To Persians, properly prepared rice is nearly holy, at least the way Dara and his family talk about it. Cooking it makes the whole house smell like popcorn, and it comes with a crunchy, buttery, salty, saffron-scented layer at the bottom called tadik (pronounced tad-eek).
Here is a dish that I made from leftover Thanksgiving turkey, dried cranberries, carrots, peas, pistachios, caramelized onions, Indian spices and Persian rice. I broke up the tadik and mixed it in for crunch. I like to call this Persian & Pilgrims Party Rice because it's colorful, with a little glitz and glamour just like a Persian wedding, but it's also kind of dowdy, like some Pilgrims showed up and crashed it.
To make the Perisan rice, you start with high-quality, long-grain basmati rice from India. You rinse it four or five times to get rid of debris and starch, and then you add it to rapidly boiling, salted water and boil it for a few minutes, until it's slightly tender. Then you drain it, return it to the pot and stir in a touch of vegetable oil, butter and salt. Use a mortar and pestle to crunch a few pinches of saffron, and fill the mortar with water. Drizzle this water over the rice. Put a clean tea towel over the pot to absorb excess moisture, and then seal it with a lid. Steam the rice on low heat for an hour or so, until a crunchy layer has formed at the bottom.
The rice on top should be fluffy and white, laced with saffron yellow here and there, with each grain separate and distinct. Use a gentle hand -- like you're measuring flour -- to scoop this onto a platter. The crunchy layer on the bottom -- the tadik -- should be golden brown. Use a spatula to scrape the tadik onto its own platter, keeping it intact as much as you can.
I'll type out a full recipe as soon as I can. In the meantime, party on, Persians and Pilgrims!