Persia Shall Flower Again


When it does, we’ll have more ingredients for today’s submissions.  The crocus grants saffron for Joojeh ba Sib (Saffron Butter-Basted Poussins with Apples), while dried rose petals adorn the Mast-o Khlar (Yogurt-and-Cucumber Salad).  Fitting, that summer’s exuberance is preserved to sustain us through the months ahead.

Food & Wine included both recipes, among others, in a March 2017 article about Persian cuisine.  The Yogurt-and-Cucumber Salad pairs well with all manner of dishes, and it’s satisfying enough to serve as a cool, light main once the swelter returns.  Mint and dill accent the yogurt’s creaminess while helping the cucumber’s freshness to break through occasionally.

Rose petals are a nice touch.  Not only do they add color, but they contribute a subtle scent (and matching taste) that elevates the salad to fond recollections of happier times, and promises better things to come.

The birds are basted with saffron-infused butter and are nestled among apples and shallots as they bake.  This ensures the meat absorbs flavors from all directions, the creamy butter softening the shallots’ bite and the apples’ sparkling sweetness infusing it all.

By the way, as you read above, the original instructions are formulated for poussins, or young chickens.  Poussins are difficult to obtain and, consequently, are quite pricy.  This attempt substitutes Cornish hens, which are only moderately expensive.  They’re larger too, about twice the size of poussins and, thus, are halved for a single serving.

The apples and shallot you see next to the hen are a supremely edible garnish.  They are taken from the roasting pan after spending the previous 90 minutes absorbing the wonderful tastes around them.  The apples are particularly succulent, being softened nearly to applesauce.  A wonderfully sweet-tangy-savory applesauce, divine when taken with a bite of hen.

Finally, a word about the saffron.  Though the dish is Persian, the chosen saffron is a Spanish variety.  The results are outstanding.  Many suggest Iranian saffron is even better, though further investigation must outwait the current regime.  Once Persia flowers again, so too will its crocuses.

*****

Mast-o Khlar

(Persian Yogurt-and-Cucumber Salad)

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 4 small Persian cucumbers, diced (*1)
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped dill
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • dried mint and rose petals, for garnish (*2)

In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, cucumbers, dill, shallot and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper, and plate.  Garnish with dried mint and rose petals.

NOTES:

1 – Persian cucumbers are a small seedless variety.  As the market didn’t have any, at least not in September, mid-pandemic, I substituted two English cucumbers, an equally seedless but larger option.

2 – If you can’t find rose petals, they are available online, as are most things.  Another possibility is to leave them out altogether.  The salad will be diminished without them, but it still will be good.

****

Joojeh ba Sib

(Saffron Butter-Basted Poussins with Apples)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon saffron, finely ground
  • 8 1-pound poussins (*3)
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 small baking apples, such as Galas, halved and cored
  • 8 medium shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the saffron.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Season the birds, inside and out, with salt and pepper, the tie together the legs with culinary twine.  Transfer to a baking pan and brush them with some of the butter mixture.

In a large bowl, toss the apples and shallots with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Scatter the apples and shallots around the birds.  Roast for about an hour (*4), basting occasionally with the remaining saffron butter.  Rotate the pan about halfway through cooking.

Untie the birds and serve them alongside the apples and shallots from the pan.

NOTES:

3 – Poussins are expensive and are difficult to source, at least they are in this part of North America.  Cornish hens are still costly, but much less so, and are easier to obtain.  Be aware, though, that hens are about twice the size of poussins and adjust accordingly.  For this recipe I used four hens instead of the prescribed eight poussins.

4 – The larger birds increased the cooking time, of course.  Instead of an hour, it took 90 minutes to finish the birds.

 

38 thoughts on “Persia Shall Flower Again

    1. I appreciate your continued interest, Eliza!

      There may be many kinds of cucumbers, but all the market offered were the standard, and English, varieties. As the English sort are seedless, they come a little closer to the Persian variety the original recipe uses.

      Like

  1. First of all, I love your title, but the salad does get my attention, especially with bits of mint and rose petals. I have had rose tea before and it was delicious, and wonder if the salad would carry the same flavor of rose petals.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does, Angela, which is why I used the petals sparingly. They don’t have as pronounced a flavor as does rosewater (if you ever have tried that), but it still is somewhat assertive.

      I suppose if you’re used to the taste of rose (as most of those in the Near East are), you probably could cascade the petals with a freer hand. However, outsiders such as you and me should be more cautious. A lifetime of dining hasn’t prepared our taste buds.

      Your mentioning rose tea piques my curiosity, as I’d love to learn how it compares to rose petals or to rose water. Perhaps not the most masculine thing, wanting to try rose tea, but, darn it, I’m curious now!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. love that cucumber and yogurt salad, and Persia!

    Visited there in my youth well before the current regime 😦
    Beautiful country and lovely people, so steeped in history and romance … the art the poetry … nearly as seductive as your prelude to this recipe 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kate!

      I quite agree, Persia’s beauty, refinement and intricacy are reflected in its cuisine. It’s had 2,500 years or so to develop that elegance, and it’ll take more than forty years of ayatollahs to erase it.

      In that spirit, I think you would’ve enjoyed the Pistachio Baklava featured here nearly three years ago. Somewhat similar to the Greek variety with which we’re more familiar, except with pistachios instead of walnuts (obviously) , and with rosewater and cardamom.

      Better yet, you even may have tried some when you visited the country. In which case, you probably will agree it’s superb!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds delightful. Can’t go wrong with butter meeting chicken, or really anything else for that matter. The choice of Cornish hen is a great one. It’s oddly much more comforting to eat a chicken when it’s had the chance to grow and live it’s life a bit before eating it. 🐓

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, JoAnn, you had to go and get me started…

      What an utter hypocrite I am, Poultry Fiend and King of Shellfish,, yet, I have a soft spot for animals. A while back, I got my father live Chesapeake Blue Crabs for Father’s Day, forgetting part of the experience was consigning them to that blasted cooking pot! I mean, who knew?

      You’ll be interested to read, the Cornish Hen came straight from the freezer case. I never saw it alive, which means nobody ever dispatched it, right?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, it’s an odd line to walk… loving animals but also loving to eat them… sounds a bit barbaric, especially considering I grew up on a farm where I would personally adopt all the baby animals each year. I suppose it’s all a natural process. 🐮🥩

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks so lovely with the rose petals! Coincidentally, I just put together a (much simpler!) recipe using Cornish hens as well. I think I’ll get it up on the website next month. The Cornish hens can be tricky to find too, only 1-2 of our local supermarkets carry them. I think it was a smart substitution in this beautiful, special meal. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciated, Summer!

      Cornish hens are a relatively affordable option. Our stores stock them nearly always, and aside from a scarcity in April, at the pandemic’s nadir, they’re among the most accessible of the “exotic” meats.

      Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of quail, which the upscale grocery chain used to carry regularly, but which has been gone a few years now. Who knows, though? Maybe the company that processed them went out of business.

      Oh, and I can’t wait to see what you do with Cornish hens! Probably something delicious, and impossibly healthy. Come on, October!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you do find it, Summer, it almost certainly will be frozen. If this happens, would you do me a favor? Even if you don’t buy it, would you see what company processes the quail? I’d like to “look them up” and see if they offer mail-order.

        I know quail is available from online specialists like D’Artgnan, but that option’s quite pricy. As I recall, two quail (still, much less in size than is one Cornish hen) ran for about $8. Expensive, but not prohibitively so.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Please do, though it just occurred to me I can search on-line, even if I don’t have a company name. It’s as simple as, “Hey, Google.”

        Really hope I find something. I really like quail, but not enough to contemplate spending $70+ when you include shipping. If it is available commercially, and not just from the specialists, I’ll have to ask the butcher if it’s possible to special-order it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Tamara, with cucumbers and mint, it really does have cooling powers.. A nice compliment, too, to the savory hen.

      For dessert, may I suggest the Pistachio Baklava featured about three years ago? The difference id in the cardamom and rosewater.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Abi!

      The salad really is ideal for this time of year, as we transition from summer to…well, not-summer. Cucumber tames what’s left of the heat, while yogurt’s creaminess wraps us in a light blanket. Comfort, both ways.

      Glad it resonated with you too!

      Liked by 1 person

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