Persian Jeweled Rice with Chicken

Serves 6-8

3 cups Basmati rice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small chicken, cut into 6 pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. fine salt
1 cup chopped orange zest
3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 2 Tbs. hot water
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dried cranberries, washed and soaked for 10 minutes in hot water, then drained
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Wash rice in cold water; repeat several times until water is clear. (For plumper rice, soak at least 2 hours in 8 cups of water with 2 Tbs. of salt.)

Combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil, chicken and onion in a large skillet. Sprinkle with the salt. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Reserve remaining cooking liquid and when cool, skim off excess fat.

Bring 8 cups of water and 2 Tbs. of salt to a boil in a large pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot and boil for 6 minutes, stirring gently two or three times. Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse with warm water. Return the rice to the pan and cover with a clean kitchen towel and tight-fitting lid, folding ends of towel over the lid. Steam the rice for 20 minutes over low heat.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, combine the orange zest and the carrots, and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and reserve.

Heat the 3 Tbs. of olive oil in heavy skillet with the reserved chicken liquid, add the carrot/orange zest mixture, saffron, allspice and sugar. Sauté 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cranberries, currants, pistachios and almonds. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer and set aside.

To serve, arrange a layer of rice on large platter, place chicken pieces evenly around edge. Spread half of the carrot mixture over the rice and mound remaining rice in center. Garnish rice with remaining carrot mixture and serve.
(Rebecca Ets-Hokin)