SPECIAL EVERYDAY PERSIAN RICE
As the more elaborate form of Everyday Persian Rice, CHELO is a wonderful treat, usually served with kebabs or with a moist stew-like khoresh.
The rice is soaked, then briefly cooked in plenty of boiling water. To create a delicious crust and perfectly textured rice, the rice is then returned to the pot and
gently steamed for thirty minutes. But first the bottom of the pot is covered with oil or butter with a binder such as egg or yogurt (or both) and a thin layer of
rice or some flatbread or thinly sliced potatoes. This bottom layer cooks to a golden crispy crust known as the tahdig and is served beside or on top of the finished dish.
Though the instructions may seem elaborate, you'll understand the sequence and be delighted by the perfection of the results after you've made this rice once.
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2 1/2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or 4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain yogurt (whole-milk or 2%)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon saffron threads, dry-roasted, crumbled to a powder, and dissolved in 3 tablespoons warm water (optional)
|Wash the rice thoroughly, then place in a large pot with 3 tablespoons of the salt and enough cold water to cover by 2 inches.
Let soak for 2 to 3 hours.|
|Drain well in a fine sieve. In the same pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a vigorous boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt,
then gradually sprinkle in the rice. Stir gently to prevent sticking, and bring back to the boil. After the rice has been boiling for
2 minutes, test for doneness. The rice is ready when the outside is tender but there remains a slight uncooked resistance at the
core for the grain. If the core of the grain is brittle, it's not done enough. Continue to check the rice until done, usually about 4
minutes, then drain in the sieve and rinse with tepid to cool water (to prevent it from cooking any more).|
|Place the pot back over high heat and add the oil or butter and 1 tablespoon water. In a small bowl, whisk together the
yogurt and egg. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the rice, then place in the sizzling oil and spread over the bottom of the pot. Gradually
add the remaining rice, sprinkling it in to form a mound. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make three or four holes through
the mound to the bottom, then cover the pot with a lid wrapped in a tea towel. (The towel helps seal the lid and absorbs moisture
from the rising steam.) Heat over medium-high heat until steam builds up, 1 to 2 minutes, then lower the heat to medium-low and
cook for about 30 minutes. When it is done, the rice will be tender and fluffy with a flavorful crust, the tahdig, on the bottom.|
|The tahdig comes off more easily if, before removing the lid, you place the pot in an inch of cold water (in the sink) for a minute.
Then remove the lid and, if you're using saffron, gently spoon about 1 cup rice into the saffron water mixture; stir to blend. Mound the
remaining rice on a platter. Sprinkle on the saffron rice, if you have it. Place chunks of the crust on top or on a separate plate; it's a big
Excerpted from SEDUCTIONS OF RICE copyright © 2003 Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
Reprinted with the permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.