Persian Rice with Crispy Potato Tah-dig (Chelo)
Persian Rice is carefully pre-washed, soaked, and par-boiled. When steamed, the careful advance preparation helps keep each grain separate, giving it the ideal texture for serving with Iran’s many stews. In talking about Tah-dig, the golden crispy crust on the bottom of Persian rice, Najmieh Batmanglij, “the guru of Persian cuisine” says, “Tah-dig should be a golden color, never scorched or dark brown. The reputation of Iranian cooks rests on the quality of their tah-dig.” It took me several tries to get tah-dig right. Roshi correctly identified my problem as fear of turning the heat too high at the beginning of cooking. After I got over my nerves, and had faith in Roshi’s cooking method, I finally succeeded in making beautiful tah-dig. Roshi says saffron’s full flavor is only released when it’s ground and dissolved in water. To “grind” saffron, put in mortar with a little salt or sugar and grind it with the pestle.
1 1/2 cups long-grain Basmati rice
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
2 Tbsp. yogurt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp saffron, ground and dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1 small russet potato, cut in 1/4” slices
Wash rice in multiple changes of water, and then soak in water mixed with 1 tsp. salt for at least 2 hours. When ready to use, drain rice.
Bring water to boil. Add remaining 2 tsp. salt and drained rice. Boil for 5-6 minutes, or until rice is “al dente.” Drain rice and rinse in cold water.
Add butter, water, and 1 Tbsp. saffron water to heavy-bottomed pan and mix thoroughly. Put a layer of potatoes on pan’s bottom to cover. Spread one quarter of the rice over potato layer, and lightly press down. Spoon remaining rice in pan. Cover, with dishtowel between cover and pot, and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn heat down as low as possible and cook for another 60 minutes.
Put pan of rice in sink filled with 1” of cold water for 30 seconds. Loosen rice around the edges and invert onto platter. If any potatoes stick to pan, carefully remove and replace onto top of rice. Serve immediately.