This recipe will be featured in an upcoming Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean inspired How-to piece on the blog… but with so many recipes accompanying that piece, I want you all to be able to enjoy (and perfect!) this now.  Seriously, its one of the best dishes ever!    

If you are of middle eastern descent, I LOVE your cuisine.  In fact, its my favorite.  ALL of it!  But, here is where you will probably want to look away.  Because I love ALL of it so so much.  I’m not terribly concerned about preserving the national identity of a dish.  So you will want to ignore the fact that my goal with this dish was to combine two of my favorites!  Persian tahdig and Afghan style rice.  Tahdig is essentially a spiced rice with a crispy bottom.  Its usually cut into wedges and dipped or drizzled with a yogurt sauce.  The crispy parts are created by frying a layer of one of the following: lavash (a type of flat bread), thinly sliced potato, or rice.  (I used potato in mine.)  Afghan style rice is essentially a spiced rice pilaf.  Usually, it contains herbs like mint, raisins, shallots, garlic, and sometimes other veggies.

I wanted to borrow the flavors and texture of Afghan style rice and combine that with the yummy crispy layer of tahdig.  And, voilla!  The result, you guys…  One of the best things I have ever eaten.  Seriously.

Oh, and by combining them, I possibly insulted the fabulous cuisine of two nations – Sorry about that!  I hope that if you taste this, you will understand.

Ok, guys, this is seriously one of the best things I have ever made/eaten.  The flavors! The textures! Oh-my-gosh!!  I made a seriously giant, mountainous amount… Embarassingly mountainous.  I expected that it would be enough for 2+ nights of dinner, but the husband and I proceeded to pile our plates full of helping after helping.  No joke…. And unfortunately, no leftovers.

So, we made it again a week later.  Because we can’t get enough!!

So, this is my totally non-authentic, possibly culturally insensitive, but 100% delicious hybrid dish.  Pictures and words FAIL here.  I can’t even express the mouth flavor party that happens.

If you also love Middle Eastern/Persian food and are interested in picking up some awesome tips, techniques, and recipes from ladies who know their stuff, I love these two blogs: Persian Mama and My Persian Kitchen.  I think both sites do an excellent job of explaining and visually demonstrating the techniques and preparation of their recipes.  The very first potato tahdig recipe I ever tried was from My Persian Kitchen, and some of the kofta recipes on Persian Mama are eyes-roll-back-in-head good.


Potato Tahdig Afghan Rice with Cauliflower

Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 4 main course servings, 6-8 as a side dish

    For the Cucumber Mint Yogurt Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped persian (seedless) cucumber
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • For the Potato Tahdig and Afgan Rice with Cauliflower:
  • 1 1/4 cup brown basmati rice, uncooked
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets (about 1/2 head of cauliflower)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. turmeric, divided
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 heaping tbsp. raisins
  • 1/2 russet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt

To make the yogurt sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Give them a stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in the fridge. Optional: Prior to serving, garnish top with a drizzle of olive oil, additional chopped mint leaves, and red pepper flakes if desired.

Now, lets make the potato tahdig and rice.

Place raisins in a bowl of hot water to plump them up.

Boil rice over high heat for about 5 minutes, drain hot water and add cold water.

In a heavy bottomed non-stick sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots. Cover pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until shallots have softened. Add cauliflower, 1/2 tsp. turmeric, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook covered for 3 minutes. Then uncover, stir, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer cooked cauliflower mixture to a very large bowl and set aside. Remove pan from heat.

Drain cold water from rice, and add rice to the cauliflower mixture.

Drain water from raisins and pat dry. Add raisins to the cauliflower and rice. Then mix in yogurt, melted butter, saffron, remaining turmeric, and mint leaves until thoroughly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add canola oil to the pan you used to cook the cauliflower, and place over medium high heat. Lightly season thinly sliced potato with a pinch of salt on both sides. Once oil is hot, carefully arrange sliced potatoes so that they cover most of the surface area at the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook uncovered for about 2-3 minutes like this so that some of the moisture escapes and the end result will ultimately have crunchy, crispy potatoes rather than soggy ones.

While the potatoes cook, wet a kitchen towel with warm water and wring it out so that it is still damp but not dripping! Set this aside. We will need it in a moment.

Add the rice and cauliflower mixture, and spread so that it evenly covers the potatoes. Be careful not to disturb the crispy potato layer! Use the end of your wooden spoon or spatula (whatever utensil you have been using) and poke 4-5 holes in the rice. Add 4 tbsp. water. Reduce temperature to medium low.

Carefully cover the pot with the damp dish towel. Be very careful to wrap or arrange the ends of the towel on top of the pot so that they do not touch the heat source or catch fire!! (Very important!!) Covering the pot with a damp towel, will allow the rice to "steam" while still enabling moisture to escape. We do want fluffy rice, not soggy rice! Cook for an additional 50-55 minutes until the rice is the desired texture and all of the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed by the rice. Note: If it looks like it is cooking too quickly, at any point, you will want to reduce the temperature to low or add a touch more water (1 tsp. at a time).

When the rice is done, remove pan from heat. Place a large heavy plate next to the pot. You will flip the pan upside-down over onto the plate so that the rice and the crispy potatoes are transferred to the plate. If any potatoes stick to the bottom of the pan, use a metal spatula to release and transfer them to the top of the rice. Serve immediately with the cucumber mint yogurt sauce on the side or, if you prefer, drizzled on top of each individual serving.