2 Baked Saf­fron Yo­gurt Rice with Chicken (Tahcheen-e Morgh)

SAVEUR - - Range -

SERVES 8; photo p. 34 Ac­tive: 1 hr. 45 min. To­tal: 4 hr. 15 min.

This dish can be pre­pared par­tially in ad­vance: Par­boil the rice, as­sem­ble the in­gre­di­ents, and store it for up to a few hours cov­ered and re­frig­er­ated. Bring to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore bak­ing. It is best pre­pared in a clear glass bak­ing dish and served with yo­gurt and the fresh herb plat­ter known as sabzi khor­dan (pic­tured p. 38). For the tahcheen:

3 cups ex­tra-long white bas­mati rice (1 lb. 4 oz.) ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. kosher salt, di­vided, plus more as needed ¼ tsp. saf­fron, lightly ground be­tween your fin­gers, plus more for sprin­kling 3 Tbsp. ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil 1 large yel­low onion, halved and sliced ¼-inch-thick 4 medium gar­lic cloves, finely chopped (1 Tbsp.) 10 bone­less, skin­less chicken thighs (2 lb. 3 oz.), halved ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pep­per ¼ cup fresh le­mon juice 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yo­gurt 1 large egg 5 Tbsp. un­salted but­ter, di­vided For the top­ping: 1 Tbsp. un­salted but­ter ½ cup dried bar­ber­ries, picked, soaked in cold wa­ter for 15 min­utes, then drained (or sub­sti­tute finely chopped dried cran­ber­ries) 1 tsp. sugar (omit if us­ing cran­ber­ries) ⅓ cup raw pis­ta­chios, coarsely chopped 1 Par­boil the rice by fol­low­ing steps 1 and 2 of the Steamed Saf­fron Rice with Tahdig recipe (p. 36). Set the rice aside to drain as you pre­pare the dish’s other com­po­nents.

2 In a small bowl, add the saf­fron and 2 ta­ble­spoons hot wa­ter. (Be sure to pre-soak your bar­ber­ries now, too. See toppings list.)

3 In a large, deep skil­let, add the olive oil and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and ¼ tea­spoon salt, and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til soft and golden, about 20 min­utes. Add the gar­lic and cook un­til fra­grant, 2 min­utes. Add the chicken thighs, 2¾ tea­spoons salt, and the pep­per. Cook, turn­ing the chicken as needed, un­til the pieces be­gin to brown slightly, about 6 min­utes to­tal. Add the le­mon juice and saf­fron wa­ter, and turn the chicken to coat well. Lower the heat to medium-low, par­tially cover the pot, and let sim­mer, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the chicken is ten­der and just cooked through, 20–25 min­utes. Re­move from the heat and let cool slightly. Cut the chicken into ½-inch-long strips, re­turn them to the pan, and toss to coat in the onions and pan juices. Re­move the pan from the heat and set aside while you fin­ish the rice.

4 Pre­heat the oven to 400°F and set a rack in the low­est po­si­tion.

5 In a large bowl, com­bine the yo­gurt, egg, and a tiny pinch of

ground saf­fron. Add half of the rice and stir well to com­bine. Set the mix­ture aside.

6 In a 9-by-13-inch glass bak­ing dish (prefer­ably clear), add 3 ta­ble­spoons of but­ter; set the dish in the oven to melt the but­ter, about 3 min­utes. Re­move the dish, swirling the melted but­ter all over the bot­tom and sides. Spread the yo­gurt-rice mix­ture evenly along the bot­tom of the dish, pack­ing it down firmly. Add the chicken pieces evenly over the rice, then sprin­kle the re­main­ing plain rice over the chicken in an even layer. Driz­zle with 2 ta­ble­spoons of chicken juices and dot with the re­main­ing 2 ta­ble­spoons of but­ter. Cover tightly with alu­minum foil, trans­fer to the oven, and bake un­til the bot­tom of the rice is crispy and golden, 80–90 min­utes. (If us­ing a clear glass dish, care­fully lift it to check the bot­tom.) Re­move the bak­ing dish and let the rice rest at room tem­per­a­ture for 5 min­utes.

7 While the tahcheen rests, pre­pare the top­ping: In a small pot, melt the but­ter over medium heat. Stir in the drained bar­ber­ries, pis­ta­chios, and sugar (if us­ing), and cook un­til the berries are just plumped, about 2 min­utes. Re­move from the heat.

8 Run a knife along the sides of the bak­ing dish to help re­lease the rice. Place a large rect­an­gu­lar serv­ing plat­ter, bak­ing tray, or cut­ting board over the tahcheen, take a deep breath, and quickly and con­fi­dently flip the bak­ing dish over to un­mold. You should hear a swish when the tahdig re­leases. Re­move the bak­ing dish and sprin­kle the crispy sur­face of the rice with the bar­berry top­ping. Cut into pieces and serve.

Serve a Side of HerbsSabzi khor­dan—a plat­ter of fresh herbs, al­li­ums, and radishes—makes a reg­u­lar ap­pear­ance at the Per­sian ta­ble. The as­sort­ment bright­ens and light­ens a meal, while also aid­ing in the di­ges­tion of rich main dishes. Nib­ble on it be­tween bites of but­tery rice.

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