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Rice 101 – Chelow

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Prep time: 5 min.            

Cooking time: 30 min.                          

Serves: 4

Rice is the staple food of many cuisines around the world. Due to its wide variety, it can be prepared in several ways to best preserve its taste and texture. The most common ways of preparing rice in the Persian cuisine include Chelow or white rice, Katteh or non-strained rice pilaf, and Polo or mixed rice with herbs and vegetables.

In the Persian cuisine, Chelow is customarily served with a variety of stews and kebabs. The secret to cooking a perfect rice widely depends on the type of rice. In the Persian as well as many Mediterranean cuisines the rice of choice is Basmati rice. It is relatively suitable for quick cooking (unlike Brown rice, no long term soaking is required) and the grains hold their texture for serving purposes. Mix a small portion of the cooked rice with brewed saffron and voila! The white rice turns into an aromatic and glamorous dish.

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Ingredients

2 cups Basmati rice

7-8 cups water

1 ½ teaspoon salt

3-4 tablespoon Canola oil

Directions:

1 – Wash 2 cups of Basmati rice under lukewarm water. Drain. Repeat rinse and drain (4-5 times) until the water runs clear. This step is very important to wash away the excess starch. Otherwise, the rice will be too starchy and sticky. Then add water and salt. Choose a non-stick pot that is large enough to fit about 8 cups of water. Throughout the boiling process, the rice grains grow taller and need enough room to float. A 5-qt. pot will do the trick.

2 – Bring water to a boil over high heat until rice grains come to the surface. Gather the foam that is appearing on the surface with a spoon and throw it away. Let the rice simmer for 5 minutes.

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3 – At this point, the rice grains should have almost doubled in size. When squeezed between two fingers, they should crush easily on the outside but a slight firmness can be felt inside.

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4 – Remove from the heat and transfer to a coriander. Give it a quick rinse under cold. If you have mistakenly added too much salt, rinsing a little longer will take care of it. The next step is to return the rice to the pot to complete the cooking process which can be done in 2 ways.

5 – For a quick cook up, place the pot over medium high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot, approximately 3-4 tablespoons. Fluff the rice in the coriander to prevent the grains from sticking. Add rinsed rice in layers. Then pour about 1/3 water over the rice and close the lid.

Or for a fancier look and a tasty crispy rice at the bottom of the pot, do the followings:

The crispy rice can be either a thin layer of rice smeared in brewed saffron or even a few pinches of turmeric powder to render the yellow-orange-crimson color. Or add a piece of thin flat bread like tortilla bread or Lavash to cover the bottom. Or peel a potato (preferably Golden or Russet) and arrange thinly sliced potatoes at the bottom (shown below). I added a few drops of brewed saffron to intensify the color. Let the potatoes fry in the oil for 1-2 minutes before adding the rice in layers.

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6 – Add the rice. Pour about 1/3 cup of water over the rice and close the lid. Allow it to steam. When the steam escapes the pot and water drops form on the lid, wrap the lid in a kitchen cloth or 2 sheets of paper towel and cover the pot again. This will prevent the steam gathering inside the pot to drip into rice. Lower heat and allow it to cook for 15 minutes or until the rice looks dry on top.

The white rice or Chelow is now ready. It can be spooned out for each plate individually. Or it can be turned upside down into a big serving plate like a cake. In order to make certain that it will come out of the pot in one piece, it is best to dunk the bottom of the pot in a shallow cold bath for 2 minutes. Then turn it upside down into the serving plate. Noosh-e jan!

 

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