Fish with Green Herbed Rice (Mahi Ba Sabzi Pollow)
Recipe and photo contributed by Ramin Ganeshram
Prep Time: 1 hour Cook Time: 45 minutes
Fish is an integral food of Noruz, the Persian New Year, as are herbs of all kinds, to celebrate regrowth and wealth. The fish is cooked incredibly simply, deriving its elegance from saffron. Flour is generally used to dredge the fish, but I like to use a mixture of flour and cornstarch for a crispier crust. The recipe is traditionally served with Caspian Sea whitefish, but any firm-fleshed, delicately flavored white fish will do. For this recipe, the fish needs to be marinated in the refrigerator overnight and the rice should be soaked for at least 1 hour or overnight.
1 teaspoon ground saffron
½ cup boiling water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 pounds fillets of firm-fleshed white fish, such as tilapia or cod
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
⅓ leek white part only, washed well (see Kitchen Tip) and chopped (¼ cup)
½ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup chopped fresh fenugreek or 2 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh lemon slices
Chopped fresh dill
- Marinate the fish: Dissolve the saffron in the boiling water and let it steep. Pour the eggs into a large baking dish. When the saffron water is deep orange, pour half of it into the eggs and beat well. Add the fish pieces, turning so they are well coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Cover and reserve the rest of the saffron water.
- Wash and soak the rice: Pour the rice into a large, deep pot and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Swirl the water around with your hand, until it is cloudy. Drain carefully, taking care not to lose any rice. Repeat the rinsing process about 5 times, until the water runs clear. Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches, add the salt, and set aside to soak for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
- When you are ready to cook, prepare the rice first: Set the rice pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 to 7 minutes and strain in a fine-mesh strainer. Meanwhile, mix together the chopped parsley, cilantro, leeks, dill, mint, and fenugreek in a small bowl.
- With the empty rice pot off the heat, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil along with ¼ cup of water. Using a large spoon, mound a spoonful of rice in the middle of the pot. Sprinkle the rice with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture.
- Add another large spoonful of rice and add another 1 to 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture. Repeat until you have used all the rice and herbs. You will have a mound of rice shaped like a pyramid in the middle of the pot. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil over this mound and sprinkle another ¼ cup of water over it as well. If needed, use a spatula to smooth the mound into a pyramid shape.
- Place a clean dish towel or two paper towels over the pot and then firmly close the lid on top of this. (This will let the rice steam.) If needed, fold the dishtowel ends up over the pot lid (so that they won’t touch the burners!). Place the wrapped rice pot over low heat and steam for 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, make the fish: Whisk together the salt, pepper, cornstarch and flour in a large shallow bowl. Prepare 2 large platters.
- Remove each fish fillet from the egg mixture, dredge in the flour mixture, and place on one of the prepared platters. Repeat with all the fish.
- Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil on medium heat. Place the fish fillets into the pan in a single layer, working in batches if necessary, and fry gently for 10 minutes. Turn with a spatula and fry for 10 minutes longer. Transfer to the prepared clean platter. and keep warm until the rice is done. (Don’t reuse the platter that held the fish battered with raw egg.)
- When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and add 2 tablespoons of rice to the reserved saffron water. Allow this to sit for 5 minutes to absorb the saffron. Then spoon the herbed rice onto a large platter and garnish with the saffron tinted rice. Serve with the fish, garnished with the lemon slices and chopped dill.
From the Test Kitchen:
If you haven’t cooked with leeks before, you need to know a few things: they’re delicious, but they absorb an amazing amount of soil as they grow, so you’ll need to wash them extremely well. First, trim off the tough outer leaves. Then, place the leek on a work surface, hold it by the root end and, with a sharp knife, slice lengthwise, starting about an inch from the root and working your way down the leaves (keeping the root end intact for the moment). Roll the leek over about half a turn, and slice again, so that the once tightly wound leaves hang in big strands from the root end. Wash well under running water, making sure to get in between each strand. When you are satisfied that all the dirt is removed, you can cut off the root end, trim any remaining tough green leaves and soak, slice or chop as the recipe requires.