SAFFRON THA CHINzohre mostafapor
saffron tahchin — also spelled tah-chin or tacheen — is a dramatic Persian rice dish. Partly cooked rice is flavored with saffron, yogurt and egg yolks and then layered in a dish with chicken or lamb. The whole dish is baked and then turned out onto a platter, forming a mound of deliciousness with a golden, crispy crust. The crispy, crunchy layer of browned rice that forms on the tahchin as it bakes is called the tahdig and is highly valued as a delicacy. 6 to 8 servings.
• Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless — 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
• Yogurt — 2 cups
• Lemon juice — 2 tablespoons
• Salt — 1 teaspoon
• Pepper — 1/2 teaspoon
• Saffron — 1/4 teaspoon
• Water — 6 cups
• Salt — 3 tablespoons
• Basmati or long-grain rice — 3 cups
• Egg yolks — 2
• Melted butter — 1/4 cup, or 6 tablespoons
1. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and saffron and stir together. Stir in the chicken breasts, cover and marinate for anywhere from one hour to overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and set aside.
3. Bring the water and 3 tablespoons of salt to boil in a large pot. Add the rice, stir and boil for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the rice is plump but still has a hard core. Be careful not to overcook the rice. Drain the rice in a colander or sieve, rinse with cold water and drain again.
4. Beat the egg yolks into the reserved marinade. Mix 2 cups of the rice with 3/4 of the reserved marinade.
5. Fit the bottom a large Dutch oven or casserole dish with a piece of greased parchment or wax paper. Pour 4 tablespoons of the melted butter into the bottom of the dish and spread it out. Spread the 2 cups of rice mixed with marinade evenly over the bottom of the pot. Spread 1/2 the chicken evenly over the rice. Mix the remaining rice with any leftover marinade, then spread half of this rice over the chicken. Make another layer with the remaining chicken and top it all off with the remaining rice. Pat down and smooth the top.
6. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over the top layer of rice, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
7. Remove the tah chin from the oven and set the pot or dish in a sink full of cold water for 2 to 3 minutes. (This makes it easier to remove.) Remove the pot and run a knive around the edge to separate the rice from the sides. Invert a serving platter over the top of the pot, then carefully flip it over to drop the tah chin onto the platter. Cut into pie-shaped pieces and serve hot.
TAH CHIN VARIATIONS
• Tah Chin Esfenjani: Add a layer of chopped spinach and soaked prunes or apricots before each layer of chicken.
• Tah chin is often made with cubed lamb instead of chicken. Some recipes call for browning the chicken or lamb cubes in butter before layering them with the rice.
• Substitute 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric if you don’t have saffron.