Note: This is a great meal for a crowd — it can be pulled together quickly using pantry and freezer staples. Make sure that your liquid is hot before you add it to the rice, so that it will cook more evenly, and stir the rice very gently with a silicone spatula to keep the grains whole. (The silicone spatulas are heat-resistant at high temperatures.) To prepare basmati rice, rinse it in a bowl of cold water, repeating at least 10 times or until the water remains clear; soak for 20 minutes. To slice the cilantro leaves thinly, stack them a few at a time. From "Flavorwalla," by Floyd Cardoz.
• 2 (13.5-oz.) cans coconut milk (stir well before using)
• About 6 1/2 c. unsalted chicken stock
• 1/2 c. canola oil
• 2 tsp. cumin seeds
• 2-in. piece cinnamon stick
• 6 whole cloves
• 4 c. finely chopped white onions
• 1/4 c. minced peeled fresh ginger
• 6 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tbsp. coriander seeds, finely ground
• 1 tbsp. black peppercorns, optional
• 2 tsp. turmeric
• 2 bay leaves
• 6 c. white basmati rice, rinsed, soaked and drained (see Note)
• 3 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, excess fat removed, quartered
• Kosher salt
• 1 c. thinly sliced washed and dried cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for garnish (see Note)
Pour coconut milk into large glass measure. Add enough stock to make 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups). Heat stock/coconut milk mixture in medium pot over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and keep at very low simmer.
In 8-quart stew pot with tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add cumin, cinnamon and cloves and cook, stirring until the spices are fragrant and little bubbles form around them, about 1 minute. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened but not at all colored, about 3 minutes.
Use a silicone spatula to stir in the ginger, garlic, coriander, peppercorns, turmeric, bay leaves and drained rice, then stir to coat the rice with the oil and spices. Stir in the chicken, tucking it into the rice, and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes.
Stir in the hot stock mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until all liquid is absorbed and chicken is cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. Fold in the cilantro. Cover and let rice rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Fluff rice with fork; remove and discard cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.
Variation: Add a bunch of fresh dill, roughly chopped, along with the cilantro.