My epic tahdig failure (and chicken success)

After watching Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix a couple years ago, besides being infatuated with how she spoke about food, I was envious of her and her mom’s mouth-watering tahdig (a new term for me at the time). Given how technical it seemed (especially for a side dish), I resigned myself to only ever looking at pictures of the crispy rice.

So I was very excited when Samin joined Food 52’s Kristen Miglore to discuss her recipe for “Persian-ish rice“—basically, a “tahdig for dummies”.

For those that don’t know, tahdig is a Persian scorched rice dish, resulting in a crispy top layer of rice and fluffy, buttery rice beneath. The golden crust and fluffy interior make for what seems like an ideal side to grilled chicken marinated in yogurt (what I just so happened to be making for dinner).

Don’t mind me. Just shallow-frying undercooked rice.

Well, as the title of this post would suggest, my tahdig—even the “Persian-ish” version that’s meant to be foolproof—did not go to plan. It was completely inedible.

I think my problems began pretty early on. I suspect that I didn’t par-boil the rice for long enough before transferring it to my non-stick pan. This led to under-cooked rice that never quite recovered.

But my troubles didn’t end there. The only non-stick pan that I have (and it’s one that I love) is much larger than the one that Samin and Kristen apparently used. The wide base meant that most of my rice went toward the “crispy” portion, and there wasn’t much of a mound left for the “fluffy interior”.

So what was meant to be fluffy never finished cooking, and the crispy bottom never stopped.

C.R.I.S.P.Y.

I was successful in one crucial area of tahdig-making: It all came out of the pan in one piece (shout out non-stick)! This is usually a big sticking point (HA HA!) for novice tahdig cooks, so I guess I should take the win.

But, at least the people who end up with broken tahdig can still usually eat it…

As I recounted when cooking farro for the first time, I am terrible at cooking rice. I honestly forgot how bad at it I was or I probably wouldn’t have even tried making such a technical rice dish. Needless to say, my rice curse is still going strong.

Luckily, tahdig was just the side dish, and I’m not terrible at cooking everything.

Dinner (and mess) in progress

So without a side, dinner turned into What’s Gaby Cooking’s Moroccan Chicken Skewers, and I’m happy to report that these were much more successful than the rice (low bar, to be fair).

One look at the ingredient list for this recipe, and you’ll see that this chicken was way out of my comfort zone. Flavored with lots of turmeric and marinated in yogurt (and called “Moroccan” instead of, I don’t know, “Buffalo”) made this chicken a little more intimidating for my picky eater sensibilities. And the rice’s failure put a lot of pressure on this chicken being yummy.

It was delicious!

Spicy, zesty, caramelized grill marks. This chicken had a really interesting, complex flavor that was completely different from anything I’d ever cooked before.

Thank God, because otherwise we’d be eating Cape Cod chips for dinner. I highly recommend this chicken to anyone looking for some big flavor in their next meal.

It did need some time to marinate, and I definitely made a humongous mess of my kitchen (I may have stained my counters turmeric yellow. Please don’t tell my landlord.), but it was worth it. Once marinated and skewered, the chicken didn’t take long on my grill pan to char and finish cooking.

And if you’ve never tried tahdig before, I still say try out Samin’s recipe on Food52. Consider using a smaller pan than I did (or making double the rice), but something tells me you won’t find your tahdig experience quite as spastic as I did. It is supposedly “foolproof” after all.

If you do try it, send me some! My version was inedible, so I’ve still never eaten tahdig and still want to! Share your success stories, tahdig tips, or go-to places to find the dish in the comments below or on Instagram @thepickyeaterchronicles! I’ll be waiting with bated breath and empty stomach.

Published by Bethy St. John

Lifelong picky eater with a love for all things cooking. I'm a complicated woman.

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