This, in my mind, is the ultimate in comfort food. I crave this dish at all times. If given the opportunity I will shamelessly eat the entire pan. It’s also a showstopper at dinner parties and a great “entry level” Persian dish. Everyone likes tachin once they try it; it’s exotic, but the flavors are just close enough to home that they are still accessible to less-adventurous palates.
White rice is layered with shredded chicken and sour barberries, then finished by a crisped layer of rice that is tinted by saffron and flavored with lemon and yogurt. If you’ve never tried barberries, they are an extremely tart berry, about the size of small currants but with a wildly different flavor. There really isn’t a replacement for these dried berries, nor can you substitute saffron with anything else. You’ll have to go out of your way to a middle eastern market to find these ingredients, but they are well worth it and both keep in the freezer indefinitely if well wrapped.
I like the bold flavors of this dish, and I always make it even more flavorful by giving it a final hit of salt on my plate. The brightness of the lemon plays really well with salt that hasn’t been incorporated during cooking. Of course if you are watching your sodium, it isn’t necessary -- but please do make sure to salt your rice cooking water liberally, like you would with pasta. Otherwise your final dish will be bland.
And do as I do: when it’s time to eat, serve yourself a beautifully composed slice that shows each layer intact. Marvel at your own skills. Then mash it all together on your plate so every mouthful has each flavor and texture in it. You’ve just experienced the perfect bite of the perfect meal.
2 ½ cups long grain white rice
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg yolk
Pinch of saffron threads
⅛ cup dried barberries
1 cup cooked chicken, diced
½ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Salt a large pot of water generously; add the dry rice and bring to a boil. Don’t fully cook it -- once the rice is about half cooked, drain it into a fine mesh strainer and run cold water over it. The rice should still have a bite to it at this stage.
While the rice is cooking, mix together the yogurt, egg yolk, salt and pepper, saffron, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and lemon juice thoroughly in a medium bowl. Stir in 2 ½ - 3 cups of the parboiled white rice.
Spread the yellow rice mixture in a greased 8x8 glass baking dish (you want something you can see through here). Evenly sprinkle in the barberries, and then the cooked chicken. Finish with the remainder of the white rice. Smooth everything out and drizzle over the remaining olive oil.
Cover tightly with foil and bake in the hot oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check the bottom at this time -- if it isn’t golden brown by this time, let it go another 5-15 minutes. To serve, carefully invert the tachin onto a plate (put the plate on the top of the baking dish and, holding the plate and pan together tightly, flip it all over) so the crunchy yellow rice is on the top. Slicing into this is as satisfying as breaking a creme brulee’s lid, trust me.
If reheating leftovers, sprinkle a little water in and reheat one covered serving at a time so it steams itself a bit - it tends to dry out if you try reheating the whole pan at once. This also makes tachin a dish that isn’t great for taking to potlucks.