Sunday, May 24, 2015

Persian Rice

This was in the running for my Purim dinner, being Persian, but I never got around to it.

So what makes Persian rice different than others?  First off, no, I didn't burn it.  What you see in the picture is actually slightly lighter than it's supposed to be, but I was trying very hard not to burn it.  That brown crustiness is called tahdig, and is the intended result of this process.  Persian rice is drier and looser than your average long grain rice.  At least, it's supposed to be.  Mine was a touch sticky because I used Jasmine and you're supposed to use Basmati rice.  Since I prefer sticky rice, I didn't mind, but you should really use the basmati if you're going for the authentic feel.

This being my first time trying to make it, I faithfully followed the post from My Persian Kitchen.  (Except for the Jasmine rice part.)  You can see that her tahdig was much crispier than mine and you could crack it with a spoon.  Her photos of the process are so detailed that I didn't take many, and I can't really simplify the method.

I did feel horrendously guilty about how much water this took, just to make four servings.  Rinsing, soaking, cooking, doing the dishes… Gallons.  Can't use the shower bucket for that!  I need to start thinking about water usage when I decide what to cook.

1-1/2 C basmati rice
2 Tb plain yogurt
pinch sugar
pinch saffron
1 Tb vegetable oil

1.  Wash rice in a bowl several times, until the water is clear, to remove the surface starch that milling creates.  Fill bowl with more water and a touch of salt, and let the rice soak 4 hours or overnight.

2.  In a large NON-STICK saucepan, bring 4-1/2 C water to a boil.  In a little side cup, grind together sugar and saffron into a powder.  Add 2 Tb of the boiling water to it and let it dissolve while you go back to the main pot and add 1 tsp salt.  Drain rice and add to boiling water.  When water returns to the boil, cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until mostly cooked and very little standing water remains.  Stir it a couple of times during this step to ensure even cooking.
3.  While the rice is cooking, combine saffron water and yogurt in a bowl.  (I used the one I had soaked the rice in.)  Drain cooked rice in a sieve and rinse with cold water to stop it cooking.  Rinse out pot, then add 1 Tb water and 1 Tb oil to bottom of saucepan.  Swirl it around the bottom of the pan until you have a layer of oil and water a couple of millimeters thick.  The oil will fry the rice to get the dark color, and the water will turn into steam and work its way up into the rice.  Also, they will work together to keep the rice from sticking to the pot.

4.  Spoon about 1/4 C of the cooked rice into the yogurt and mix until combined.  Spread this in a thin layer on the bottom of the saucepan.  This is going to be the tahdig.  Spoon the rest of the rice over it, making sure to cover all parts of the yogurt mix.  Tap the rice a couple of times with the back of the spoon to make steam holes.

5.  Return pot to the heat and cook, uncovered, on high for 8 to 10 minutes.  You're going to hear the tahdig frying.  The first instinct is to panic that you're burning your rice.  Just watch the kitchen timer.  Once the ten minutes are up, turn the heat down to the simmer that you're used to when making rice.

6.  This step, I'm going to start using every time I make rice.  Wrap the inside of the lid with a kitchen towel.  It's going to absorb the steam so it doesn't drip back down onto the rice.  And the handles on my lids are metal and I always need to use a towel or oven mitt to lift them anyway.  Cover the saucepan with the wrapped lid and cook on the lowest setting for one hour.  Yes, a full hour.  For white rice.  I know.  On the other hand, that's when I put my chicken in the oven so they would be done at the same time.  You have to plan your meals like that.

7.  Now, for the reason you used a non-stick pot.  Turn off the heat and get a plate slightly larger than the saucepan.  Invert it over the pan, then flip the whole thing over.  With luck, you'll get a solid thunk to tell you that the rice turned out in one-ish piece.  Remove the saucepan to find out how you did.  Ta-da!  From what I understand, the "perfect" tahdig is a mixture of practice and luck.  After making this once, you'll have some idea how your saucepan is at browning and whether or not you used enough oil, cooked it the right amount of time, etc.

Difficulty rating :-0

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