tah chin-e morgh: baked saffron yogurt rice with chicken

tah chin (which literally translates to “arrange on the bottom”) is one of those dishes that has definitely grown on me with time. when i was a kid it was one of my least favorite {persian} dishes-i’m not even sure why…i think it may have had to do with the eggs that are involved, because at the time, i didn’t like eggs much either. sometimes i wish i was still the same picky eater who (as my mom likes to tell it) would order an ice cream cone and let it drip all the way down my arm without ever taking a bite. but i’m not-these days, i find myself with the opposite problem….i like too many things, and often have to restrict myself. as you can imagine, i don’t make tah chin-e morgh very often, because when i do, i eat way too much of it! trust me on this-if you’re looking for a meal that’ll make you feel happy and fully comforted, give this one a try.

ingredients for 6-8 servings:
for the rice

  • 2.5 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 organic egg yolks
  • 1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 3-4 tbs warm water
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • the ingredients above make up the yogurt mixture
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable) and 1/2 cup melted butter  (or 1 full cup of butter)
  • 2 tbs coarse salt for boiling rice
  • 3 cups long grain basmati rice
  • a mixture of 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1-2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1-2 tsp gol-e-sorkh (rose petals)-OPTIONAL

for the chicken:

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 whole cut up organic chicken, skin removed (or 8-10 pieces of choice)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground saffron
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1-2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil

1. cook the chicken first using this recipe– {or use uncooked chicken marinated in part of the yogurt mixture from above for about 2-3 hours, then arrange at the bottom of the pot before adding the boiled rice (see instructions below) to the top}

2. tah chin can be made in the oven in a pyrex baking dish or on the stove top in a non stick pot-if you are using the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees.
3. clean and rinse the rice until the water runs clear. bring 8-9 cups water to boil in a large pot with 2 tbs coarse salt. add the rice to boiling water and boil briskly for 7-9 minutes (stirring gently a few times). drain the rice after the 9 minutes (at most) are up in a fine mesh colander and rinse with warm water. set aside.

4. combine the yogurt mixture and mix well-heat 1/2 cup of oil in a non stick deep pot or in a pyrex baking dish, then add the yogurt mixture and a few spatulas of rice to the pot/pan combining the rice and yogurt mixture together carefully so as not to break the rice granules.
5. if using raw chicken, arrange the marinated chicken at the bottom of the pot or baking dish-if not add the braised saffron chicken (with juices) over the first layer of rice and yogurt mixture, and press them down carefully. cover with more layers of rice and the spices (if you want to add the spices).

6. when all the rice has been added, press down carefully with a spatula and pour the 1/2 cup of melted butter (plus 2-3 tbs warm water) evenly over the top. cover with the lid (or if a pyrex dish tightly with aluminum foil).

7. in the oven: place baking dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for 1.5-2 hours, until the bottom of the rice turns golden brown. remove from the oven, and allow the covered dish to cool slightly on a damp towel for 10 minutes-loosen the rice from the sides with a knife, then place a large platter over the dish and carefully turn upside down (as you would with a cake).
8. in non stick pot: cook covered on high for about 6-8 minutes (stay close to the pot), reduce the heat to med/low (closer to low) after at most 10 minutes and allow the tah chin to cook for 1 to 1.5 hours (if using uncooked chicken) with the lid tightly on. remove from heat, allow the pot to sit for 4-5 minutes, then turn upside down on to a platter like a cake.

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