Persian-Inspired Crispy Rice & Chicken Perfect for Thanksgiving (or Dinner Tonight)

Plus, three excellent, speedy sides—like lemon-saffron skillet potatoes—to go with.

November 13, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.

While I love the spirit of Thanksgiving—gathering around the table, drinking and eating all day with loved ones—I have to admit that I’m not a roast turkey fan. If you’re thinking that it’s because I haven’t had a really good one, whether fried, spatchcocked or with super crispy skin and tender, juicy meat, then please rest assured that I have. I’m still not that into it. What I love most are the side dishes. Maybe it’s because I’m typically in charge of them on Thanksgiving Day, so I take a certain amount of pride in making them interesting, or because I love these late fall vegetables. Maybe both!

For anyone who shares my feelings on turkey, I created a menu that is centered around tahchin, a chicken-and-rice dish from my childhood, and served with a variety of vegetables—think: golden mushrooms with creamy labneh, sheet-pan crispy kale and squash, and saffron-infused skillet potatoes.

In the tahchin's case, breaking into the tahdig (the golden crust of rice that forms at the bottom of the pan) feels akin to an opening-day ceremony with the obligatory cutting of a ribbon; it's exhilarating to hear the crunch of the knife as it cuts through the crispy shell, and witness the big reveal of steaming saffron-colored rice layered with tender, cumin-spiced chicken and silky onions. Tahchin is an ultra-comforting, ultra-satisfying, ultra-magnificent dish that will fill your home with a warming, rich scent, something that I always love about cooking in cooler months.

There are just a couple of important things to note: First, the tahdig doesn’t stay crisp the next day, so consider it your obligation to eat every last bite (though, I don’t foresee that being an issue). That said, the chicken and rice under the crispy shell do make wonderful leftovers. Second, sometimes achieving a perfect tahdig can be difficult. I don’t want to dissuade you from making it as it is truly worth it, even if the tahdig isn’t perfect. There are lots of troubleshooting tips in the recipe instructions, so I’m confident that you will feel secure and guided during the cooking process. I’m saying this mostly because I don’t want you to feel defeated should it not be as the picture looks (it happens to everyone, even my mom!).

Paired with the tahchin, the vegetable dishes mimic the seasonings found in the main course to complement it. Two are made on the stovetop to avoid taking up all of your precious oven space, while the kale and squash cook at the same temperature as the tahchin, so you can easily slip it on another rack to keep it company during the last half hour stretch. Take your pick of one or a few, and make them on Thanksgiving Day—or just for dinner tonight.

The Main Event

The Supporting Cast

Have you ever tried making tahchin? How'd your inversion go? Let us know in the comments.
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Yasmin is a recipe developer and cookbook author. Her first book, Keeping it Simple, is full of easy, weeknight one-pot recipes. Say hi to her online @yasminfahr!