Despite what the name suggests, you don't need to wait until you're swapping vows to make this recipe from chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia. At his acclaimed restaurant (which just celebrated its 10th anniversary this year), Solomonov slowly cooks rice in a cast-iron pot until a sturdy, crispy crust forms on the bottom, and then flips it onto a plate and showers it with nuts and dried fruit. If your rice doesn't unmold in one piece, don't panic—this dish looks equally beautiful scooped onto a platter with the crispy shards on top.
Persian Wedding Rice
Excerpted from Zahav, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Copyright © 2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photos by Michael Persico. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus soaking and resting time
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, plus soaking and resting time
2 cups jasmine rice
Pinch or 2 ground turmeric
½ cup Marcona almonds
¼ cup prunes
½ cup dried apricots
¼ dried dates
1. Cover the rice with 4 cups water in a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Let soak for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Drain well.
2. Combine ¼ cup water, 1 tablespoon oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl and whisk to blend. Reserve.
3. Fill a large enameled or well-seasoned cast iron pot about halfway with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, add the rice, and boil until the rice is about three-quarters done. The rice shouldn’t be crunchy, but it should stick to your teeth when you bite a grain. Start checking after 1 minute, but it may take up to 10 minutes.
4. Drain the rice in a large colander and cool it off somewhat by gently lifting scoops of rice with a spoon to turn and fluff the grains.
5. Dry the pot well and coat the bottom and sides generously with oil. Set the pot over medium-high heat and heat until the oil just begins to send out a wisp of smoke. Off the heat, wipe out the pot with a paper towel and coat the bottom and sides with a thin film of fresh oil.
6. Sprinkle the bottom of the pot with the turmeric and gently spoon the rice into the pot. Lightly press the surface of the rice with the back of a spoon to even out the surface and slightly compress the grains. Drizzle the reserved water-oil mixture evenly over the rice.
7. Drape the top of the pot with a clean cotton or linen kitchen towel and put the lid on the pot over the towel. Pull the corners of the towel up over the lid and secure with a rubber band.
8. Set the pot over very low heat and cook, unopened and undisturbed, for 30 minutes. Open the lid and test for the formation of a crust by inserting a knife to the bottom of the pot. If it doesn’t feel crusty, replace the towel and lid and continue cooking over very low heat until a good crust forms. Hard to believe, but true: This can take up to another 1½ hours, depending on the heat of your burner and how long you’ve soaked the rice. Let rest off the heat for at least 20 minutes.
9. Carefully unmold the rice onto a platter and serve. (Or, if it doesn’t unmold easily, simply scoop the rice into a serving bowl with the crispy shards on top.)
10. Top the Persian Rice with the almonds, prunes, dried apricots, and dates and serve.