Feb 1, 2012

Bring on the Saffron

By Judith Goldstein 

Every culture has a different image in their mind when they think of comfort food. For me it's the thought of the deep aroma of saffron, cardamom, persian rice, and raw herbs and onions that takes me to that happy place and makes me good inside. So whenever I'm homesick and miss those magical Shabbat evenings where my family and friends gathered around a table filled with various stews, rice, fresh herbs, gondhi, tadik (crunchy rice), and baked chicken, I make myself my favorite Persian dishes- Polo Zereshk ( rice with currants) and saffron baked chicken.

Saffron has been cultivated in Iran since the 10th century B.C and according to Wikepedia, "threads of saffron would be scattered across beds and mixed into hot teas as a curative for bouts of melancholy." So, perhaps my craving for saffron is beyond my perceived wants and really what my body needs. I'm not sure, regardless, it's this intoxicating scent that sends me down to a happy happy place and I want to share with you my favorite dish.

In Persian culture, making rice is more than a cooking ritual, it's considered an art form. Back in the day, a woman's talent was measured by the quality of her rice. Cooking rice correctly takes an intuitive understanding of timing. I've probably cooked rice over a thousand times, and still my rice isn't as nearly good as pro's like my mother. But here is the recipe below for Polo Zereshk: 

Rice (for up to four people): 

2 Cups of rice
3 Tbl. of water
2 Tbl of oil 

1. Wash two cups of rice thoroughly and add 1/2 Tbl of salt 
2. Bring water to a boil ( enough to cover two cups of rice, it doesn't matter how much as long as the rice is immersed) 
3. Once the water comes to a boil, add rice 
4. After the water and the rice come to a boil wait 3 minutes and drain the water out ( you want the rice still be slightly crunchy) 
5. Put the pot back on the stove and add 2Tbl. of water and 1 Tbl. of vegetable oil, allow that to get hot
6. Add the rice back into the pot and add 1 Tbl of water and 1 Tble spoon of oil to the top, cover the rice (you want the bottom of the rice to become crunchy so that you can have tadik, crunchy rice) 
7. After about ten minutes, bring the heat down to medium and sprinkle a little more oil 
8. Cook for ten more minutes and bring heat down to low 
9. Cook for ten more minutes on low and take the rice of the heat and set it aside

Zereshk mix: 

1 large yellow onion
1/2 cup of currants, if you don't have currants you can use cranberries
sliced almonds (optional) 
orange zest (optional) 
5-8 threads of saffron
2 teaspoons of salt 
1 Tbl olive oil 

1. Chop onion
2. Add to a pan and bring to heat
3. Add onions to pan over med. heat
4. Cook for ten minutes, stirring frequently until the onions get soft
5. Add  salt and saffron
6. Add the currants or cranberries and cook for five minutes
7. Add slice almonds and a couple of pieces of orange zest
8. Mix everything with the white rice 


Whole Chicken
5-8 threads of saffron
2 lemons juiced
1/4 cup of olive oil 
sliced onion
Salt and Pepper

1. Ground saffron
2. Mix lemon juice, olive oil and saffron and pour on top of chicken
3. Add salt and pepper to taste
4. Garnish with sliced onions
5. Baked at 175F for 75 mins


1 comment:

  1. I love the smell (and taste) of the onions with saffron and the currants... I could eat that all alone!