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Persian Roasted Chicken with Dried Cherry-Saffron Rice

Middle Eastern food is my new love. Food is warm and hearty and full of spices. If you make this recipe, you will know what I mean. Cumin and saffron and lots of butter :) I was kind of afraid of the amount of butter in the recipe, but the rice soaked up all of it and the taste was fantastic. The cherries were a pleasant surprise. I think that sugar made their sourness mild. I don’t know why don’t we use them more here. Cherries are one of the most used fruit in desserts here in Serbia, yet we never use them dried, only fresh and frozen. We use raisins a lot and I’m not such a fan of them. Can’t wait to try dried cherries in more recipes!

Persian Roasted Chicken with Dried Cherry-Saffron Rice

(adapted from here)

60 ml olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1 kg chicken thighs and legs, with skin, on the bone
salt and freshly ground pepper
250 g basmati rice
150 g butter
100 g dried sour cherries
1 Tbsp sugar
30 g slivered almonds

Combine olive oil, onion, lemon juice, cumin and half of the saffron in a large bowl. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and coat well with the marinade. Let it stand at room temperature for about an hour.

Drain the chicken, scraping off the onion and saffron and transfer it to a large roasting pan. Add about 60 ml water, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven on 375°F/190°C. Uncover and bake for 25 minutes more.

While the chicken is roasting, fill a large saucepan with water, add salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the cooked rice. In a small bowl, dissolve the remaining saffron in 1 tablespoon of water. Put the rice into a bowl and stir in the saffron water.

Melt the butter with the dried sour cherries and sugar. Spoon one third of the rice into a buttered baking dish. Top with half of the sour cherries, butter and slivered almonds. Cover with half of the remaining rice and the remaining sour cherries, butter and almonds. Top with the last layer of rice and pour remaining butter on top, if there is any. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes (while the chicken is baking).

Preheat the broiler when the rice is done. Broil the chicken, skin side down, for 2 minutes. Turn the chicken and broil until the skin is browned and crisp, for about 3 minutes.