I attended a private Jewish day school from nursery school through 6th grade. Every once in a while to celebrate things like Israeli Independence Day or other special occasions we’d have Israeli food. Well, everyone else would have Israeli food while I ate a sandwich.
Israeli food is very similar to other middle eastern cuisine and middle eastern food is maybe even more dangerous to me than Asian cuisine. Between the sesame and lentils, the pistachios and figs, the dates and walnuts; it is a food allergy mine field for me. So, other than a delicious serving of plain couscous I nibbled on the food from my lunch bag while my classmates savored their falafel and humus and halva.
Then last year I stumbled on an amazing Libyan recipe. It was a lamb, olive and carrot casserole (it’s actually the photo in my banner on the top of this blog). I can’t tell you how excited I was to find a middle eastern dish that I wouldn’t have to modify at all to make. I was even more excited that it turned out to be delicious. Still this is recipe was an exception and most middle eastern dishes are still impossible for me to eat.
Another exception is Tah Chin, a baked rice and chicken dish from Iran. I did try to find an Israeli recipe, mostly so I’d have a good story to tell, but didn’t find any that would be safe for me. The Tah Chin though, required no modifications and I’ve been really anxious to get to “I” and try it.
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken; cooked and shredded (you can use leftover or store bought rotisserie if you’d like)
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 3 egg yolks
- 8-10 oz yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron (or saffron threads crushed and steeped in hot water)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 2 Tablespoons butter plus more for dotting
Rinse rice a few times until water runs clear. Cover with water by about an inch. Add salt. Bring to a boil uncovered then turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 6-7 minutes. At this point the rice should be about half-cooked; soft on the outside, but still a bit hard on the inside.
Remove rice from heat and allow to cool a bit for easier handling.
Preheat oven to 350.
In separate bowl beat 3 egg yolks. Add rice, saffron and yogurt and mix thoroughly. You want enough yogurt that the rice begins to bind together, but not so much that the rice is wet.
Remove one-third of mixture and set aside. Stir raisins in to remaining two-thirds.
Cut a round of parchment paper and place at the bottom of a 4-6 quart dutch oven. Over medium heat melt butter. When butter is melted coat the sides of the pot as well (tip: use the leftover scraps of parchment paper to spread the butter). Reduce heat to low
Place the rice and raisin mixture in the pot, pressing down so it covers the bottom of the pot. Press the middle down in to a well and place the chicken on top.
Cover with remaining rice mixture and dot with butter. Cover with lid and leave on the stove top for 5 minutes. This will help the crust start to form.
Move covered dish to the oven and cook for an hour and a half.
Place an inverted plate on top of the pot and, using pot holders, flip the pot over allowing the Tah Chin to unmold on to the plate.
Slice like a cake to serve.
FINAL VERDICT: B
I really enjoyed this dish. It looks absolutely beautiful with the rich brown color on the outside and the vibrant yellow on the inside. The texture is also wonderful; crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
I kept this recipe pretty basic, but I also saw some versions that called for the addition of sautéed onions with the kitchen and some that marinated the chicken in a yogurt sauce too. Next time I would definitely try one or both of those things to add more flavor, but overall this is a satisfying and comforting dish. This is also a dish that would be great if I was hosting people as the presentation is really dramatic.
I had some leftover yogurt and I’d recently heard about a savory Persian yogurt drink, Doogh, so I thought why not make a glass to enjoy with my Persian feast. I Googled for a recipe and used it to figure out the proportion of yogurt to seltzer and then just eyeballed the rest of it.
- 1 part yogurt
- cumin to taste
- dried mint to taste
- honey to taste
- 2 parts seltzer
Mix together yogurt, cumin, mint and honey. Top with seltzer. Stir. Serve Ice cold.
This drink was delicious and so refreshing. Since I know this is supposed to be savory I went light on the honey and this was not at all sweet so it’s not for everyone, but for a savory gal like me it was perfect. As I said above, the Tah Chin would be a great dish to serve for a group and I’d love to serve a big pitcher of Doogh on the side. Maybe one of these days I’ll have to host a Persian party.