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Iranian Tah-Chin Morgh
The Participant Observer Recipe of the Month is Iranian Tah-Chin Morgh. Made from relatively simple ingredients, this rice and chicken timbale has a golden crispy crust and a great blend of ingredients that will delight your dinner guests.

Tah-Chin

Tah-Chin (Also: Tah chin, Tahchin, Persian: ته چین‎) is an Iranian rice cake (or timbale) made out of rice, meat (chicken is common), yogurt, eggs and plenty of saffron. The yogurt and egg yolks make a custard that makes the dish firm. Due it is deliciousness and beautiful shape, Tah-Chin is one of the best Iranian dishes for formal feast. Iranians love rice and love to layer it with different types of vegetables and meat. "Tah" is a Farsi word for bottom and "chin" is the root word for "chidan", which means putting things in order, arranging, and in this case, layering. I think that the tastiest part of this dish is the crispy bottom layer, which is called Tah Dig. In fact, it is typical in restaurants to be served just the Tah Dig, not the rice on top of it. There are different types of Tah-Chin including spinach, fish, and lamb, although chicken is the most popular. Either white meat or dark meat can be used. Tah-chin is often served with plain yogurt, salad Shirazi, or torshi. This dish uses long-grain basmati rice, which is now widely available. Tah-Chin is built in layers. It has relatively simple ingredients but requires a bit of time (well over an hour) for all the cooking stages. The final stages are cooked in a slope-sided round saucepan of approximately three quarts. After the Tah-Chin is cooked, it is inverted onto a serving plate revealing a crunchy golden top. To save some money, purchase the saffron at Trader Joe's, a Middle-eastern or Indian grocery.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts or 1 pound of boneless chicken (dark meat).
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups thick full-fat yogurt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup Zereshk (Dried Barberries)
  • 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistacios (optional)
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Place chicken, chopped onion and a teaspoon of salt in a saucepan and fill with enough water to just cover the ingredients.
  2. Bring saucepan to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is fully cooked.
  3. Soak saffron threads in a half cup of very hot water.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the yogurt until it is smooth.
  5. Add the egg yolks, cooked onion, saffron, salt, pepper to the yogurt and mix well.
  6. After the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside to cool.
  7. In a large pot, cook 3 cups of Basmati rice in 6 cups of water for about 10 minutes. The rice should not be fully cooked at this point. Many people soak Basmati for a half hour or longer before cooking. This makes the rice fluffier.
  8. Add 2 cups of the partially cooked rice (you will use the remainder of the rice later) to the yogurt mixture and blend well.
  9. When the chicken is cool enough, shred it, but not too finely.
  10. Ladle 2/3 of the rice and yogurt mix into the sauce pan, flatten with a wooden spoon.
  11. Layer chicken pieces evenly on top of the rice.
  12. Cover this layer with a layer of rice. Smooth and flatten with a spoon.
  13. Cover the rice with another layer of the youghurt/rice mixture. Smooth and flatten with a spoon.
  14. Repeat steps 11 through 13 until all the ingredients have been used.
  15. Place the pot on medium-high heat.
  16. When steam starts to emerge, set the heat to low, cover and cook for one hour. The goal is to get the lower part of the dish to a nice brown color and form a crust without burning it.
  17. When fully cooked, let the Tar-chin cool for a few minutes so that it it easier to remove from the pan.
  18. Place a large round serving platter on the top of the pan. Gently flip the pot over the plate to separate the Tah-chin from the pan.
  19. Finally, decorate your Tah-chin with Zereshk (dried Barberries). Gently fry the Zereshk in a little oil with a teaspoon of sugar and pinch of saffron. Fry for about 1 minute but Zereshk burns very easily so be careful! Cooks also frequently decorate Tah-chin with shelled pistacios, which look nice and taste great with the barberries. You can purchase both Zereshk and pistacios at the Balboa International Market.

Befarma'id! بفرماييد (Bon Appetite in Farsi)

Recipe and photo by: Tayebe Aghaei
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