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

DIRECTIONS

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.

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