Persian-Style Rice with Golden Crust (Chelow)
Why This Recipe Works
Chelow is a classic Iranian dish that marries an unusually light and fluffy rice pilaf with a golden-brown, crispy crust (which is known as tahdig). It is, in essence, two dishes in one. We found that rinsing the rice and then soaking it for 15 minutes in hot salted water was just as effective as the traditional 24-hour cold-water soak for producing fluffy grains. Parboiling the rice and then steaming it to finish cooking was also essential to creating the best texture for the pilaf and the perfect crust. But steaming the grains for 30 minutes rather than the traditional hour was enough; we also wrapped the lid with a towel to absorb extra moisture and thereby ensure fluffiness. Combining a portion of the rice with thick Greek yogurt and oil created a nicely browned, flavorful crust, while chunks of butter added during steaming enriched the pilaf portion. The yogurt also made the tahdig easier to remove from the pot, as did brushing the bottom of the pot with a little extra oil and letting the pot rest on a damp towel after cooking. Adding cumin seeds and parsley to the dish made for a more interesting and well-rounded flavor profile.