Monday, November 06, 2006

Grinds: Naranj Pilaf

I just stumbled on a dish that is going right into my repertoire of I feel like showing off in the kitchen look what I can do! It's an Iranian dish called Shirin Polow & chicos: trust me on this one, it's good. It's a saffron and orange-scented chicken pilaf unlike anyting I've had state-side. My whole house smells like saffron right now, and this spice is worth every dime. You want to seduce me? Diamonds may be grand, but saffron is this boy's best friend.

I had never heard of this dish before the past weekend, when I read this in the New York Times: At Bahar in Elmhurst, the best Afghan restaurant I have found in New York, the naranj pilaf is a rich, glowing orange color, thickly larded with shreds of orange peel, soft almonds and pistachios.

Well, Bahar in Elmhurst is a bit far for me. Nothing I googled sounded that good, so I went to Tribe and asked around. It was mostly radio silence, but CoPPeRsGyPsYaNgeL offered this recipe that she found on the Iran Chamber Society:

Shirin Polow
4 Servings
  • 500 grams basmati or long-grain rice
  • 800 grams chicken
  • 2 spoons butter
  • 50 grams almonds
  • 50 grams pistachios
  • 100 grams orange peel
  • 500 grams sugar
  • two large onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • cooking oil
  • salt & black pepper

Soak rice in warm water for 2 hours. Wash chicken. Peel and thinly slice onions. Fry in oil until slightly golden. Add chicken pieces and fry until color changes. Add a glass of hot water, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add more hot water during cooking if necessary. About 1/2 glass of water should be left at the end. Remove chicken bones.

Save 2-3 spoons of sugar for later use. Add remaining sugar to a glass of hot water and bring to a boil. Add chicken juice, 2-3 spoons of oil and saffron, and mix well.

Thinly slice almonds and pistachios. Soak almonds in cold water for an hour. Thinly slice orange peels. Boil for a few minutes, drain and repeat. Soak in cold water for an hour, drain, and repeat. Finally boil for a few minutes with three spoons of sugar, and drain.

Prepare rice using the recipe for polow. When rice is rinsed, pour a bit of oil, butter and hot water in a pot, and add 1/2 of rice. Spread chicken pieces over the rice, and cover with 1/2 of remaining rice. Spread half of almonds and orange peel over rice and cover with remaining rice. Pour sugar and chicken-juice mix prepared earlier over rice.

Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Add remainder of almonds, orange peel, and pistachios, and mix well.

I copied that verbatim. Not all of it makes sense when you get to the actual cooking, so I winged quite a bit of it. I was too lazy to convert grams, so I just pretended that 1 gram was the same as 1 milliliter, and then didn't bother to measure anything anyways. Other changes: I used bomba rice, 1 onion, and four chicken thighs with skin and bones. If you try this recipe with skinless and boneless chicken then go away. You are not my friend. I used half the amount of sugar, and added one julienned carrot with the onnions. I cooked it all stove-top in a paella pan.

And ... oh my. Saffron, almonds, and pistachios - why is our nation in conflict with people who can cook like this? I have a suggestion for a new world order: let's choose our allies based on who's got the best cuisine. We'll lose England, but gain Morocco. Sounds fair enough to me.

The article mentionned that the crusty rice on the bottom of the pan was reserved for the elderly ladies in the house. Since I don't have any Iranian widows staying with me at the moment I ate it all myself.

I've offered to cook meals at the Aikane Surf House this December, and this one is going on the agenda. I'm pretty sure the boys will like it.

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