Special Everyday Rice (Chelo)

Total Time:
4 hr 15 min
Prep:
30 min
Cook:
3 hr 45 min

Yield:
6 servings
Level:
Easy

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • Water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, dry-roasted, crumbled to a powder, and dissolved in 3 tablespoons warm water (optional)
Directions
  • Wash the rice thoroughly, then place in a large pot with 3 tablespoons of the salt and enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Let soak for 2 to 3 hours.

  • Drain well in a fine sieve. In the same pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a vigorous boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt, then gradually sprinkle in the rice. Stir gently to prevent sticking, and bring back to a boil. After the rice has been boiling for 2 minutes, test for doneness. The rice is ready when the outside is tender but there remains a slight uncooked resistance at the core of the grain. If the core of the grain is brittle, it's not done enough. Continue to check the rice until done, usually about 4 minutes, then drain in the sieve and rinse with tepid to cool water (to prevent cooking any more).

  • Place the pot back over high heat and add the oil or butter and 1 tablespoon water. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg. Stir in about 1/2 cup rice, then place in the sizzling oil and spread over the bottom of the pot. Gradually add the remaining rice, sprinkling it in to form a mound. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make three or four holes through the mound to the bottom, then cover the pot with a lid wrapped in a tea towel. (The towel helps seal the lid and absorbs moisture from the rising steam.) Heat over medium-high heat until steam builds up, 1 to 2 minutes, then lower heat to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes. When it is done, the rice will be tender and fluffy with a flavorful crust, the tahdig, on the bottom.

  • The tahdig comes off more easily if, before removing the lid, you place the pot in an inch of cold water (in the sink) for a minute. Then remove the lid and, if you're using saffron, gently spoon about 1 cup rice into the saffron water mixture; stir to blend. Mound the remaining rice on a platter. Sprinkle on the saffron rice, if you have it. Place chunks of the crust on top or on a separate plate; it's a big treat.


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