Beh-līmū-polāw (polāw with quince and lime)
serves about 50 to 75
- 3 chickens, 5 lb. ea. (we used 15 lb. chicken thighs)
- 6 c. cooked chickpeas, peeled
- three 3" sticks cinnamon
(my spice shop was out of stick cinnamon and it's insanely expensive at the supermarket, so i sprinkled powdered cinnamon on each layer of rice; personally, i prefer Ceylon/true cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or verum), but it's fine to use common "cinnamon", actually cassia (from several different sources, such as C. burmannii (Korintje or Indonesian cinnamon), C. aromaticum (Cassia or Chinese cinnamon), C. loureiroi (Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cinnamon))
- 6 sliced Sweet Persian lemons (limoo shirin - Citrus limetta Tan.) and/or Sweet Palestinian limes (laymun helu - Citrus limettioides Tan. (syn. C. lumia Risso et Poit.)
- 10 Key limes (NOT the other modern larger kind, aka Tahitian/Persian limes)
(to save time we used bottled Key lime juice)
- 3 lg. or 5 sm. quinces
(since quince season here is only in November, occasionally into December, at a local Persian market i bought several jars of preserved quinces which had large chunks of quince cooked in sugar syrup with no artificial color)
- 3 Tb. sugar
- 3 c. green raisins
- 3 c. pistachios
- 1 head garlic, all cloves peeled and finely chopped
- about 3 quarts water & broth
- 10 lb. long grain Basmati or Thai Jasmine rice (1 pound = ca. 2 c. raw = 6 c. cooked)
(please, please get good rice; most American rice lacks the beautiful aroma of good rice and tastes like soaked cardboard; rice quality makes a huge difference in a rice-based dish)
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, melted
(either salted or unsalted; clarified butter/ghee would be even better)
- 1 Tb. (= 3 tsp.) salt
- Cover chicken with water and cook until done, about 1/2 hour (chicken will cook additionally in rice).
- While chicken is cooking, wash the rice, and soak about 1/2 hour. Drain rice, discarding water.
- Peel chickpeas: Take a small handful, rub them gently between your palms, then pick out and discard the skins, putting peeled chickpeas in a bowl. Repeat. Much faster if there are several people doing it. One does not have to achieve utter perfection these days -- although it was probably expected in the Shah's kitchens.
- Juice key limes (or measure out 1/2 c. bottled Key lime juice) and stir some of sugar into juice - taste to ensure a nice balance between sweet and sour.
- Remove chicken from broth to a dish to cool somewhat, retaining broth separately. Strain broth if necessary.
- Put the rice in a deep pot, pour in chicken broth to cover, adding water if necessary, there should be about 2X as much liquid as rice. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to very low and cook about 10 min. Remove from fire - rice should be about half cooked.
- Shred the chicken meat, discarding skin and bones.
- Pour about 1/3 of melted butter in a deep pot, add 1/3 of rice, 1 tsp of salt and one cinnamon stick (i sprinkled with powdered cinnamon), then 1/2 the shredded chicken, and 1/2 remaining ingredients.
Do NOT pack ingredients down - steam needs to rise through it all so top layer can cook.
- Then top with 1/3 of the rice, sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, again place a cinnamon stick or sprinkle some powdered cinnamon, add remaining chicken and ingredients.
- Top with the rest of the rice, sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, and again place a cinnamon stick or sprinkle some powdered cinnamon, then pour in remaining melted butter.
(since we had such a deep pot, IIRC we made three layers of chicken and ingredients, not just two)
- Seal pot well and steam on very low fire, about 45 min. The idea is that liquid does not condense on the pot lid and fall back into the rice, so a traditional covering of raffia may be used today in Iran; or use a couple clean towels - that had been washed with unscented detergent and without fabric softener, and dried without drier sheets.
- When done, let stand about 15 min.
- Turn out onto serving dishes, mixing ingredients.
Unlike modern Iranian polaws, there should be no tahdig (which is nowadays usually accomplished by putting a little rice mixed with yogurt or even a layer of white potato slices on the bottom of the pot).