Tuesday, August 27, 2019

First Try, Wrong Dish: 'Tahdig', I Mean 'Tahcheen' #FoodieReads


I just finished a different book set in Iran. You'll hear more about that soon, I promise! But that inspired me to pick up some other books on my bookshelf from the same region of the world and I revisited this one first - Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas.*

On the Page
Funny in Farsi is a memoir written by an Iranian-born author who immigrated to California when she was 7 years old. It's - as you would expect from the title - funny. Really funny. But it's also heart-wrenching and mortifying.

Imagine having your name's pronunciation slaughtered at every turn. I didn't have to imagine; I get it all the time. Most of the time I just introduce myself this way: "It's Camilla. Like Pamela, but with a C." Still, when people see if, even after I have just said it, it's still Ca-MI-la or Camellia, like those horrible flowers that rot while they are still on the bush. She writes My name, Firoozeh, chosen by my mother, means 'Turquoise' in Persian. In America, it means 'Unpronounceable'.... One mom at her children's school refused to learn her name and, instead, started calling her 'F-Word.'

Dumas writes with candor and her accounts truly convey the immigrant experience. I, myself, am first generation, but I have heard stories from my parents and my grandparents. So, I can relate by extension.

I chuckled at her characterization of Berkeley. Having lived there for 5 years for college, I would agree with her assessment - Berkeley wasn't just any armpit, it was an armpit in need of a shave and a shower, an armpit full of well-read people.... Don't get me wrong, I love Berkeley. But her characterization is painfully accurate. I think that's where her humor succeeds: She tells it like it is.

After reading this and the other Iranian book, I was inspired to attempt Tahdig. I have only had it once before. Actually, it was in Berkeley when my Iranian friend made it for me and Jake at her home. We have since lost touch and I never did get her recipe.

I figured that I would prefer a hands on lesson from someone who actually knows how to make this. I was able to perfect my soccarat on paella after a lesson from one of my favorite Spaniards. But, alas!, no one offered to help me, so I decided to give it a try on my own. It wasn't too bad, if I might say so myself.
On the Plate

Now, here's something else funny. I wanted to try my hand at Tahdig, but I also wanted a complete meal, not just a side dish. So, I found a recipe that I thought was just tahdig with chicken. Turns out, it's got a completely different name. So, I actually made Tacheen...and maybe not even that since I used rabbit and not chicken. Oye! It's hard to be linguistically ignorant.

In any case, Tahdig is a Persian rice dish, cooked in two stages, with a distinctive crispy bottom. The word tahdig itself is Persian for "bottom of the pot." The crusted rice that is found at the bottom of the pan, after the rice cooks, is the signature of the dish as well as its most coveted part. 


Tahcheen means “arranged on the bottom,” and it is a lovely dish with succulent pieces of saffron chicken, or rabbit in this case. This is a conglomeration of different recipes and techniques I found online. It wasn't perfect, but a few people who might be in the know commented, after I posted a photo, that it "looks pretty good" and "looks right to me." I'll take it!

Ingredients 
  • 3 C white basmati rice
  • water
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • salt
  • 1/2 C diced carrots
  • 1/2 C diced celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 pound boneless rabbit, cut into chunks
  • ¼ t fresh lemon juice + more as needed
  • ¼ t ground saffron
  • 2 T hot water
  • 1 C whole milk yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • Ground turmeric for sprinkling
  • 5 T butter, divided
  • chopped herbs for serving

Procedure 
Place the rice in a pot, covered in cold water, for 30 to 60 minutes. Swirl it around in the water a few times. Then drain and rinse it until the water runs clear. Mine took three rinses.

Soak the saffron in 2 T hot water. Set aside.

In a large stockpot, combine 8 C of water and the 2 heaping T of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the rice and bring it to a boil again. After 5 minutes it should be softened but still opaque and not totally cooked through. Drain and rinse the rice under cold running water in a colander. Measure out 2 cups of the parboiled rice and set aside.

In a large pan or skillet with a lid (I used my Le Creuset braiser), heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the onion, carrots, and celery. Add a dash of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes; you don't want the garlic to brown too much or it will get bitter.

Stir in the rabbit. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the rabbit takes on a little color, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and the saffron water Turn the rabbit  pieces to coat all sides, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer, turning once in a while, until the chicken is tender and just cooked through, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if needed. Set the rabbit aside in its cooking juices.

Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack set in the lowest position.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, egg, and a sprinkle of ground turmeric. Fold in half of the parboiled rice, and set aside.

Place 3 T butter in a rimmed baking dish (again, I used my Le Creuset braiser) and place in the oven to melt, approximately 2 minutes. Swirl or brush the melted butter all over and up the sides of the dish. Spread the yogurt-rice mixture evenly on the bottom of the dish, pressing it down firmly. Add a layer of the rabbit  pieces evenly over the rice, top with a layer of the plain rice, drizzle with 2 T of ra rabbit juices, smooth the top, and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and place in the oven. Bake for about 70 or 80 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently lift the edge of the rice to see if it's nicely golden. If not, bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, but take care not to scorch it. Take the tahcheen out of the oven, and let it rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, remove soft rice to a mixing bowl and fold in fresh herbs. Spoon onto individual plates. Remove the hard, crunchy rice from the pot and break it evenly into however many people you are serving. Place the crunchy rice, inverted, over the top. Serve immediately.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Click to see what everyone else read in August 2019: here.

1 comment:

  1. I thought you hadn't been reading?!! Holy cow. This dish sounds delicious regardless of what you call it.

    ReplyDelete

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