Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I've lately discovered a new fascination with Iranian food. It started with a long weekend spent reading the latest issue of Saveur cover-to-cover, which included a pages-long article about Iranian home cooking, complete with delicious-sounding recipes. Over coffee with a client that same evening, I brought up my newfound desire to make Khorescht, a chicken stew with pomegranate molasses that featured heavily in the article, and she revealed that her Iranian mother had a treasure-trove of home recipes that she could procure for me. It took all my reserve to keep from leaping up and screaming, "YES!" These are the things that excite me--real home recipes made by real home cooks. Especially if they have some sort of exotic, ethnic bent. It's just more interesting that way.

One of the recipes that said client had her mother write out for me that week was for a wonderfully simple yogurt and saffron rice dish called Tahchin. It incorporates just a few ingredients and involves layering the ingredients "like lasagna." Sounded fun to me. I planned ahead a bit, since the recipe called for a roasted chicken breast, skin removed, and decided that we'd have a berbere-spiced roast chicken one night, and then use the leftovers to make the tahchin for the following night. It worked beautifully. The berbere roast chicken is, quite possibly, my new favorite way to roast a bird, and this tahchin was absolutely delicious. I lifted the lid off the cast-iron pot when the requisite cooking time had gone by to be greeted with a fragrant waft of spice and the sight of white rice studded with brilliant yellow and red bits courtesy of the generous amount of saffron that goes into this. I love saffron. Have I mentioned that? Love it. When mixed all together, this concoction is positively heady--a bit tangy from the thick Greek yogurt with an amazing texture due to the crisp layer of browned rice lining the bottom of the pot. Add the chunks of roast chicken, and you've got perfection in a pot. It'll make it into my regular(ish) rotation, for sure. xo

Serves 4, generously
3 cups basmati rice
2 cups of plain Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon saffron, crumbled
3 cups roast chicken meat, shredded into bite-size chunks, skin removed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook the rice in the water for 8 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, saffron, shredded chicken, salt and pepper.

Cover the bottom of a cast-iron pot or Dutch oven with the oil. Place 1/3 of the rice into the pot and smooth over into a neat layer. Place 1/3 of the yogurt mixture on top of the rice. Continue layering as such until all the ingredients are used up.

Cover the pot and simmer on medium-low heat for one hour. At this point, you may place a large plate over the opening of the pot and invert the tahchin so that it comes out in one piece with the crispy layer of rice on top. I preferred to save myself any potential mess and simply mixed it all up in the pot, making sure that the crispy bits were evenly distributed. Serve hot.