Iranian / Persian Herbed Celery Chicken with Crispy Potato-Crusted Rice

March  9, 2012
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 4 people
Author Notes

Celery stew is an Iranian dish with many variations. This is how my grandmother made hers; with chopped fresh mint and flat leaf parsley. The more traditional variations use chunks of beef or lamb. I make mine with chicken thighs. —cookingProf

Test Kitchen Notes

In cookingprof's delicious stew the celery is truly the star of the show. I have made this stew before but never with chicken and it's wonderful. The herbs, celery and chicken all pair perfectly together, and the lemon adds a lovely tartness. The potato-crusted rice with the stew makes for a comforting, hearty meal. When you de-pan the rice, the tahdig (crunchy bottom crust of the rice) studded with crispy potatoes makes for an impressive presentation. Spoon some of the celery-laden stew on top of the rice and it will be love at first bite. To de-pan the rice, I put a few inches of cold water in the sink and submerged the bottom of the pan in the water and let it sit for about 15 seconds -- this helped the rice to release. Then invert onto a serving platter. It also helps to use a non-stick pot. —sdebrango

What You'll Need
  • For the stew:
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 7 to 8 young center stalks of celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • For the rice:
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • Salt
  • 1 medium potato
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Chop the onion. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-sized pot and cover it with the chopped onions. Roll the chicken thighs and place them seam-side down on the onion bed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat until all the juices are absorbed and the onions are caramelized (about 20 minutes).
  2. Cut the celery stalks lengthwise and then cut them into 2 inch pieces. Coarsely chop the celery greens and set aside. Cook the celery over medium-high heat in a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the celery stalks become translucent and develop some brown edges, add the chopped parsley, mint, and celery leaves. Continue to turn the herbs and celery over until the herbs start showing the first sign of becoming crisp. Be careful not to burn the herbs. Add salt, pepper, tomato sauce, and two cups of water. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Stir the caramelized onions and lemon juice into the celery and herb pan. Place the cooked chicken thighs on top of the celery bed. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes for the flavors to incorporate.
  4. Rinse the basmati rice and place it in a 4-quart pot. Add salt and 3 quarts of cold water. Bring the rice to a full rolling boil. Once the rice rise to the top and start to dance, bite into a grain. It should be soft but have a chewy center. Strain the rice through a colander.
  5. Peel the potato and microwave for 2 minutes (could be done ahead of time). Slice the potato into 1/3 inch rounds. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a non-stick pot. Line the bottom with the potato slices and transfer the strained rice to the pot such that it covers the potatoes. If you like, dot the rice with two tablespoons of butter. Steam the rice over medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Serve the celery stew over a bed of rice. The potatoes at the bottom of the pot must be delicately browned and crispy now. They can be served on the side. These potatoes, translated literally from Farsi, are called "bottom of the pot."
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Recipe by: cookingProf

I was gifted with the love for cooking as a very young girl growing up in Tehran. I would follow my grandmother to the fresh produce market every day in summer days and help carry her basket home. I would then stand around at her foot in the kitchen and she would reward me with delicious morsels of the food she was cooking. My two prominent occupations/preoccupations are cooking and teaching computer science/writing computer programs. I find both equally rewarding.

6 Reviews

Barbie August 7, 2021
How long do you stew the celery, and I was also wondering if anyone had successfully roasted or baked this dish, sort of all at once, if you absolutely needed that help. I can imagine that caramelizing the onions is most of the flavor and skipping that step a travesty but is there a one pot roasted version that works. It would certainly taste differently but is there a version?
Sophia May 7, 2017
Absolutely loved this dish. I've done lots of middle eastern inspired cooking, but never made a dish quite like this. It was perfectly spring-y yet comforting at the same time. The herbs and celery went together amazingly in the tomato base. I loved how simple the ingredient list was, yet resulted in the most flavorful dish. Can't wait to make it again, thank you for the recipe.
Maureen May 3, 2017
Can I make the potato-rice part in a non-stick skillet? I don't have any non-stick pots. Also should it be covered?
Arb P. February 22, 2017
This is now probably our favourite dish in the world. No honestly. We've cooked it at least once a month for the past 2 years! The combination of tender chicken, onion/celery, rice, herbs and potato is a dream. A wonderful marriage of simple flavours. Middle Eastern food often puts the popular but overrated Italian and Indian food to shame.
creamtea March 14, 2012
I was in Iran more years ago than I care to admit. The food was delicious. This looks delicious too. I love the use of herbs. And I luvs me a big piece of tahdig!
cookingProf March 11, 2012
Thanks. You can never have too much tahdig at an Iranian dinner table.