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!