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Author Notes: As with most Iranian recipes, there are as many ways to make tachin as there are people who eat it, each insisting their method (or their mother’s) is superior. Tachin is my favorite dish, and one I’ve been attempting to make on my own since I was 15. The first five years were entirely trial and error, until one summer several years ago, when my aunt invited me to spend the night at her apartment in the Mirdamad neighborhood of Tehran. We practiced until I got it right, my fumbling Farsi barely bridging the gap.
The next day we served the recipe to fifteen or twenty family members, all gathered around the dining table, sharing slices of tachin nestled between handfuls of fresh herbs and heaping spoonfuls of maast o moosir, a shallot-y, garlicky yogurt. There was of course, the requisite meter-long sangak bread, fresh from the noonvayee, or local baker, and plentiful bottles of yogurt soda, or doogh, to wash it all down. It was a light lunch in Iran and an absolute feast in my eyes.
I prepare this often for a table of one (just me!) in America. It yields far too much for one person and I pack it for lunch every day for a week afterwards, a routine most solo eaters are familiar with, but one that feels like a luxury when the meal is a childhood favorite.
My variation includes my favorite Iranian staple, barberries, which you can likely find at your local Middle Eastern market or on Amazon. The chicken can be swapped for eggplant, which I have done during many a vegetarian stint. If you opt for the latter, there is no need to marinate the eggplant. Instead, I recommend cutting the eggplant into slices, lengthwise, and fry the slices in a pan with a splash of liquid saffron and then patting the cooked eggplant dry with paper towels before layering it between the rice.
This recipe, while complete with a few personalized touches from my family recipe, is far from fusion. Instead, it's a tried-and-true Iranian classic, you can find it at potlucks and on kitchen tables from the Californian diaspora to mid-Tehran. Share it with a friend, or fifteen, or twenty.
Serves 8 to 10
- 1 pinch high-quality saffron
- Canola, walnut, or grapeseed oil
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 cups basmati rice, washed until water runs clear
- 3 tablespoons barberries, plus 1 tablespoon for optional garnish
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Dried rose petals and pistachios for garnishing, optional
- You'll want to start this recipe they day before you plan to serve the tachin. Crush a pinch of high quality saffron in a mortar and pestle and transfer the saffron powder to 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of hot, hot water. Stir and steep: You’ll be left with bright orange liquid saffron.
- Heat a glug of oil in a saucepan, then add the sliced onion and crushed garlic. Layer the chicken breasts on top and season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of water and cover, cooking on medium until the chicken is cooked through (about 15 to 20 minutes).
- While your chicken is cooking, combine the yogurt and 5 tablespoons of the liquid saffron with salt and pepper, and add in egg yolks, mixing until yolks are broken and ingredients are just combined. Pull the chicken off the stove and break into medium sized chunks, then fold into the saffron yogurt mixture. Cover and chill for 12 hours or overnight. (This is a great time to soak the cleaned basmati rice in water overnight as well! It's okay not to soak the rice, but do make sure you rinse it well.)
- Heat the oven to 350° F and grease a casserole dish [editor's note: We used an 8- by 8-inch baking dish]. Remove chicken from refrigerator (and rice from soaking liquid, if you soaked it). In a heavy-bottomed pot, add 6 cups water and a pinch of salt, bringing to a boil before adding the rice in. Watch closely: As soon as the water boils again, your rice is almost done. Prod the bottom gently to ensure none gets stuck, and drain in a colander when the rice is al dente.
- While the rice is cooking, spread barberries out on a paper towel and discard any debris. Barberries are often picked in the mountains of Iran and should be washed thoroughly to remove any dirt. Rinse in cold water and then place in a bowl, adding more cold water until just covered. Let soak for 10 minutes, then warm a splash of neutral oil in a pan, adding the barberries and sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon liquid saffron. Barberries burn quickly, so fold together mixture until sugar has just dissolved and barberries have plumped up, then remove from heat immediately.
- Remove the chunks of chicken from the saffron yogurt mixture it was chilled in, and fold the rice into the yogurt. Combine thoroughly, seasoning with more salt as needed (and it almost always needs it here!). Add half the rice, distributed evenly, to the greased casserole dish.
- Arrange the chicken pieces atop the rice, sprinkling with the barberry mixture. Add in the other half of the rice, pressing down lightly until layer is even. Think of this as a rice sandwich! Drizzle with melted butter and cover with tin foil, then bake for 2 hours at 350° F.
- When cooked through, gently invert the rice onto a serving dish, such that the crunchy exterior faces up. Top with any extra barberry mixture, dried rose petals and pistachios if you please. Cut like a sheet cake and serve in square slices.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!