As the more elaborate form of everyday Persian rice, chelo is a wonderful treat, usually served with kebabs or with a moist stew-like khoresh. The rice is soaked, then briefly cooked in plenty of boiling water. To create a delicious crust and perfectly textured rice, the rice is then returned to the pot and gently steamed for thirty minutes. But first the bottom of the pot is covered with oil or butter with a binder such as egg or yogurt (or both) and a thin layer of rice or some flatbread or thinly sliced potatoes. This bottom layer cooks to a golden crispy crust known as the tahdig and is served beside or on top of the finished dish.
Though the instructions may seem elaborate, you’ll understand the sequence and be delighted by the perfection of the results after you’ve made this rice once. Serve it with Persian Lamb Kebabs with Sumac, Golden Chicken Kebabs, or Silk Road Kebab, with a yogurt sauce and sliced ripe tomatoes or cucumbers.
Wash the rice thoroughly, then place in a large pot with
Drain well in a fine sieve. In the same pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a vigorous boil. Add the remaining
Place the pot back over high heat and add the oil or butter and
The tahdig comes off more easily if, before removing the lid, you place the pot in an inch of cold water (in the sink) for a minute. Then remove the lid and, if you’re using saffron, gently spoon about
In spring and summer, when fresh herbs are available, you can add to the rice 1 to 2 cups of a mixture of some or all of the following, finely chopped: tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, dill, and/or chives. Add the herbs just before the rice finishes boiling.
Instead of mixing the rice with the egg and yogurt, you can use pieces of flatbread (split pitas, or flour tortillas, for example) or some grated potato for the crust. Place the oil or butter and water in the pot and heat. Line the bottom of the pot with pieces of flatbread or with the potato. Pour the egg and yogurt mixture over, then mound the rice on top and proceed with the recipe.
Because it has some oil in it, chelo will stay fairly tender for a few days if stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It can easily be reheated by tossing it in a lightly oiled skillet or wok. It also makes a filling lunch dish whisked with a little egg, seasoned, and gently cooked in a thin omelette like the classic Spanish tortilla; serve with a green salad.
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