Saturday, May 19, 2007
Recently I decided to venture into the world of Persian cuisine and learned how to make a dish recommended by a friend called Kabob e Barg. Kabob e Barg falls into the larger category of Chelow Kabob, the national dish of Iran, which consists of rice, kabob, and grilled tomato. Apparently the men of Iran pride themselves on preparing this dish, so the challenge was on! I know what Kabob is, but I still don’t know what an “e” or a “Barg” is. Barg is pronounced more like “bag” except there is a very slight R sound. Kabob e Barg is beef tenderloin or lamb that is basically marinated in grated onion. There are a few other flavors like saffron and garlic but the onion flavor is pervasive. I tasted the marinade after preparation and it was awful! Needless to say, it took great courage to drop $25 of fillet mignon (from the Meat Science Lab) into the bag of foul tasting marinade. Obviously I am not doing a good job of selling this dish, but something mysterious that could only be explained by Agent Mulder happened during the marinating process and it turned out great! The kabob is served with Basmati rice sprinkled with Tah-digh. Tah-digh is rice that has been fried in butter to form a golden rice crust at the bottom of the pot. From what I understand, Tah-digh literally means “bottom of the pot” and bread as well as other items can be used to make Tah-digh. I also served this dish with a Barbequed tomato that had been brushed with the marinade. Here is how I did it:
½ cup olive oil
3 Onions, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp saffron
Tenderloin cut into strips about 1cm thick
Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade and place into a large zip-lock bag. Slice the tenderloin 1cm thick and marinate 6-24 at 4°C. Thread the meat onto a skewer, folding the longer slices of meat on themselves to form a compact kabob and cook over a hot grill. The outside should be somewhat blackened but the inside must still be pink. As you can tell from the picture, my grill wasn’t hot enough; I would have liked to blacken the tomato a bit as well.
Rice with Tah-Digh
2 quarts water
1½ cups Jasmine or Basmati rice
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp salt
Bring water and salt to a boil. Add rice and boil for 10 minutes. Drain rice in a fine colander and rinse with warm water. The rice will not be completely cooked but it will be cooked in it’s own steam during the next step. Next make the Tah-digh rice; melt the butter in a saucepan, and spoon the rice over the melted butter. Place a cotton dishtowel over the top of the saucepan, place the lid over the dishtowel, and fold the edges of the dishtowel up over the lid. This keeps the moisture in the rice rather than allowing escape or condensation of steam. Cook the rice over low heat for 30-40 minutes until a golden crust is formed on the bottom. Spoon out the loose white rice first, then you can remove the Tah-digh rice and sprinkle this on top of the white rice upon serving.
According to my Persian friend my first attempt was very successful and I could put some Persian men to shame. Her main suggestions were to marinade the meat for a shorter time (I marinated for 24 hours), and use a hotter grill to blacken the outside a bit more. I have made plenty of Kabobs in my day, but they were merely chunks of steak cooked with vegetables. I always wondered why I would cut steaks into chunks and BBQ them on a stick when I could just BBQ a steak and cut it as I eat. This Kabob is truly different and opened my eyes, now I have a much deeper personal understanding of the Kabob. Though I still can't articulate the meaning of Barg, I now know.....