“Tahdig” (tah-DEEG) is Persian for “bottom of the pot,” and a catchall for the extra-crispy layer atop a mound of fluffy rice, the centerpiece of Persian cuisine. The tahdig itself needn’t be made from rice; flatbread and sliced potatoes are also commonly used.
Our version is inspired by a recipe popularized by the chef and food writer Samin Nosrat (if you haven’t watched Samin cook the dish on her Netflix show, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” do so ASAP; it’s some of the most inspiring on-screen cooking you can watch).
We’ve tweaked her recipe slightly to work perfectly in a No.8 cast iron skillet, the ideal cooking vessel for developing a perfectly crackly and evenly cooked tahdig, virtually eliminating any fears of stuck rice.
Cast Iron Rice with Tahdig
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 cups extra-long grain white basmati rice
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
¼ cup coconut oil, vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, or clarified butter
In a mixing bowl, cover the rice with cold water, swish it around for a few seconds, then tip the water out. Repeat a few more times, until the water is mostly clear. Cover the rice again with cold water and let soak for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of generously salted water to a boil (it should be considerably saltier than pasta-cooking water). Add the rice, return the water to a boil, and cook until the rice is al dente (the grains should still be slightly undercooked in the center), 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Measure 1½ cups of rice and add it to the bowl along with the yogurt. Fold the yogurt into the rice.
In a No.8 (10 ¼”) cast iron skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add rice-yogurt mixture and spread it evenly across the bottom of the skillet with a rubber spatula, packing it down firmly. Add the remaining rice and mound it so it forms a rounded pyramid. Using a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon, poke six holes in the rice (all the way to the bottom of the pan) to allow steam to escape.
Cook the rice over medium heat until the rice around the edges begins to turn golden brown, about 15 minutes. Set the skillet's lid on top of a clean kitchen towel, wrap the corners of the towel over the top of the lid and tie them together. Cover the pan, decrease the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Uncover the pan and turn off the heat. Fill a larger skillet with an inch or so of water, and gently set the No.8 skillet inside—this will both help to release the tahdig and cool the skillet down, making the next step easier.
To unmold the rice, run a rubber spatula around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the crusty rice. Place a flat plate or serving platter on top of the skillet, then carefully (but bravely) flip the everything over. Remove the skillet. If any tahdig is still sticking to the pan, gently remove it with a spatula and use it to patch the top of your rice. Serve.