Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Persian Saffron Chicken {Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh}

Back when we lived in Berlin, you may recall, we had LOTS of Persian friends. They were all Christian refugees from Iran and Afghanistan that we met at our church there, which was packed to the brim every Sunday. 

Usually after church, there would be huge meal that some of the Persians would make, and we would squeeze through the door with the crowd, mouths watering and fingers crossed that it would be "the chicken with the red sauce". 

Three years later, after a million times getting different vague directions on how to make it form our friends, lots of research, and tons of taste testing, I finally have cracked it. 

It turns out that it is not, in fact, called "the chicken with the red sauce", but "Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh", which translates simply to "Barberry Rice with Chicken". 

Basically it's chicken simmered in a sauce of saffron and a unique blend of spices, piled on a huge plate of saffron rice which is flecked with tiny, tart dried "barberries" (which you can get on Amazon). I love serving "shirazi salad" on the side (which is just chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, fresh mint, and lemon juice) and, if he has time, Samuel always makes some flatbread to wipe up that last bit of sauce from his plate.

The basamati rice is so aromatic and wonderful and the saffron and barberries really make it amazing. The meat is tender and about to fall off the bone. The sauce is rich and flavorful. The shirazi salad is crisp and fresh. This is the perfect meal. Enjoy.

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    • Persian Saffron Chicken {Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh}
    • Serves 3-4

    • Note: to make this meal simpler and cheaper, you can definitely leave out the saffron and barberries, but get them if you can!

    • Chicken Ingredients:
    • A few tablespoons vegetable oil 
    • 6 pieces of bone in chicken (I use drumsticks or thighs)
    • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced

    • 1 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom 
    • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
    • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder

    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock (water will work too if you are using bone-in chicken)
    • 1/2 of the saffron water (see below)
    • salt and pepper to taste

    • Saffron Water:
    • 1/4 teaspoon of saffron (you can buy it here), ground with a pestle and mortar 
    • 1 ice cube
    • Sprinkle the saffron in a small dish over the ice cube and allow the ice cube to melt. Set aside.

    • Rice Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups basamati rice (dry)
    • Half of the reserved saffron water
    • 1/3 cup dried barberries (you can buy them here)
    • 1 teaspoon butter
    • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

    • Shirazi Salad Ingredients:
    • 1 cucumber
    • 2 tomatoes
    • 1/2 of a red onion
    • The juice of one lemon
    • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    • Chicken Directions:

    • Heat the oil over medium high in a large pot. Combine the spices and sprinkle a little on the chicken. Saute the chicken and onion in the oil until browned.  Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the remaining spices, tomato paste, half of the saffron water (reserve half for the rice!) and chicken stock or water. Simmer until chicken becomes very tender and sauce thickens and reduces. If the chicken gets done before the sauce is thick and reduced, then remove the chicken from the pot and continue simmering until the sauce is done. 

    • Rice Directions:

    • Cook the rice according to the package directions. 
    • In a small pan, heat the butter over medium and add the barberries and sugar. Cook and stir for about 30 seconds. 
    • Pour the rice into a serving bowl. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the cooked rice with the barberries and reserved saffron water. Spread the saffron rice over the top of the rest of the rice. 

    • Shirazi Salad Directions:
    • Dice the vegetables and toss with the mint and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and chill until ready to serve.