Crispy Persian Rice (Tahdig)

One of my favorite aspects of freelance life, is that I get a small taste of my true life aspiration: being a stay-at-home housewife. Don't get me wrong I love working from home and running around the city all day, but I get a crazy amount of joy in having dinner ready for my fiancé, Alex, when he gets home. While he's technically Iraqi, his family spent a great deal of time in Iran, which is why his childhood was filled with Persian food. When we started dating, I made it my mission to tackle this cuisine.

At the top of the pedestal of Persian food is tahdig. Literally translating to bottom of the pot, tahdig is the crispy layer of rice that tastes like no other. Perfumed with saffron and butter, this crispy rice is just what you need to soak up any Persian stew, or khoresht (got plenty of those recipes coming your way soon). Needless to say, Alex loses his shit when he comes home from work to find a Persian feast, always including enough tahdig for snacking the next day.

The true trick to this dish is practice. You begin to understand the rice and the smells and sounds that it makes. Listen for a slow sizzle to know the rice is slowly getting golden and not burnt, as well as smell for an aroma of toasted bread to know when its ready. As for the towel wrapped around the lid, that's to absorb the steam to prevent the crust from getting soggy (nobody likes a soggy bottom). As you become a true tahdig master, you'll be able to make it in just about any pot.


Crispy Persian Rice (Tahdig)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus soaking time

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes, plus soaking time


Ingredients

3 cups basmati rice, rinsed

2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

2 tablespoons boiling water

Pinch saffron threads, crushed

1 cup whole yogurt

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cover the rice with cold water and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Let soak for 1 hour, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the boiling water and the saffron and let sit until bright red, 10 minutes. Whisk in 1/2 tablespoon of the salt with the yogurt and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with the remaining 1 tablespoon of the salt. Boil the rice until just tender, 5 minutes, then drain.
  4. Grease a 10-inch non-stick shallow pot with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. To the yogurt mixture, gently stir in 3 cups of the boiled rice until coated. Spread the coated rice on the bottom of the pot and up 2-inches around the sides. Top with the remaining rice, then drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over top.
  5. Wrap a towel around the bottom of lid of the pot and cover. Place over medium high heat until you begin to hear the rice sizzling, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and run a rubber spatula along the sides to ensure it doesn’t stick. Place a platter over the pot and invert so the crispy rice is on top, then serve.