"Persian rice is made differently from the standard way I learned how to make rice. It is boiled in plenty of water, drained, then steamed and crisped with butter and a little more water. The plentiful water takes the starchy flavor out of the rice, and if you are lucky, you will get some nice crispy rice on the bottom, which is a little sweet. It takes a little longer to cook to get the tahdig, so I don't always bother."
Grind saffron threads with sugar in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a bowl and dissolve in boiling water. Set aside to soak.
Wash starch from the rice by rinsing it in a nonstick 4-quart pot. Rinse 3 or 4 times in lukewarm water until water runs clear. Fill the pot 3/4 full with cold water, covering the rice. Bring to a boil. Add olive oil and cook until rice is soft on the outside and still crunchy in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes.
Drain rice and rinse with cool water. Set aside. Rinse any excess rice starch out of the pot.
Melt butter in the clean, dry pot. Mound rice over the butter; add enough water to reach 1/3 of the height of the rice. Sprinkle salt over the rice. Wrap the lid with a kitchen towel and cover the pot to seal tightly. Simmer over medium heat until all water is absorbed and a crispy crust starts to form on the bottom, about 10 minutes.
Fluff the rice with a fork while turning it out on a plate. Measure 1 cup rice and mix with the saffron water. Scatter saffron rice over plain rice. Detach the layer of crust, or 'tahdig', from the bottom of the pot and serve in a separate dish as a special treat.
Instead of butter, you can use 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
This rice goes with my ghormeh sabzi recipe. Other traditional Persian side dishes include 1) chilled, fresh, whole radishes in lightly salted water; 2) white onions cut into eighths and large sprigs of fresh basil (served with pita bread and butter) and 3) peeled, sliced baby cucumbers tossed with a mild yogurt and chopped fresh dill, salt, and pepper to taste. A proper Persian dinner is never served without one or more of these table garnishes.
Per Serving: 276 calories;6.9 g fat;
49.4 g carbohydrates;
4.8 g protein;
10 mg cholesterol;
415 mg sodium.