The Persian way of cooking rice (Polow) differs fairly significantly from the standard American way (or any other way I'm familiar with), and as it turns out, there are variations among Persian cooks as to how to prepare the rice foundation. . It is a two-step process at a minimum, but the resulting texture and other attributes are worth the effortThis pretty variation of polow is a stunning addition to either a holiday table or humble dinner.
- 2 cups Basmati rice*
- 1 medium pomegranate (or substitute dried cranberries, soaked in the orange juice while the rice is cooking)
- 2 medium oranges
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- Pinch saffron threads
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- Dash turmeric powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large-ish or 2 small-ish potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
Section oranges, reserving any juices. Remove arils (seeds) from pomegranates, reserving any juices. Toast pistachios gently in a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until just fragrant. Combine orange sections, pomegranate arils, pistachios and any reserved fruit juices with a pinch of saffron threads. Add coriander, parsley, turmeric, salt and pepper and stir until combined. Set aside, but keep at room temperature.
Start the rice by rinsing until the water runs (mostly) clear; just pour the rice into the pot you will cook it in, draw enough water to cover, swish the rice around, drain and repeat 3-4 times. This process rinses the excess starch away from the rice which will make it fluffy instead of gluey. Next, cover the rice with 2 inches of water and add 1 Tbs. salt (yes, one TABLEspoon). Bring the rice to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 8-10 minutes; the center of the rice grains should still be a little crunchy as the rice is only partially cooked at this point. Remove from heat and drain rice. Rinse well to rinse the salt off and drain again. Wipe out the pot and pour enough olive or vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan to a depth of not quite 1/4-inch. Place the potato slices in a single layer across the bottom and pour the drained rice back into the pot (you can opt not to use the potatoes here and you will just end up with a layer of crispy rice). Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (it is often recommended to place a paper towel or dishtowel between the pot and the lid to prevent any water from dripping back into the pot); reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until rice is tender. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl or platter, trying to avoid the bottom layer of now-crispy potatoes and rice. This layer is the highly sought-after delicacy called 'tadiq' and should be served on a separate dish. Spoon the fruit-nut mixture onto the rice, adding a little juice as you go--you may not need to add it all--and stir gently to combine.
*Traditionally Persian polow is made with white Basmati rice. To substitute brown Basmati rice, extend first cooking time to 35 minutes and second cooking time to 20-25 minutes.