Everyone wants the tadig. As I was eating a bowl of Persian style rice with pistachios and dill for breakfast, Michael even blatantly stole two bites of tadig right out from under my nose! He claimed he hadn't been given his fair share in the rice he took to work last night. Forget arguing over who got the biggest piece of cake; I can easily see tadig leading to a family feud.
For the uninitiated, tadig is the buttery rice crust that forms on the bottom of the pan when cooking Persian rice. Eaten fresh and hot, it provides a satisfying, oh-so-buttery crunch, and the fact that you only get one measly layer of tadig from an entire pot of rice makes it a precious commodity indeed. I first tried this delicacy about a decade ago, when Leili, a good friend of my friend Ursa's, made some for some kind of party. Frankly, I don't remember what the party was for, but I do remember the tadig.
Being Iranian, Leili is an expert in this area. As a novice, I'm still figuring it out. Last night I managed to get a wonderful golden crust that coated more than half of the bottom of the pan, but I still end up with loose bits of crumbly, buttery rice in spots. Not that any kind of buttery rice is really worth complaining about, but they can't compare to the tadig. My method is taken from Gourmet magazine (and can be found online at www.epicurious.com): wash the rice thoroughly, parboil it in salted water for five minutes, drain, then melt butter in the cleaned pan, layering rice and other ingredients (pistachios and dill in this case) on top. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes through the rice, allowing steam to escape and assist in the forming of a crust. To seal the pan well, wrap a dishtowel around the lid you use to cover the pan, then let the rice steam over low heat for half an hour or more. Another benefit to this recipe is the fantastic smells that will greet you when you remove the lid. If a crust hasn't formed, simply let it steam longer.
Of course, if you want to skip all these steps (although I do encourage you in that this is a simple technique; it just requires some patience), you can get your tadig, and other Persian delights, pre-made. Here in Lake City we're fortunate to have Pacific Market, a tiny hole in the wall selling Persian food supplies, including take away meals. They offer a fabulous saffron rice studded with sour bayberries served with tender chicken in a mild, yet rich, brick-red sauce. But if you want tadig, you have to ask. Last time, I was heartbroken to disccover once I arrived home that my request for tadig had been forgotten. I had two boxes of beautiful, jewel-toned bayberry rice, but no rustic pieces of the golden brown crust. Live and learn; next time I'm not getting away without my tadig!