Recipe courtesy of May Yacoubi

Maalouba (Upside-Down Rice)

Many cultures throughout the Middle East make a version of this layered rice dish, also known as maqluba or maklouba. Chef May's version includes both vegetables and chicken. Unmolding a maalouba neatly can be tricky. We found that the longer we let it rest, the better ours held together. If yours sticks a little, don't worry—it will still taste delicious.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr (includes resting time)
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 8 servings
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Ingredients

Chicken:

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

1 red onion, quartered

One 3- to 4-pound whole chicken, quartered, backbone removed and reserved

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cinnamon sticks

2 bay leaves

5 whole cardamom pods

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon ground allspice

Rice:

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

1 1/2 cups short-grain rice

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled, thickly sliced and deep fried in vegetable oil (see Cook's Note)

1 medium eggplant, thickly sliced and deep fried in vegetable oil (see Cook's Note)

2 cups cauliflower florets, deep fried in vegetable oil (see Cook's Note)

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, for serving

Parsley leaves, for serving

1 fresh red chile pepper, sliced in half, for serving

Salad:

2 small cucumbers, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

Flaky sea salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. For the chicken: Heat the oil with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cardamom and 1 teaspoon pepper over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot and celery; stir to combine. Add the chicken pieces, including the backbone, skin-side down and sear until the skin is golden brown. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt and add 7 cups water to just cover the chicken. Stir in the turmeric and allspice. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 40 minutes.
  2. Remove the chicken to a platter and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard the vegetables, spices and backbone and set the stock aside.
  3. For the rice: Meanwhile, add the basmati and short-grain rice to a large bowl and cover with water. Stir in the turmeric and soak for 30 minutes. Strain the rice and discard the water.
  4. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot with a lid, layer the chicken pieces skin-side down, followed by a layer of fried potato slices, a layer of fried eggplant slices and a layer of cauliflower. Add the rice, letting it fall in between the vegetables and chicken. Add the 7 cups of stock until the rice is just covered.
  5. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Continue to cook until the rice is tender and the liquid has been completely absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest with the lid on for 30 minutes.
  6. For the salad: Toss the cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
  7. Place a large serving platter or plate over the pot and carefully flip to unmold. Garnish the maalouba with toasted pine nuts, parsley leaves and the red chile . Serve the maalouba with the side salad.

Cook’s Note

To fry the vegetables: Fill a heavy-bottomed pot fitted with a deep-fry thermometer with 2 inches vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees F over medium-high heat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Working in batches, fry the potato and eggplant slices until deep golden brown and just soft on the inside, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to the prepared baking sheet. Bring oil back to temperature between batches. Fry the cauliflower at 375 degrees F until golden brown and softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the paper towel lined baking sheet and season all the vegetables with 1 teaspoon salt.

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