- Servings: 4 to 6 as a side dish.
If your favorite part of paella is the crunchy socarrat that forms at its bottom layer of rice, then you will love this method for cooking basmati rice that produces a similar result. This is Persian Rice, an ancient recipe sometimes also called tah-dig for its crispy bottom layer. The crispiness is formed by pre-cooking rice and then adding it to a pan of melted butter and cooking it, covered, with a kitchen towel under the cover to absorb some of the moisture which helps the crispy brown base to form.
Do not use converted rice for this cooking method. You'll get the best results with basmati and maybe some day, we will have the privilege of making it with rice actually from Iran, once known as Persia, which many consider the finest rice in the world.
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cups basmati rice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (see cooking tip below)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the salt and rice. Stir and bring the water back to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook the rice for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain.
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot or sauté pan that has a cover, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Spoon one-third of the rice evenly over the melted butter. Then sprinkle half of the thyme and half of the pine nuts. Continue with another third of the rice, the remaining thyme and pine nuts, and then finishing with the last third of the rice.
- Use a clean cotton kitchen towel (not terrycloth) and wrap the cover (I bring the corners up around the cover and use a large metal clip to hold the edges so that they don't fall onto the stove top and catch on fire).
- Place the towel-wrapped cover on top of the rice-filled pan and cook it undisturbed on low heat for 35 to 45 minutes or until the rice is tender and a golden crust has formed on the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from the heat, remove the cover, and with a metal spatula, lift the crusty layer and mix the golden bits into the tender rice.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and black pepper.
- Serve immediately.
Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring the pan several times to check and to prevent burning. Once the nuts begin to turn golden brown, remove them from both the heat and the pan as they will continue to cook and can quickly go from golden to black.