Introducing Persian Chicken! The chicken portion of the recipe is fast and easy –made with an Arabic spice blend, called Baharat, that can be whipped up in minutes.
The word “Baharat” simply means “spices” in Arabic, and this wonderfully complex blend has a unique balance of flavors. The chicken is rubbed down with salt and Baharat Spice, seared on the stove and finished in the oven until golden and crispy. Serve with saffron rice, cucumber yogurt sauce and salad and you’ll have a simple, delicious, Middle Eastern style dinner.
Baharat is often used in Arabic cooking- most commonly in Persian and Turkish dishes to add spice and a little heat to meat dishes, couscous, and tagines. The warm exotic flavors of Baharat are an easy way to spice up simple dishes and give them a little intrigue.
If you don’t have whole seeds, but have the ground spice, it’s perfectly OK to substitute ground spices, although the more whole seeds you have, the better the flavor. But don’t let the lack of the whole seeds stop you from making this.
To make Chelow, use long grain basmati rice or long-grain Jasmine rice. Do not use short-grain rice. Rinse the rice several times and parboil the rice: cook it like you would pasta, in generously salted boiling water until al dente.
Depending on the rice, this will take 5 -10 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer. You want the rice to be almost done. This is key.
While the rice is boiling toast a pinch of saffron for a minute. Place it in a bowl, with 2 T of the boiling salted water. Let is sit and infuse the water.
( You can substitute turmeric for the saffron, if you prefer, and skip toasting it)
Once the rice is par-boiled, strain and rinse again several times until the water runs clear, removing all the starch. Drain. Stir in 1 Cup of the parboiled rice to the yogurt saffron mixture. Set aside.
Turn the heat to medium-high for 2-3 minutes until you see visible puffs of steam. This will be obvious -so wait until you see it. Once you see the puffs of steam, turn heat to medium-low for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the lid.
After the timer goes off, place the whole pot in a sink or large bowl filled with very cold water, for one minute, so water is at least 2-3 inches up the sides. This will shock the rice and help it release from the sides.
Hope you enjoy this Persian Feast!
Baharat Spice Blend
- 1 T cumin seeds (or 1 T ground)
- 1 T coriander seeds ( or 1 T ground)
- 1 T whole peppercorns ( or 2 tsp)
- ½ of one whole nutmeg ( or 1 tsp ground)
- 10 whole unpeeled cardamon pod or (½ tsp ground)
- 2 inches piece cinnamon stick (or 2 tsp ground)
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 8 whole cloves (or 1 tsp ground)
- ¼ of a black lemon (optional)
- 1 star anise ( optional)
Chelow with Saffron Yogurt Crust (serves 6-8)
- 2 Cups long-grain white basmati rice
- 10 Cup Water and 1 tablespoon salt for par-boiling (you will drain this)
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 1 pinch saffron ( 10– 20 threads) or ½ tsp tumeric powder
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- 1 egg ( optional)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce ( or make this Tzatziki Sauce!)
- 1 Cup plain thick Greek yogurt
- 2 small Persian cucumbers cut lengthwise, then thinly sliced ( or 1 C English cucumber) Skin ok.
- 2 –3 T chopped fresh mint, dill, Italian parsley or cilantro ( or a combination is nice)
- 1–2 T lemon juice
- 1–2 minced garlic cloves
- ½ tsp kosher salt -or salt to taste.
- pepper to taste, white pepper is a nice touch.
- pinch of cayenne or squirt of sriracha sauce.
- Make Barahat Spice: Toast all whole seeds in a dry skillet, then pulse all in a spice grinder until ground. If using ground just stir toegher.
- Pre heat oven to 400F
- Sprinkle both sides of chicken generously with kosher salt. Rub in a generous amount (¾ teaspoon each) of Baharat Spice on both sides of each piece of chicken. If you have time to do this 30 minutes ahead, before cooking, even better!
- Heat oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Sear chicken, in hot oil, skin side down for 3- 4 minutes, until golden and crispy. Turn over and sear other side, turning heat down to medium. Sear another 3-4 minutes. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven, uncovered, and baked until cooked through, about 15- 20 minutes or until internal temp reaches 170 F ( for thighs) and juices run clear. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
To make Chelow:
- Parboil rinsed rice in 10 cups of salted water, and cook uncovered, like pasta, until grains have opened up- are just tender, yet still al dente, about 7-8 minutes, or longer if using brown rice. Drain.
- In a medium bowl, mix saffron threads with 3 Tablespoons boiling water ( just borrow from the boiling rice ). Set aside 5 minutes. Add the yogurt, generous pinch salt and 1 egg (optional) and stir.
- Add about 1 Cup of the parboiled rice into the bowl with the Yogurt Saffron mixture.
- Line the bottom of 8-10 inch diameter deep sauté pan or pot (that has a tight-fitting lid) with a circle of parchment paper. Place on the stove over Med heat. Add butter, olive oil over the parchment. When the butter has melted, swirl it around to coat parchment, add the yogurt saffron rice mixture in an even layer over the parchment. Spoon in the rest of the rice, gently building a pyramid ( don’t just dump it in- or will lose its light quality).
- At this point- you could also layer in fresh dill, mint, or parsley, slivered almonds, pine nuts or even golden raisins, or dried apricots, cumin seed or coriander seed.)
- With the end of a wooden spoon poke 5-6 steam holes down through the rice.
- Cover pot with a thin kitchen towel then place the lid over the towel and fold the corners up and over the lid, so the edges don’t catch on fire. See photo.
- Turn heat to Med-high for 2-3 minutes then turn to low heat for 30 minutes. Don’t be tempted to uncover.
- After 30 minutes, either fill the sink or large bowl with cold water deep enough to submerge the pot 2-3 inches up the sides. Place the rice pot in the cold water, to shock it, to help it release from the sides… for a few minutes. Remove lid and towel. You could also run a spatula around the edges.
- Place a large platter or plate over the top of the pot, and invert the whole thing, shaking a little and knocking the bottom of the pot so it releases. Hopefully, it comes out in one piece. If it sticks, using a sharp metal spatula, scrape and coax it out, piecing it together over the rice. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, like parsley or mint, or dill. Serve immediately!
To make Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, stir everything together in a medium bowl.
The baharat spice and yogurt sauce can be made ahead.
- Calories: 495
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