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Chelo-Polo (Plain Rice)

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 5 min
Yields: 6 servings


3 cups basmati rice rinsed and drained
1½ quarts (10 cups) water
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons butter melted
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Pinch of ground saffron


Pour the rice into a bowl; cover with cold water. Swish the rice around gently with your hand; drain and repeat until the water is clear. Rinsing washes off loose starch, making the rice less sticky. Strain the rice.

Bring 10 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a 5-quart nonstick pot. Add rice; stir and return back to a boil. Lower heat to medium; cook for about 8 minutes or until rice rises to the top. Drain in a mesh colander.

To make tadigh, a golden crispy crust, dissolve a pinch of saffron in 1 tablespoon hot water in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons yogurt, whisk to combine. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in the same pot used to cook the rice. Pour in the yogurt and saffron mixture followed by the rice. Cover; cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the rice starts to steam.

Add the remaining oil and melted butter on top of the rice. Reduce heat to low. Place a clean dishtowel or 2 layers of paper towel over the pot, folding the corners to keep away from the heat source. Cover the pot firmly with a lid; cook for 50 minutes. The dishtowel is used to keep the steam from escaping and to absorb the water that condenses on the inside of the lid, preventing it from falling back into the pot. This results in drier and fluffier rice.

When rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and let the rice rest, undisturbed with the lid on, for at least 5 minutes. This results in a uniform texture, with the bottom layers as fluffy as the top, and also helps to free the crust from the bottom of the pan.

Serve the rice either by placing it on a serving platter or unmolding it. To plate the rice, gently scoop it out onto a serving platter with a wide spatula, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid. Loosen the tadigh (crispy crust) from the bottom of the pan; lay them over the rice or arrange them on a separate plate. If the tadigh is hard to remove, lower the bottom of the pot into a sink of cold water for few minutes to help release the crust.

To unmold the rice, place a round serving platter upside down on top of the pot. Using pot holders firmly grab the serving platter and the pot flipping them over together, as you would invert a cake pan. This will keep the tadigh intact.

Perfectly cooked rice has distinct and tender grains, not mushy, and is light and fluffy.