Persian rice recipe Persian rice recipe Alon Shaya's Persian rice recipe is a favorite at his award-winning New Orleans restaurant. (Photo: Graham Blackall)

Exclusive: 'Best Chef in the South' shares a favorite recipe

Head chef at Shaya in New Orleans has a challenge for ambitious novice cooks.

"Man, I wish I knew how to make this at home."

Chances are you've said those words at least once in your life, while dining at a highly acclaimed (or just personal favorite) restaurant. You take that perfect, succulent bite, and then another, and then another ... and then it's gone. It's the kind of meal you'll dream about that night, and every night after, until your next visit. But you can't wait that long! Can you?

Thanks to James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya – whose eponymous modern Israeli restaurant in New Orleans has just been named America's best new restaurant by Esquire magazine – you don't have to. Shaya's innovative and charming pairings of Mediterranean classics like hummus, tabbouleh and shakshouka with Deep South staples like Louisiana shrimp, gumbo and jambalaya have earned the Israeli-born chef multiple accolades since the restaurant opened last February. And now, he's graciously contributed his own recipe to From The Grapevine: a gorgeous Persian rice dish with unique accoutrements and a zesty spice blend that could only be conceived by one of the best chefs in the country. We admit, it's not for the kitchen novice; this recipe is challenging, with a few ingredients that may not already be in your spice rack (or zip code). But why "Shaya" away from a challenge? We urge you to give it a try, and let us know how it worked out in the comments below!

Shaya's Persian Rice

YIELD: 4-6 servings

NOTE: You will need a 12" cast iron skillet with a lid that fits snugly. If your cast iron doesn’t have a lid, just look for the lid to a pot that is the same size. If it fits on your cast iron it will work for this recipe.

Step 1:

2 3/4 cups Basmati rice
2 1⁄2 cups water
1 gram saffron
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Place rice in a 1 gallon sauce pot.

Place the pot in your sink and run cold water over the rice until it fills the pot. Strain off the water carefully so as to not lose any rice. Repeat until the water runs clear. Fill the pot with cold water a final time, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Mix water and saffron threads in an appropriately sized plastic container with a lid, and store in refrigerator overnight as well.

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus.Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. (Photo: Oksana Shufrych/Shutterstock)

Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Drain soaked rice. Strain saffron water through a fine mesh strainer and add to rice. Spread out the mixture evenly so that all rice is covered in water. Wrap in two sheets of foil tightly. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep covered for 10 minutes at room temp. Flip the steamed rice onto a cookie sheet and fluff gently with a fork to separate the grains.

Step 2:

Cooled saffron rice from step 1
1 3⁄4 cups yogurt
1/8 teaspoon baharat (Mediterranean spice blend)
1/8 teaspoon ground Persian lime

Very gently fold the yogurt into the rice with a wooden spoon being careful not to break the rice grains. Then take one and a half cups of the rice/yogurt mixture and mix it with the baharat and Persian lime, and set aside.

Baharat is a spice mixture commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine that includes allspice, cardamom seeds, cassia bark, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, dried red chili peppers and paprika.Baharat is a spice mixture commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine that includes allspice, cardamom seeds, cassia bark, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, nutmeg, dried red chili peppers and paprika. (Photo: Marysckin/Shutterstock)

Step 3:

1/4 cup clarified butter
Plain yogurt rice and spiced yogurt rice from step 2
5 medium egg yolks

Mix the plain yogurt rice with the egg yolks until mixture is evenly coated in yolks.

Get a 12" cast iron skillet very hot. Add the clarified butter and make sure it coats all of the inside of the pan.

clarified butterClarified butter is sometimes sold as ghee. (Photo: marekuliasz/Shutterstock)

Place the egg mixture in the bottom of the pan. Use the bottom of a large serving spoon to smash the rice into the cast iron, gently, to form an even crust on the bottom and on the sides of the pan. Top with the spiced mixture. place the lid on the skillet and turn the heat down to medium low heat. Cook for 10 minutes. The crust should be set and golden brown all over. Place a plate over the top of the crispy rice and flip it over.

Step 4:

6 tablespoons re-hydrated sour cherries
3 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
4 1/2 tablespoons tabbouleh vinaigrette (see vinaigrette sub-recipe below photo)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups mixed baby lettuces
2/3 cup chard, cut into 1/4" strips
2/3 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/3 cup red onion thinly sliced

Rainbow swiss chard, cut into 1/4" strips.Rainbow swiss chard, cut into 1/4" strips. (Photo: Ahturner/Shutterstock)

For tabbouleh vinaigrette:

4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon preserved lemon, diced finely
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baharat
1/8 teaspoon allspice, ground
2/3 cup olive oil

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Toss baby lettuces, chard, cabbage, and red onion with vinaigrette and season with salt. Pile onto crispy rice and top with sour cherries and sunflower seeds. Enjoy!


Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Chefs & Restaurants, Recipes