Persian barberry rice is a classic made with Zereshk (barberries), Morgh (chicken) , and Polo ( rice) is a very popular and delicious recipe from Iranian cuisine. The chicken is the main component of this recipe and it is cooked separately in a tomato saffron sauce. The tiny ruby red barberries “ zereshk” adds a tangy flavor and they are grown in the eastern part of Iran, in Khorasan province. Some cooks add sugar and saffron to the tart zereshk while saute them in butter on low hear for few minutes.
Zereshk polo ba morgh recipe
Prep and cooking time: About 2 hour
Serving 6-8 people
Recepe credit: Homa https://persianmama.com
FOR THE CHICKEN:
• 8 skinless chicken thighs, or drumsticks (about 3 pounds)
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp salt
• ¾ tsp black pepper
• 1 large onion cut in half
• 3 cups water
• ⅛ tsp ground saffron powder
• 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin and fried to golden brown in 2 TBSP vegetable oil
• 2 TBSP tomato paste
• 2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 1 TBSP zereshk (pick through, wash and rinse)
FOR THE ZERESHK POLO:
• 2 ½ cups uncooked basmati rice
• 1 ½ tsp rice spice, divided
• ⅓ cup zereshk, (pick through, wash and rinse)
• Pinch of ground saffron powder, optional
• Optional garnish: Sliced almonds and/or pistachios
1. In a large 12-inch skillet (with a lid) add the chicken thighs (bone side down), turmeric, salt, pepper, onion halves and 3 cups of cold water. Without covering the skillet, bring it to a boil over medium high so all the foam from cooking the raw chicken rises to the top. Use a slotted spoon to skim off the foam. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet and cook for 30 minutes, then turn the chicken pieces and cook for another 30 minutes on medium low.
2. Persian steamed rice is usually made using white Basmati rice that is a long grain rice. Measure the dry rice into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water and move the rice around with fingertips in the water several times. Drain the water and fill thw bowl with fresh cold water again. Repeat this one more time until the water looks cleaner. Fill a 6-Qt stockpot up to 2 inches from the top. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Once the water comes to a rolling boil add the ¼ cup salt ( the water needs to be salty to flavor the rice adequately, and the rest will be rinsed off later) and the drained rice. Bring it to another boil while stirring it couple of times very gently with a large slotted spoon to make sure the grains are not clumping together. Continue to boil over medium high heat. Watch the rice carefully, it tends to foam up and overflow. You may reduce the heat only a little bit, but will need to maintain a continues boil. Check one of the grains in 7-10 minutes. The cooked rice is ready when it is soft around the edges but still firm in the center. Empty the rice into a fine mesh strainer, rinse it under cold water to half the cooking process, and it wash off the excess salt. Transfer the rice carefully with a slotted spoon or spatula to the pot and gradually decrease the area as you continue adding more rice, so once all the rice is transferred to the pot, it resembles a pyramid. Cover the lid with a kitchen towel and steam over medium low heat for 45 minutes or until steam rises and the rice grains are tender through.
3. In a medium skillet fry the sliced medium onion in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until golden brown. Add the tomato paste and sauté until aromatic. Set aside.
4. Prepare the zereshk ( barberries) wash and rinse before use and making sure there is no stone and let it dry out. Add 3 tablespoons butter into a skillet on low heat, add the barberries and one teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of ground saffron powder for few minutes.
5. When the chicken is fork tender, discard the onion halves. Turn the chicken pieces one more time (now the meaty part of the chicken will be up) and sprinkle the optional ground saffron powder on the pieces. Use the back of a spoon to rub the saffron on the surface of each piece. This simple added step adds a very rich color to the chicken pieces.
6. Make the tomato sauce in the same skillet by mixing in the prepared fried onion and tomato paste with the broth. Add 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice and 1 tablespoon zereshk to the sauce. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and then reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet and cook for 15-20 minutes, then turn the chicken pieces and cook for another 15-20 minutes.
7. To make the zereshk/fried onion mix: In the same skillet that you've fried the diced onion, add ⅓ cup barberries and a pinch of optional saffron and saute over low for couple of minutes until the zereshk plumps up. Zereshk burns very quickly so keep the temperature very low.
8. For the layered presentation of Zereshk Polo: Use a large spatula to transfer ⅓ of the steamed Aromatic rice to the serving platter, top with ⅓ of the barberry/fried onion mixture and continue layering and finish the top with the remaining zereshk/fried onion. Garnish with sliced almonds and/or pistachios.
9. Serve the chicken on a separate platter.