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Persian Steamed White Rice(Chelo)
Cooking the rice
- 5 cups basmati rice, checked and rinsed
- 12 cups water
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 3 tablespoons salt
Steaming the rice and making tadig
- 1/4-inch canola oil poured into the bottom of the saucepan
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric or powdered saffron (optional, for a more authentic flavor)
To cook the rice
1. Fill a large nonstick saucepan (at least 6 quarts) with 12 cups water; add oil and salt. Cover and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.
2. Add the rice and continue cooking over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally.
3. After 3-5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to scoop some grains from the water. Break one grain in half to make sure it is “al dente” (see above). Turn off the heat and pour rice into the colander to drain; set aside.
To steam and make tadig
1. Place the empty 6-quart saucepan back onto the stovetop over medium heat. Add 1/4-inch canola oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add turmeric and/or saffron powder. Stir together.
2. Add the drained rice and shape it into a pyramid. Cover the pot and cook for 5–7 minutes until rice begins to steam.
3. Uncover and place 2 paper towels (one on top of the other) over the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Replace the lid tightly.
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and tilt the lid until ready to serve.
5. With a wide spatula, scoop the rice from the pot, making sure not to disturb the crust (tadig) that formed on the bottom of the pot. Serve the rice on a flat serving platter, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid. Turn the tadig out onto a flat serving platter by inverting the pot, as you would invert a cake pan, or cut it into pieces and serve around the rice.
Optional garnish: Saffron Rice
1. To make saffron water, mix together 1 teaspoon crushed saffron threads and 1/4 cup hot water. Steep for a few minutes, until the water becomes yellow.
2. Mix saffron water with steamed white rice. Use this intensely yellow rice to make designs on the Chelo.
To reheat this rice:
Pour 1/2 cup water mixed with 1/4 cup canola oil onto the pyramid in a large pot. You can also freeze this rice, as long as you do not stir it until it is completely defrosted. You can even cook it, freeze it, and later steam it as it defrosts. I know I will have to spend time in “rice hell” for admitting to freezing Persian rice, but it is worth it to make my life easier!
Tricks of the tradeChelo cooks very quickly. Therefore, when I make Chelo, I always make sure to have a colander ready in the sink to drain the rice so I do not overcook it. Also, when you steam the rice by placing the paper towels between the lid and the pot, make sure these are safely away from the heat. After this rice is steamed, it is important to tilt the lid to allow any extra steam to escape so that the crunchy bottom does not become soggy.
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