Persian Sweet Rice With Orange and Carrots

Shirin Polo, adapted from Reyna Simnegar’s Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride

2 oranges
1 cup carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
2 cups sugar
¼ cup canola oil, plus extra for sautéing
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric or saffron
3 cups Basmati rice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup chopped pistachios

1. Peel the oranges as if you were peeling an apple. Then cut into 2-inch strips. Cut the carrots about the same size. Fill a small saucepan with 2 cups water. Add the sugar, orange peel, and carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. Fill a medium nonstick saucepan with 8 cups of water. Add the oil, half the turmeric or saffron, and the salt. Cover and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.

3. Add the rice and continue cooking, uncovered, over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally. After 3 to 5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to scoop some grains from the water. Break one grain in half to make sure it is al dente. Turn off the heat and pour rice into a colander to drain; set aside.

4. Drain the orange-peel carrot mixture on a paper towel. Gently stir together the cinnamon, cardamom, almonds, and pistachio into the rice, reserving some almonds and pistachios for garnish.

5. Place the empty saucepan back onto the stovetop over medium heat. Add ¼ inch canola oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add the remaining turmeric and/or saffron and stir to dissolve.

6. Add the drained rice to the pan and shape it into a pyramid. Cover the pot and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the rice begins to steam.

7. Uncover and place 2 paper towels (one on top of the other) over the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Replace the lid tightly.

8. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and open the lid a crack until ready to serve.

9. With a wide spatula, scoop the rice from the pot, making sure not to disturb the crust (tadig) that formed on the bottom of the pot. Serve the rice on a flat serving platter, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid, garnishing it with the remaining nuts and, if you like, decorating it with a sprinkle of cinnamon and cardamom. Turn the tadig out onto a flat serving platter by inverting the pot, as you would invert a cake pan, and serve it alongside the rice or cut it into pieces and serve around the rice.

Yield: about 6 to 8 servings

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