Monday, January 4, 2016

David Taniss Persian Jeweled Rice

I've never been a fan of mixing sweet and savory and what few experiences I have had with such dishes have been less than stellar. Dishes like sweet and sour pork or chicken are barely tolerated and I would never entertain the idea of pineapple on pizza despite the enthusiastic endorsement of said combination by more than one person that I am friends with (including my sister).

The point of this blog, however, is to push myself to try things I wouldn't normally try, and this "jeweled rice" recipe seemed to have more going for it than other sweet and savory combinations. Rice goes well with both of those flavors and I'm a fan of all of the spices (cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, cardamom, and allspice) in this particular recipe. The only weirdness from my limited taste perspective is the mixing of various sweet dried fruit types with onion. Still, onward and, with any luck, upward.

I largely followed the recipe as offered with a few exceptions. One is that I cut the volume of everything in half because my husband won't touch a dish like this and I don't want to eat an enormous amount of rice by myself. There is also the fact that, if I hate it, I don't want to waste a lot of dried fruit. The other thing which I changed was that I added 2 dates into the mix because it sounded like a good idea and one of the commenters mentioned it would be a good addition. I used gojiberries because I have no access to barberries and I think cranberries would be far too tart.

The biggest change that I made was to not parboil the rice. I did this for two reasons. One was simply that I didn't have the time or inclination at the time that I made this to go through the time and mess. Another was that I didn't trust that this was an important step. It turned out that it was not except for one point. Without the parboiling stage, I had to add in more water and steam the rice to cook it. I didn't realize this until after it was done, but that guaranteed that I wouldn't have a crispy crust on the bottom of the rice. Everything cooked just fine. Mine just had less contrast and a uniform texture.

To be honest, the browning of the rice part of this was the most tenuous and least predictable part as the instructions recommend that you do it "by nose." I'm a pretty experienced cook, but I have no clue what browning rice is supposed to smell like (nor did a few of the commenters). The rice at the bottom of mine was slightly brown, but my best guess is that adding in more water washed away a lot of what may have been brown. It was the price I paid for refusing to parboil.

I am pleased to say that the flavor and texture did not suffer at all. The rice was properly cooked - tender, but firm. The contrasting flavors balanced each other well. The picture does not show it, but I did add nuts to each serving before I ate it. While the recipe recommends almonds and pistachios, I liked pecans better. The fruit was just amazing in this and I think the spice level was fine, but it might be interesting if it were a bit more intense. I used 1/8 teaspoon of every spice because I have no idea what a "large" pinch is, let alone how I'd cut that in half.

This is actually a restaurant quality dish. It's exotic, but approachable and complex, but not too time-consuming to make, especially if you don't fuss with the parboiling and just add enough water to cook your particular volume of rice and cook it normally (low simmer for 20 minutes, allow to rest for another 20 minutes). 

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