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.
(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.
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.
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.