Roasted Garlic, Cheese & Herb Baked Rice
This is not your every day, throw-in-the-oven-rather-than-on-the-stovetop rice. My inspiration for this dish is Tah Chin, a Persian rice pilaf that layers saffron rice with chicken and bakes it to perfection. The rice is bound with yoghurt and egg yolks and during its slow-baking process forms this beautiful crust where it hits the baking dish, not wholly unlike soccarat (which is the crusty layer found at the bottom or paella). Suffice it to say, I veered a bit off of tradition with this version….
Many of the items are similar to the original – the long grain rice (though trying this with Valencia or Bomba rice sounds pretty alluring), saffron, yoghurt and egg yolks. But that is where it ends! I leave out the chicken and created this to be an easy (and slightly more elegant…) substitute for mac n’ cheese, a lovely casserole side. Thus, I included some butter and crème fraiche for richness and tang, some cheeses for good measure, roasted garlic and herbs for depth of flavor.
It was truly an experiment, and I love the result…First of all, it’s beautiful! I plan to just leave the cutting board and knife out for people to help themselves at my next dinner party. I warn you, however, to do this as close to serving time as possible. It was all I could do to snap a few pics before my husband hacked off a third of it and ran off! The smell of it drove him mad…the roasted garlic and cheese, creaminess and that crusty layer of rice – amazing. Enjoy!
Yields (1) 9”x13” baking dish
3 cups long grain rice
3 tbsps kosher salt
½ stick unsalted butter
½ cup yoghurt
½ cup crème fraiche
4 egg yolks
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
¾ cup grated grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese
12-13 roasted garlic cloves
¾ cup chopped herbs
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Rinse the rice in changes of hot water until the water runs clear. In a medium pot, bring 6 cups of water up to a boil. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of the salt and the washed rice. Let cook 6 to 8 minutes (rice should start to soften but still be raw at the center), drain and rinse lightly. Transfer to a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, melt butter with yoghurt and crème fraiche over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, shut off the heat and add the saffron. Let it bloom for 5 minutes. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add spoonfuls of the saffron mixture to the egg yolks stirring constantly – you want to bring the egg yolks up to temperature slowly.
To the drained rice, now add the saffron-egg yolk mixture, the cheeses, roasted garlic cloves, chopped herbs, the other 1 ½ tablespoons of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Combine thoroughly.
Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Transfer the rice mixture to the baking pan, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes. Let cool slightly and then loosen the side of the rice from the dish. Turn out onto a cutting board and serve hot in slices or squares as you choose.