You know that saying, A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? I don’t know if it’s true or not but I like a challenge and if I can earn extra girlfriend points, I’m going to try and get them.
I’ve nearly mastered all the different kind of noodles Payam likes (he likes them all) and pot stickers and I know my way around this weird cheesy thing he calls spaghetti casserole, but you know what Payam really likes? Persian food cooked by his mama. Doesn’t everyone like food cooked by their mama? I know I do. And if Bug asks for my special enchiladas I will move mountains to make them for her. You just can’t beat mom-specialties.
Payam’s favorite dish is called Tachin (pronounced tah-chine). It’s a rice and chicken casserole dish with crunchy rice parts on the top and bottom. Payam says no one, no restaurant anywhere makes it as good as his mom.
You know what that means! I must learn how to make it of course!! So we made a special date with Payam’s mom to learn how to make tachin her way. Payam’s mom’s name is Pedram so I’m just going to call this dish “Pedram’s Tachin.”
It’s delicious. You should try it!
- jasmine rice boiled al dente (enough to serve 6-8 people)
- 5 egg yolks
- saffron mixed with water (about a quarter cup)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 3 cups of plain yogurt
- 3 chicken breasts cooked with skin and bone (for flavor)
- grape seed oil (or olive oil)
Of course these steps are mom’s steps so measurements are more eyeballed than measured and a lot of this is based on experience but I think you and I will probably be able to figure it out with the help of these pictures and good instinct. (I haven’t tried it on my own yet, but I will!)
First boil the rice until it is al dente and set aside. You can tell if it is al dente by tasting it as it cooks. You don’t want to cook it completely because then it will become overcooked and mushy later in the casserole as it bakes with all the liquids.
Cook your chicken however you normally cook chicken, debone and de-skin it and then shred it. Pedram boiled her chicken in a pot of water with salt and pepper and onion until it fell off the bone. Then she kept the juices to add to the yogurt saffron mixture later.
Combine the yogurt and egg yolks, salt and pepper and cinnamon in a bowl. Add your saffron water mixture and mix until it looks the color of eggy mustard.
Pour just enough oil into the casserole dish so that it covers the bottom. This part is important because it creates the “tadig” which is the crunchy part that all Persians (and this Irish-American) love so much.
Then spread half of your rice into the pan on top of the oil. Add your chicken and yogurt sauce and mix.
Mix, mix, mix. I think this part is probably where the mom’s special touch comes in. You have to mix it just so. Add a little more chicken. Mix, mix, mix.
Then add the rest of the rice on top of the rice-chicken-yogurt mixture and spoon some saffron water on top for color. If you have any chicken juices left over from cooking your chicken you could add that on top here too for extra flavor.
Preheat your oven to 350.
Cover the tachin with foil and poke a few holes in it with a fork. Then bake at 350 for half an hour. But you’re not done yet! After that half hour, remove the tinfoil, turn your oven up to 400 and then bake for another half hour, checking often to make sure it’s not burning. You want your casserole to be a nice toasty color but not dark or burnt.
While you are waiting for it to bake, serve strong black tea and cookies. This is the Persian way: dessert before dinner!
Or play in the backyard and make fairy gardens.
Once the casserole is done, let it cool for a little bit and then cut it into squares and serve each piece by flipping it upside down on your plate so that the crunchy tadig side is up. Serve with cucumber salad, fresh crunchy herbs (Thai basil, green onions, oregano etc) and more yogurt!
Hope you enjoy!
*edited January 11th to add chicken cooking and missing seasoning instructions. Sorry, I didn’t have that earlier!
I have so many photos to share with you. I should have blogged all the events while they happened but you know how that goes. Whiz-bang gone. So I’m just going to post them in reverse order and prattle along descriptions like I do.
This year we had my first ever New Year’s party. Usually New Year’s parties and I are like oil and water, as in you can’t have them both at the same time because I fall asleep. I never stay up to ring in the new year. However, I always feel guilty about my not staying up, like I’m old and boring or something. This year we decided to run the espresso maker all night long and host a bash.
And bash it was! We turned out all the lights (except a few with red lightbulbs–shout out to my post Paris party!) and lit dozens of candles all over the place. We made a really good play list and cooked up a bunch of Chinese food (my specialty: homemade pot stickers, fried rice, sticky chicken wings, Asian slaw) and threw together a few other favorites like chips and Trader Joes bruschetta lentil dip.
We set up the ping pong table in the garage and of course fell for all the usual Party City decorations. But everyone likes to take photos right? Flash photography be what it will.
It was really fun. A few guests brought guests of their own (surprise!) and next thing we knew some French lady that I didn’t know put on her playlist (we didn’t even get to play ours) and we were dancing to the Macarena of all things. (!) It was the most fun I’ve ever had on New Years, not counting that one year in San Francisco at Union Square. I didn’t even get a chance to watch the ball drop on tv because I was dancing and talking and having my own ball. I didn’t even feel tired once.
Now rewind to a few days before New Year’s. Descanso Gardens!!! Have you ever been? I saw a picture of The Enchanted Forest on a friend’s Instagram feed and I knew I had to go. And guess what? It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Seriously. It was so worth the two hours of traffic we had to sit in to get there. (That says a lot coming from a freelancer who never has to drive anywhere if she doesn’t want to.)
It’s a one mile walk through a mysteriously lit forest with music and interactive installations. It’s a photographer’s dream and nightmare because it’s so hard to photograph but such a tempting challenge anyway!
I managed. It was actually a really good way to learn how to photograph in low light situations. Payam and I muddled and messed our way through AV, TV and full manual mode on my camera (which is actually his camera that I have taken over and purchased a few lenses for).
I loved this tunnel of star lights so much. Payam is a true gentleman, taking pictures of me whenever I request. Have I mentioned how much I love him?
Along the way they offer food and drinks which is charming. We were really excited to have a drink but the martini I had turned out to be so watered down it was kind of a disappointment.
More lights and more lights! It went on and on forever which was so pleasantly surprising! I really loved the moody music that echoed here and there so lightly.
This interactive display was the best, especially for kids. I wished we had brought the girls but they were with their other parents. Next year we are already making plans to bring them.
The tour ended in this Japanese tea garden with hundreds of red paper globe lights. I think it’s a nod to the fact that many acres of the gardens were acquired from Japanese who owned nurseries but were sent to internment camps during World War II. I’m not sure of the whole story on that. I need to do some more research.
Rewind again to a few days before Christmas. Cookies! This is the first year I really did all the things I wanted to do. Every year before this I have always wished I had baked cookies or made a special dinner or made homemade ornaments or gifts or whatever and every year Christmas just snuck up on me and I couldn’t pull it off. But I’ve been taking notes and I’m getting smarter at holidays.
Payam spent his pre-Christmas days making me a table. Isn’t it beautiful?!! He’s been making all kinds of intricate wooden things with different kinds of exotic woods these days. I’ll have to write a post on all his creations. He also made his mom a jewelry box and a really pretty striped tray that he’s thinking of selling in his Etsy shop. I plan to photograph everything soon.
The girls and I also made air-dry clay ornaments that totally turned out better than expected. They took a few days to dry but after a coat of paint and some spray gloss they almost looked better than ornaments you can buy in the store!
The fire has been going regularly, which makes Whiskey and I very happy.
That brings me to Christmas… games, tea, family time…
The girls put on a concert and I actually cooked a special dinner. It didn’t turn out so great. How can you screw up a pre-cooked ham and mashed potatoes? It wasn’t horrible but it was meh which of course makes me more sad than I should be. It’s the effort that counts, right? But even so I’m thinking pizza next year or maybe my Chinese food specialties. I’m done with trying new things on guests.
It was a really sweet time though. My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas so I didn’t grow up with any of these traditions but I have to say they are starting to feel more and more sentimental and familiar and I like that.
There were so many presents! Pusheen anything for Bug and unicorn everything for Joon. It is quite easy to shop for these two which is a good thing and a bad thing.
I wish they could stay this age forever.
And that was that! Stick a bow on 2016 and put it in a box! Just kidding. But that is all I have to say about 2016. I’m really excited about 2017, now that I’m getting the hang of holidays, work and family so much more.