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Wash rice: Place in bowl, fill with water, swirl, empty and repeat. Do this 5-6 times until water is clear. You are removing the starch and the rice will steam up into beautiful separate grains, not a big mushy mess. Fill bowl with clean water, add 3-4 Tbs kosher salt, mix and let soak for 2-3 hours.
In large pot, place finely chopped onion, allow to sweat for a bit, add a few tablespoonfuls of olive oil, sauté and continue to sauté on medium heat for a few minutes until beginning to color. Add the grated carrots and garlic cloves and continue to sauté until onion begins to carmelize and garlic becomes golden brown (do NOT scorch). Remove onion and garlic. Raise heat to medium high, and quickly sauté chicken breasts in the same pan, add a bit more oil if necessary. They don’t have to be cooked through as they will be steamed in the pot with the rice. Set aside chicken breasts.
Boil water in a large non-stick pot to which 3-4 Tbs kosher salt has been added. Drain rice, add to pot, swirl. Count 6-7 minutes from the time the first grain pops to the surface. Drain in large mesh sieve (if using a sieve, a lot of rice will go down the drain!). Rinse rice with warm water. Rinse pot. To bottom, add 3-4 Tbs of oil, add a layer of rice, patting down to about 1-inch or so (this will make the tahdig – the crunchy crust revered by Persians). To remaining rice in sieve, add the sautéed carrot-onion, garlic mix. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add this rice to the pot, spatula by spatula, building a pyramid. After half the rice has been added, arrange the sautéed chicken breasts around the pyramid, and continue to add the remaining rice spatula by spatula.
Place pot on medium high heat until steam begins to rise. Cover top of pot with 2 layers of white paper towel, cover tightly with lid. Lower heat to medium, steam for 20 minutes, lower heat to low and steam for another 15 minutes. To make sure, you have good tahdig, you can place the cover slight ajar (leave paper towel in place) to let the steam escape yet allow the crust to get crunchier. You can leave this for another 10-15 minutes on very low heat.
To serve, use a long oval platter, and place rice on it, mounding in a pyramid. Chicken can be served in a separate dish. The crunchy golden brown bottom layer can be broken in pieces and placed on the rice platter or served separately on a round platter. Warning: tahdig is addictive!
An Indian variation is to make sweet-and-sour chicken balls to serve with the carrot rice.
Grind the 6 chicken breast halves; add 3/4 cup chopped mint, 2 finely chopped medium onions. Add salt and pepper, and dashes of cinnamon, ground cardamom and ginger. Mix gently, let rest about 15 minutes. Form small balls and simmer in chicken broth for about 30 minutes.
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