Cook's Illustrated (March 2016)
Bittens, we burned the rice.
Which is a little bit ironic, since the entire point of this dish is to burn the rice a little. But we got busy, or distracted, or who even remembers what, and we let this sit too long on the stove.
Actually, let's back up.
So we prepped it in plenty of time for our dinner with our friends Mark and Ryan. The prep here is a bit wacky, one of those classic Cook's recipes that has you jury-rig your existing kitchen gear rather than buying a new piece of equipment (a trait of the magazine that we always love). In this case, that means using two different kitchen towels to help turn a Dutch oven into a rice cooker.
It's pretty easy work, though. Our problem is that we cooked it at too high of heat and made it too far in advance, leaving it to warm on the stove. When we checked on the rice about 30 minutes before dinner, we opened the lid to find most of the rice was blackened and charred to a crisp. We made the executive decision to throw it out and start over.
This rice takes about 45-50 minutes from start to finish, and our friends hadn't yet arrived, so we started over. Dinner was a tad later than we'd planned, but not awful.
Okay, so let's talk about this rice.
This rice is phenomenal.
It is addictive.
It's one of those dishes you'll pick at and nibble at while standing up in the kitchen later at night, long after your guests have gone home.
Have you ever had Korean bi bim bob, served in a hot stone bowl? And the rice on the bottom gets all crispy and cooked from the stoneware? This rice is like that, only multiplied by 10.
The flavor is great, although subtle. The Greek yogurt and cumin give it just enough flavor to be exciting without overwhelming. And the parsley is a delicious, bright addition.
But really, this dish is all about the texture. You end up with all this golden, crispy, chewy rice that is just out-of-this-world good. It was an excellent side dish for our coconut chicken, even if one was Middle Eastern and the other more South Asian. (Hey! It's fusion!)
Honestly, though, we can't imagine anything that wouldn't be improved by having this rice alongside it on the plate. You should definitely add this to your rotation!
We prefer the nutty flavor and texture of basmati rice, but Texmati or another long-grain rice will work. For the best results, use a Dutch oven with a bottom diameter between 8½ and 10 inches. It is important not to overcook the rice during the parboiling step, as it will continue to cook during steaming. Begin checking the rice at the lower end of the given time range. Do not skip placing the pot on a damp towel in step 7—doing so will help free the crust from the pot. Serve this pilaf alongside stews or kebabs.
Place rice in fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Place rinsed rice and 1 tablespoon salt in medium bowl and cover with 4 cups hot tap water. Stir gently to dissolve salt; let stand for 15 minutes. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer.
Meanwhile, bring 8 cups water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add rice and 2 tablespoons salt. Boil briskly, stirring frequently, until rice is mostly tender with slight bite in center and grains are floating toward top of pot, 3 to 5 minutes (begin timing from when rice is added to pot).
Drain rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water to stop cooking, about 30 seconds. Rinse and dry pot well to remove any residual starch. Brush bottom and 1 inch up sides of pot with 1 tablespoon oil.
Whisk remaining ¼ cup oil, yogurt, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, and ¼ teaspoon salt together in medium bowl. Add 2 cups parcooked rice and stir until combined. Spread yogurt-rice mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pot, packing it down well.
Stir remaining ½ teaspoon cumin seeds into remaining rice. Mound rice in center of pot on top of yogurt-rice base (it should look like small hill). Poke 8 equally spaced holes through rice mound but not into yogurt-rice base. Place 1 butter cube in each hole. Drizzle 1/3 cup water over rice mound.
Wrap pot lid with clean dish towel and cover pot tightly, making sure towel is secure on top of lid and away from heat. Cook over medium-high heat until rice on bottom is crackling and steam is coming from sides of pot, about 10 minutes, rotating pot halfway through for even cooking.
Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until rice is tender and fluffy and crust is golden brown around edges, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Remove covered pot from heat and place on damp dish towel set in rimmed baking sheet; let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir 2 tablespoons parsley into rice, making sure not to disturb crust on bottom of pot, and season with salt to taste. Gently spoon rice onto serving platter.
Using thin metal spatula, loosen edges of crust from pot, then break crust into large pieces. Transfer pieces to serving platter, arranging evenly around rice. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.