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CHICKEN BIRYANI 
2 c. long-grain white rice (prefer Basamti)
1/2 tsp. saffron powder
1 1/2 c. yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. golden raisins
1 c. plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. cream or milk
4 cloves garlic
5 tbsp. slivered almonds
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs. skinned & boned chicken breasts & thighs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. coriander
Dash of salt & white pepper

Cover rice in large bowl with cold water and let stand minimum of 3 hours or overnight. Mix milk or cream with saffron and let stand for 3 hours. In blender or food processor, combine onion, garlic, ginger, 3 tablespoons almonds and 3 tablespoons water and blend until smooth paste is formed. Reserve. Melt butter over medium heat and add remaining almonds. Cook until golden (about 4 minutes). Drain on paper towel and set aside. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Drop the raisins in the oil and remove as soon as they plump (just a few seconds). Drain on paper towel and reserve.

Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the same skillet. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Reserve. Add remaining oil to skillet. Add the onion paste and cook until lightly browned, stirring constantly (5 minutes). If the mixture starts sticking to the pan, add a little water. Add yogurt to the pan slowly and whisk vigorously to blend. Add the chicken and accumulated juices with 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add the spices, salt and pepper to the chicken and simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cut chicken into bite size pieces. In a large stockpot, boil 4 quarts of water. Drain the rice and add slowly to boiling water. Cook for 6 minutes and drain immediately. Spread 1/3 of the rice on the bottom of a casserole dish. Cover with half the chicken mixture; add another layer of rice. Spread rest of chicken and top with remaining rice. Drizzle the reserved cream or milk over the top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the fried raisins and almonds.

Serves 4-6.

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