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Today is Indian Independence Day. For most of my Indian friends, it’s just another day, unlike major holi or diwali celebrations in India. But several years ago, I said what better day than today to try to make a new indian dish. At the time, it was just an excuse to make some curious pistachio cookies called peda.

But now it’s my very own tradition that I look forward to each year. While trying to make an Indian dish might not seem like a big adventure, it most wholeheartedly is. First, the recipes are notoriously poorly written: often way off in proportions (my first attempt at poha consisted of twice the amount of flattened rice to seasoning) or simply vague quantities (such as “a bunch of raisins”). It’s also difficult to know what texture it is supposed to be for food I haven’t eaten (the peda above is very wet, not like a cookie at all). And then there’s always the issue that I’m very sensitive to heat (so much so that when I made mango-orange salad I was very glad we had guests…because I couldn’t eat it!)

This year I settled on chicken biryani. It’s a dish I have had several times and felt pretty comfortable trying to make. However, I was glad when M stepped in to help when I assumed that a standard recipe would use one pound of chicken (I had lazily done the conversions for the chicken, but not for the chili powder!)

Like so many indian recipes, this dish has 25,000 steps in it. It’s marinating, sautéing, sautéing, sautéing, cooking, browning, cooking down, draining, cooling, combining, sautéing, separating, sautéing, roasting, cooking down, sitting, combining, layering, layering, and steaming. And that doesn’t include all of the chopping, grinding, measuring, more chopping and washing of dishes throughout the process.

The end result should have been the elixir of life or at least a charm brewed in Macbeth. But it was DELICIOUS, especially combined with the raita that M suggested making.

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