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Saffron Steamed Plain Basmati Rice (Chelow)
Servings: 6

3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
8 cups cold water
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil, butter, or ghee
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron threads, dissolved in 4 tablespoons
hot water

Pick over the rice carefully to remove its many small solid particles
of grit. Wash the rice by placing it in a large container and
covering it with lukewarm water. Agitate gently with your hand,
then pour off the water. Repeat five times until the rice is
completely clean. In a large nonstick pot, bring 8 cups of water
and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add the rice to the pot and boil
briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice with a wooden
spoon to loosen any grains that stick to the bottom. Once a rice
rises to the top of the pot, it is done. Drain the rice in a large,
fine-mesh strainer and rinse with 3 cups lukewarm water.

In a bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, 2 spatulas full of
rice, the yogurt, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, and 1 tablespoon of
saffron water. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the rice
pot. This will form the golden crust, or tah dig.

One spatula full at a time, gently mound the remaining rice onto
the tah dig layer. Shape it into a pyramid to leave room for the
rice's expansion. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 10 minutes
over medium heat. Mix 1 cup cold water with 4 tablespoons oil and
pour over rice. Sprinkle on the remaining saffron water. Place a
clean dishtowel or 2 layers of paper towel over the pot to absorb
condensation, and cover with the lid to prevent steam from escaping.
Reduce the heat to low and cook 50 minutes longer. Remove the pot
from the heat and cool it, still covered, on a damp surface for 5
minutes to loosen the crust.

There are two ways to serve the rice. The first is to hold the
serving platter tightly over the uncovered pot and invert the two
together, unmolding the entire mound onto the platter. The rice
will emerge as a golden-crusted cake, to be garnished with edible
flowers and herbs, then served in wedges. The second serving style
is to spoon the rice into a pyramid on the serving platter, taking
care not to disturb the bottom crust as you do so. After the pyramid
is shaped, detach the crust with a wooden spatula and arrange it
in pieces around the pyramid or serve it on a small side platter.

Note: You can use any kind of pot to make this rice, but nonstick
pots make unmolding the rice much easier.

If using American long-grain rice wash the rice once only.

To reheat leftover rice, place the rice in a saucepan with 1/2 cup
water and place over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.


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