2 cups uncooked basmati rice, rinsed in several changes of water
2 tablespoons kosher salt (for the cooking liquid)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces green beans, ends trimmed, cut into thirds 1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef (90 percent lean) or lamb (or a combination of both)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Middle Eastern Spice Mix (recipe follows), divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil
Pinch of saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water (see note)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the rice and salt. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until soft but still hard in the very center (it will finish cooking later). Drain through a fine-mesh sieve set in the sink and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside. (Rice can be prepared several hours ahead.)
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and sauté, stirring only occasionally, until seared and browned, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a medium bowl.
Add the onions to the same sauté pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté about 1 minute more. Add the meat and sauté, stirring to break up, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. (If the meat has released a great deal of fat, pour it off into a small bowl and discard when cool.)
Push the ingredients to the side of the pan, and add the tomato paste to the cleared area. Cook until slightly darkened and thicker, about 2 minutes. Stir the tomato paste into the rest of the ingredients in the pan, then add the green beans back to the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice mix and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, make the tahdig mixture by combining 1 cup of the cooked rice with the yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of spice mix.
Heat the butter or oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven (nonstick or enameled cast-iron) over medium heat, turning to evenly coat the bottom and partway up the sides. Spread the rice-yogurt mixture across the bottom and 1 1?2 inches up the sides of the pot. Add the remaining rice and the beef mixture in layers, starting with one- third of the rice, then half of the beef mixture, another third of rice, the remaining beef mixture, and then the rest of the rice. Aim to shape it in a pyramid, which helps steam escape up the sides of the pot. Drizzle the saffron water over the top. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make several holes all the way down to the bottom of the pot, which will further help steam escape and form the crispy crust. Cover the pot with a clean dish cloth (folded so that the edges don’t hang too close to the burner) and set the lid on top. Allow to cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low and set a heat diffuser between the burner and the pot. (If you don’t have a diffuser, invert a metal pie dish over the burner to act as a diffuser. If you don’t have either one, you will need to turn the pot a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so to ensure the crust cooks evenly.) Allow to cook on medium-low for 45 minutes, until a brown crust of rice has formed on the bottom.
Take the pot off the heat and remove the lid, taking care not to let condensation on the underside fall in. Scoop some of the rice out onto a serving platter, then gently remove the tahdig with a spatula and set on top (alternatively, if you’re strong and careful, you can invert the whole pot onto a serving platter, but the pot will be hot and heavy). Pass the platter of rice with the browned tahdig at the table, allowing everyone to get a scoop of each. Serve with a crispy green salad.
NOTE: If your saffron is too moist to crumble easily, lightly toast it in a dry pan over medium heat for about 1 minute (or microwave on a plate for about 1 minute). When it cools, it should be brittle enough to crumble. Crush it in a mortar and pestle or between two spoons.
Middle Eastern Spice Mix
This blend takes its cue from advieh, a Persian spice blend that varies from region to dish to cook. But no matter how many spices people use, advieh is always built on cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. This version adds turmeric for a bit more earthiness and clove for complexity.
Makes about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine ingredients in a small bowl or jar with an airtight lid. Keep it in a cool, dry, dark place and try to use it within 6 months.
From Dill magazine. Adapted with permission from Fried Rice: 50 Ways to Stir Up the World’s Favorite Grain by Danielle Centoni. Copyright © 2019. Published by Sasquatch Books.