Quarantine Eats: Persian Jeweled Rice

2 cups raw basmati rice
Kosher or fine sea salt
5 tablespoons, unsalted butter, divided
1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 1/4 cup very hot water
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes and drained, plus more chopped for garnish
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
Thinly sliced green onion 

Pre-Cook the Rice: Fill a large bowl with water and stir in the rice. The water will become cloudy with the starch from the outside of the grains. Drain and repeat 2 more times or until the water is clear after stirring.

Transfer the rice to a 4-quart pot* and cover with fresh water to cover the rice by 1-inch. Bring to a boil and stir in 2 tbsp of the salt. Reduce to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire strainer and rinse the rice again under cold running water. Set aside to finish draining. The rice will not be fully cooked at this stage but will finish in the next steps.

In a small pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and stir in the crumbled saffron and 3 tbsp water. Break up any clumps of saffron. Set aside.

Make the Seasoned Layer: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season lightly with salt and cook until softened and starting to turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the saffron water and stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, black pepper, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the raisins and cranberries. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place 1 cup of the partially cooked rice in a bowl and stir in the yogurt and 1/2 tsp of the saffron mixture. When thoroughly combined, set next to the stove.

Assemble and Cook the Rice: Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large heavy nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat.** Add the yogurt/rice mixture and spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan. Spoon half the par-cooked rice into the pot, gently spreading it out to cover the first layer of rice without disturbing it. Spoon the onion-fruit mixture over the top, and then the remaining rice.

Using a spatula, carefully push the rice away from the sides of the pan and mound it in the center. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or equivalent to make 3 steam vent holes in the rice, about an inch apart and going through most of the rice but not the bottom layer.

Drizzle the remaining saffron water over the rice, cover the pan with a clean, dry kitchen towel,*** and put on the lid. If the towel drapes over the edges, pull the ends up on top of the lid to avoid a fire hazard.

Set the heat to medium low and leave undisturbed for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave the pan on the same burner, and let rest at least 10 to 15 minutes longer.

To Serve: Spoon the top 3 layers of the rice into a large bowl and toss together to combine, distributing the seasoning and fruit evenly. Transfer to a wide shallow bowl or platter.

Loosen the crispy crust with a spatula if needed. Set a plate inside the pan on top of the crust, and holding the plate and pan together, invert them so the crust falls onto the plate. Cut it into 3 or 4 pieces and set on top of the rice. Sprinkle with the pistachios, cranberries, green onions, and sumac (if using). Serve immediately.

Recipe from The Heritage Cook