SHIRIN POLO is an offering from my friend Alan who is an all around outgoing and talented person, who can cook like a wizard.
This is a tow-day recipe, which Alan made. I collaborated with Alan on organizing and editing the recipes. Whew! Questions, phone calls and emails back and forth sorted everything out. I can only look at the photos and appreciate the imagined smell-sensations.
SHIRIN POLO Recipe and photos by Alan Halm
Shirin means sweet and Polo means rice in Farsi. This Persian cooking rice recipe tradition has many ways to make it with different ingredients. The orange zest is as important as the rice for the flavor is the saffron. This is Alan rendition of the Shirin Polo recipe with chicken. Looks delicious and a real slow food recipe for sure! It’s -20F today. This would be a great meal in this cold weather.
For the Chicken Marinade
4-5 Chicken Thighs
Juice of ½ of an orange (Save the skin)
1- lemon – juice and zest
1- lime – juice and zest
1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
For Orange Zest
3 oranges – zest
1 cup plus
2 tbsp sugar
2 – 3 medium carrots
1- tbsp of butter
2 cups (or ½ cup more) for each additional person
2 tbsp of salt
DAY 2 INGREDIENTS
1- 6 oz package of shelled, salted, pistachios
1-tbsp Saffron threads
Prepare a day ahead:
- 1 chicken thigh per person (This recipe calls for 4 – 5)
- Juice of ½ orange (save zest for use later)
- Zest and juice of:
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 medium or small yellow onion, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon each)
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and cover to marinate overnight in fridge.
- Cut the zest of 3 oranges into very thin strips about 3 inches long
- Place in saucepan and cover with water, bring to boil.
- Boil for 5 minutes and drain.
- The boil and Drain.
- Add 1cup water, and 2 tablespoons sugar (or a little more). Boil for 10 mins. Don’t drain. Save liquid for later.
- Store covered overnight in fridge.
- Cut 2 – 3 medium carrots into very thin matchsticks, also about 3 inches long.
- Sautee carrots in about a tablespoon of butter for 5 mins. Store covered overnight in fridge.
- Rinse 2 cups of Basmati Rice until water is clear (add ½ cup more) for each additional person. (2-cup recipe is for 4 – 5)
Add 2 tablespoons salt and cover with water. Soak overnight in fridge.
Next Day (Serving Day):
Have on hand a 6 ounce package of shelled, salted, pistachios to layer with the rice later.
- Boil or microwave 2 tablespoons water, remove from heat, then add a very generous pinch of Saffron threads, maybe up to a tablespoon of it.
- When cool, strain out threads in a tea strainer.
- Add about 1 – teaspoon of Rose Water, NO MORE! It is very strong and may overpower other flavors.
- Before assembling the rice, drain liquid from orange zest and add to the Saffron water
- Set aside.
- Remove rice from fridge and drain off liquid. Rinse once.
- Fill a 3-quart kettle with lots of water and 1- tablespoon salt. Bring to a rapid boil. Add rice.
- When it returns to boil, cook for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. NO MORE.
- Drain in colander, and pour cold water over rice.
- Drain well (but not too dry – maybe for 5 – 10 minutes or so.)
Assemble the Polo
- In large heavy bottom soup pot (use the 3 – quart pot), melt a tablespoon of butter
and cover bottom of pan. Remove from heat. [Can also substitute 2 tablespoons of oil]
- Line the bottom of the pan with about an inch of rice. (When this browns in the cooking, it will be the crisp Tadig (crust) that is an essential part of the dish.)
- Layer carrots, rice, orange zest, rice, pistachios, and repeat until a mound is formed and all ingredients are used.
- Even the sides with a spatula and poke 5 holes from the top to the bottom of the mound with a spoon handle, enough for steam to work its way into the inside of the mound during cooking.
To Cook Polo
- Cover with dampened dishtowel, place cover on pot, and fold corners over top of cover so the dishtowel will not burn.
- Turn heat to medium; listen for rice to sizzle gently on bottom. If the rice is sizzling too much turn the heat down. Then steam for 40 minutes exactly. Do not peek!
- Cook undisturbed. Any longer and the bottom may burn, ruining the Tadig (crust).
Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare Chicken to Cook
- Heat a frying pan, using just a touch of butter. Remove chicken from marinade and shake off excess. Reserve the marinade.
- Next brown chicken well on both sides. Finish in oven on a baking sheet for another ½ hour or so. Check to be sure that the meat is not red or pink inside.
- Remove the chicken
Prepare Seasoned Sauce for Rice
- Strain the liquid from the pan left from frying the chicken. Skim off the fat. Then return the liquid to the pan. The liquid will help with reducing the fond – Sauce base
- Then reduce the “fond” (the base) with about a ¼ cup of the marinade liquid. Reduce. Strain.
- Add to Saffron/orange zest liquid water.
- Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Should have about a 1/4 – 1/3 cup reduced liquid.
- If you can’t taste the rose water, add just a little bit more to the liquid, just so there is a hint of the taste and aroma. Set aside for the final “act” of the recipe as follows:
Remove lid from rice and pour the Saffron reduction liquid over the rice. It should sizzle on the bottom. It should color the rice bright yellow-orange from the Saffron, and flavor it.
Pour rice onto large serving platter. Tadig or crust should just come out, or scrape it out. You can serve the Tadig with the rice or in a separate serving dish. Arrange chicken around the rice, or again, in a separate serving dish.
Serve with a green salad and any kind of Middle-eastern bread, such as warmed-up pita or Lavosh.
Nush-i-jun! (Persian for something like “Bon Appetit!”)
Thanks for stopping by my kitchen!