Persian Rice Pilaf with a Crispy Crust (Chelow with Tahdig)
My family enjoyed this rice dish, adapted from “Herbivoracious” by Michael Natkin (Harvard Common Press $24.95), with lemon-herb roast chicken and a crisp, citrusy, sauvignon blanc.
2 1⁄2 cups basmati rice
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
1⁄2 cup minced fresh dill, plus a sprig for garnish
1⁄2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts only
1 teaspoon saffron crumbled into 2 tablespoons hot water (optional)
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) or kosher salt
Put the rice in a 5-quart Dutch oven or other good-size pot with a tight-fitting lid, cover with water by a couple of inches, stir in 1⁄4 cup salt, and soak for at least 2 hours. Drain thoroughly.
In the same pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the rice and boil until the grains are mostly tender with a slight bit of bite in the center, 2 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with warm water. Set the rice aside.
Return the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir 1⁄2 cup rice into the yogurt-egg mixture. When the butter stops foaming, spread the rice-yogurt mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot; it should immediately start sizzling.
Mound the rest of the rice on top, layering in the herbs and scallions as you go. The rice should look like a small hill in the pot. Use a chopstick to poke a few holes in the mound to allow steam to move. Wrap the pot lid in a dish towel and cover the pot tightly (make sure the towel won’t catch on fire).
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 30 minutes. Taste a few grains to make sure they are fluffy. Use a fork to check that the crust has formed on the bottom of the pot. If not, raise the heat for a couple of minutes.
Scoop most of the rice out onto a serving platter. Mix 1 cup of the rice with the saffron mixture, and spoon it over the plain rice (or mix it in if you prefer). Double-check the crust; if it has not fully formed, cook it a bit longer. It should be deep brown.
Lower the bottom of the pot into a sink full of cool water for a minute, which will help the crust release. Use a spatula to break the beautiful, crispy pieces into big shards and lay them over the saffron rice. Finish with a bit of flaky sea salt and a big sprig of dill. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 357 calories, 22 percent of calories from fat, 8.7 g fat (5.2 g saturated, 2.3 g monounsaturated), 51 mg cholesterol, 6.8 g protein, 63 g carbohydrates, 0.3 g fiber 440 mg sodium (excluding salt absorbed during soaking).