Persian cuisine has a number of magnificent rice dishes in its repertoire. Here’s one of the standouts. The rice is rinsed thoroughly and cooked twice—first boiled rapidly in a large amount of water, like pasta, then steamed over low heat nestled over tahdig, a layer of potatoes at the bottom of a pot. The tahdig turns golden brown and crunchy while the rice is cooking and prevents it from drying up. Before serving, the casserole is turned upside down onto a large platter so that the tahdig ends up on the top. Usually tahdig is fried in oil, but in this recipe (suitable for vegetarian and dairy meals), it is fried in butter with egg and yogurt, which makes it even more delicious. To make sure the tahdig doesn’t stick to the bottom, it is best to use a nonstick pan.
For more of a plain, classic tahdig, check out this.
Rinse the rice several times under running water until the water runs clear. Drain, place in a bowl, and stir in two teaspoons of the salt. Add water so it comes two inches (five centimeters) above the level of the rice and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain the rice.
Fill a medium pot with water so it is three-quarters full. Add one teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir gently, and bring to a boil again. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about three minutes, until the rice is al dente (the inside of the grain is still firm).
Transfer the rice to a colander and rinse with cold water. Mix in the herbs and apricots.
Beat the yogurt with the egg in a small bowl.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (preferably nonstick) over medium heat and add one tablespoon water. Arrange the potato slices to cover the bottom of the pan in one layer and pour the yogurt-egg mixture over them.
Sprinkle a thin layer of rice over the top and flatten gently (this, together with the potatoes, will form the tahdig). Mix the rice with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and arrange over the tahdig. Gently spoon in about 1/3 cup water. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke through the rice to create four to five “chimneys” all the way down until it hits a potato (this will ensure that the rice cooks evenly). Cover the pot with a towel (a paper towel is fine, too) and a tight-fitting lid. Cook for two to three minutes over medium heat, reduce the heat to the minimum, and cook for 40 minutes.
Remove the lid and flip the pot upside down onto a large platter, so that the tahdig is on top.
For a Vegan (non-dairy) version: fry the potato slices in two to three tablespoons vegetable oil until they become golden. Flip them and fry on the other side. Flatten some of the rice over this and continue as directed.
Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.