repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until uniformly hot.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the okra. Fry, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes or until the okra is very lightly browned on all sides. Add the onions. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the onions, too, begin to brown. At this point, add the turmeric, ancho, coriander and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring for another few minutes, until everything is very tender and fragrant. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve with the chicken biryani.