Literal translation of ‘adas polo’ is lentil rice. Usually when you think ‘comfort food’, the thought of high caloric foods come to mind. The guilt associated after having macaroni and cheese is enough to send you straight to the treadmill. Therefore during cold winter days, try this classic Persian dish that is not only healthy and hearty, but most importantly guilt free! Nutritious, healthy, versatile and tasty: my kind of comfort food.
One problem: try to just have one serving! I dare you; it’s not easy.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
4 cups basmati rice
2 cups lentil ** soak lentils in water 24 hrs prior to cooking to render perfectly cooked lentils.
1 teaspoon salt for lentils
1 lb chicken thighs with bone
2 onions- finely diced into slivers
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt and pepper for the chicken
1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water
*1 cup melted butter
2 tablespoon salt for rice
½ cup dates- diced
¼ cup red raisins
¼ teaspoon saffron dissolved in ¼ cup hot water
*** In most of my recipes, I am now using high quality, organic butter from cows that are grass fed and finished. Instead of olive oil, you may use butter which will render an even more delicious rice.
1. Highly recommend 24 hours prior to preparing rice, rinse and soak lentils along with 1 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl filled with water (three inches of water above surface of lentils). If you are unable to soak lentils for 24 hours, you may also soak them for a couple of hours (instructions will follow below).
2. In a large bowl, rinse rice in tap water multiple times until the water in the rice appears clear and not cloudy from the starch. Fill the bowl of rice with water to the top and allow to sit at room temperature for at least two hours.
3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, use 1/4 vegetable oil and 1/4 cup butter to sauté onions golden brown and crispy. Stir frequently to prevent onions from burning. Remove half of sauted onions and set aside in a small bowl. In the same pan with half of remaining onions, add turmeric and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add chicken, salt and pepper to taste. Brown chicken on both sides (6-8 minutes). Add ½ cup boiling water to the pan in addition to 1/4 cup of saffron mix, cover and allow to simmer until juices are almost evaporated and chicken is fully cooked and tender (about thirty minutes).
4. Meanwhile, if lentils have soaked for only two hours, in a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to boil and add lentils. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and cook “al dente”. Strain the lentils in a strainer in the sink and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. This step of preparing the lentils may be omitted if lentils have soaked for 24 hours. Simply rinse and strain lentils and begin preparing rice.
5. In a large non-stick pot, bring to boil 8 cups of water. Strain the rice (soaked in water) and add to boiling water. Add salt and occasionally stir rice to prevent them from sticking together. It is important to not over stir causing the grains to break. Uncovered, allow the rice to boil until grains are “al-dente”. Immediately, strain the rice in a strainer in the sink allowing the hot, starchy water to pass, meanwhile rinsing the rice with cold water to stop the cooking process.
6. Use the same non-stick pot used to boil the rice, pour ¼ cup vegetable oil and ½ cup water in the pot. Gently place ½ cup rice over the oil/water mixture, and spread evenly to cover the bottom of the pot. Then pour ¼ cup of lentils over the rice mixture. Use a spoon to spread the lentils over the rice allowing the lentils and rice to mix. Repeat until all of the rice and lentils are used.
7. Place the covered pot over medium/high heat. After approximately 5 minutes, you will hear the oil/water and rice mixture make “crackling/popping” sounds. Reduce heat to medium/low, cover the top of the rice with a thin kitchen towel and place the lid securely on the pot (making sure to raise the sides of the towel to not burn from the heat/flame). Cook for 45 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, in a small pan, sauté dates and raisins in remaining melted butter until slightly browned. Add sauted onions; stir and remove from heat and keep warm.
9. Remove bone from the chicken and keep warm.
10. To serve, use a large spatula and spoon by spoon, place the rice mixture on a large serving platter. Reserve a cup of the rice mix. Once you reach the bottom of the pot, there will be a crunchy rice crust that can be served separately in another serving platter. For most Persians, this is the best part!
11. Decorate the rice mix with the chicken on the side of the rice platter. (If you prefer, you can mix the chicken in between the rice mix).
12. Take the reserved cup of rice mix and pour the saffron mix over it and gently blend. Use this rice to pour over the rest of the rice on the platter.
13. Finish the garnish with the raisin and date mixture on top of the rice. Pour hot melted butter over entire rice.