Chelo with Tahdig (Persian Rice with Crispy Crust)

Damn that's pretty. #rice #chelo #tahdig #notreallyiscreweditup

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

So I made this a couple days ago, and while it is pretty good and absolutely GORGEOUS (just look at that photo!), it’s… just not what I wanted. I kept wanting it to be Fatty Rice. The only thing the two preparations really have in common are the fact that you get that layer of fried crispy rice which is amaaaaazing but with the Fatty Rice, you get a ton of flavor from the chicken drippings and garlic and onion and everything, and with this, you get mostly rice flavor—which I mean, you’re using basmati, it’s a nice flavor. It’s a much purer, cleaner feeling rice dish. You’re not going to hate yourself as much.

That being said, it’s really oily (and not the deliciously flavored fat of Fatty Rice, just vegetable oil-oily) and the preparation is pretty fussy. I didn’t even try to serve this properly. You’re supposed to flip the pan upside down and get the crunchy layer out in one piece. Since I did this in an cast iron Dutch oven, that was not going to happen.

Recipe included for posterity, but I don’t know if I’ll be making this one again.

2 cups basmati rice
Table salt
1 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or full-fat sour cream
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp butter, cut into 8 cubes
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley


Place rice in fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Place rinsed rice and 1 Tbsp salt in medium bowl and cover with 4 cups hot tap water. Stir gently to dissolve salt; let stand for 15 minutes. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer.

Meanwhile, bring 8 cups water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add rice and 2 Tbsp salt. Boil briskly, stirring frequently, until rice is mostly tender with slight bite in center and grains are floating toward top of pot, 3 to 5 minutes (begin timing from when rice is added to pot).

Drain rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water to stop cooking, about 30 seconds. Rinse and dry pot well to remove any residual starch. Brush bottom and 1 inch up sides of pot with 1 Tbsp oil.

Whisk remaining 1/4 cup oil, yogurt, 1 tsp cumin seeds, and 1/4 tsp salt together in medium bowl. Add 2 cups of the parcooked rice and stir until combined. Spread yogurt-rice mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pot, packing it down well.

Stir remaining 1/2 tsp cumin seeds into remaining rice. Mound rice in center of pot on top of yogurt-rice base (it should look like small hill). Poke 8 equally spaced holes through rice mound but not into yogurt-rice base. Place 1 butter cube in each hole. Drizzle 1/3 cup water over rice mound.

Wrap pot lid with clean dish towel and cover pot tightly, making sure towel is secure on top of lid and away from heat. Cook over medium-high heat until rice on bottom is crackling and steam is coming from sides of pot, about 10 minutes, rotating pot halfway through for even cooking.

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until rice is tender and fluffy and crust is golden brown around edges, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Remove covered pot from heat and place on damp dish towel set in rimmed baking sheet; let stand for 5 minutes.

If you are brave, attempt to serve this in one piece by flipping over the pot and praying that it all comes out. If you are not, like me, spoon the hill of rice out into a serving platter and mix in 2 Tbsp parsley and salt to taste. Then scoop out the crust in pieces and place atop the rest of the rice, sprinkling with the rest of the parsley and more salt.


[image: bowl of mujaddara]
[image: bowl of mujaddara]

This is a follow-up to my mujaddara post from last year. I think I’ve found a version I like. I found out that I was sort of wrong about the original dish from Mediterranean Grill House. I took a look at the menu on their website, and it’s listed there as “Mujaddarah – Kushari.”

Kushari is an Egyptian dish which, like mujaddara, involves rice, lentils, and onions. However, it also contains macaroni, which was the mystery addition in MGH’s dish. So it’s more like a combination of the two? No vinegary tomato sauce, though (but I always dumped a ton of their hot sauce on top). The bright yellow I haven’t really found in any variation of either recipe. I added some turmeric to mine, but I think in order to get it the right shade, I’d need to add a bunch more to the rice as it’s cooking, and not just in the spiced oil.

(This is not a traditional recipe, just FYI. Also this particular method uses way too many dishes.)

1.5 cups long-grain white rice (I like jasmine)
1 cup brown lentils
2 onions, sliced into half-moons
vegetable oil
kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
plain greek yogurt or sour cream, to serve
lemon juice, to serve

Cook the rice using your preferred method—stovetop, rice cooker, whatever. But for me, it’s the oven. In a 8×8 baking dish rubbed with a skosh of butter or oil, put 1.5 cups of rice, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 2 1/3 cup boiling water. Stir, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 1 hour at 375. Remove from oven, fluff with a fork, and set aside while other things are finishing.

(p.s. this method is amazing for brown rice and farro)

Cook the lentils on the stovetop in 4 cups of water until tender, 20–25 minutes.

In a pot that will be large enough to hold all the ingredients eventually, splash a bit of oil and add the onions and some salt. Over medium-low to medium heat, caramelize the onions. This will take a while. Add a sprinkle of sugar if you get impatient.

In a little pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika, allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir to combine over medium-low heat. Once the smell gets really potent and the oil starts to bubble around the edges a bit, remove from heat.

Stir the oil into the onions. Add the lentils and rice and mix everything together.

Serve with yogurt or sour cream, lemon juice, and an extra little sprinkle of salt. (If you want to make this vegan, just leave out the dairy garnish.)


homemade mujaddara
[Image: a white bowl containing mujaddara, a rice-and-lentil dish with caramelized onions]

This was my dinner tonight. Mujaddara is a vegetarian rice/lentil/onion dish that I very much like, ever since I first discovered it back in 2009. Of course, the mujaddara I had back then was VERY different than the recipes I have found since.

restaurant mujaddara
[Image: a plate of food containing very yellow mujaddara, hummus, and a tomato-cucumber-pepper salad]

This is the mujaddara plate from Mediterranean Grill House in Mountain View. I started going there occasionally in 2009, after I lost my job. The mujaddara was the biggest bang for your buck there. You got a TON of food for cheap. As a bonus, you always got your food super-fast because they didn’t have to grill any meat. I tried it once on a whim, really liked it, and continued ordering it there even after I got a new job. I continued visiting Mediterranean Grill House until I moved, back in January. (Also, they had switched their soda machine from Coke to Pepsi, which broke my heart.)

So yeah, I thought mujaddara was supposed to be bright yellow for the longest time. And that it should contain macaroni (?!). Imagine my surprise when I ordered the same dish from Palo Alto’s Mediterranean Wraps. That one was much more inline with the recipe I made tonight as well as basically every recipe I’ve seen on the internet. (It also instilled in me the idea that since both my local places offered it, every Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurant would have this on their menu. This is not true, and it super-bums me out that my current local kebab place doesn’t have it.)

I’ve tried a couple different recipes, and none of them have quite hit my craving yet. Tonight’s recipe was from Budget Bytes. I’ve also tried this one from Food 52. I’ve looked at this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but I haven’t tried it yet. Once I hit upon a combination I dig, I’ll post the recipe here.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to have it with an over-easy egg for breakfast. Yum.

Vegetable Pullao

from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

15 fl. oz. long-grain rice
2 pints and 1 pint water
4 oz. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 oz. fresh green beans, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 fresh hot green chile pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press

Put the rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water. Drain. Add 2 pints of water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and leave in a sieve for 20 minutes.

Choose a large, heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Put 2-4 tablespoons of oil in the pan. When hot, add the cumin seeds, and let them sizzle for 5-10 seconds. Then, add the potato, carrot, and green beans. Stir and saute for a minute. Turn the heat to medium-low anmd add the drained rice, salt, turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, green chile pepper, cilantro, ginger, and garlic. Stir and saute the rice for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 pint of water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn the heat to very, very low, and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off the heart and let the pan sit, covered and undisturbed, for another 10 minutes.