Stuck-Pot Rice with Yogurt and Spices

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 40 minutes

Here the rice itself forms the crust at the bottom of the pot, making this dish super-simple, super-crunchy, and utterly addictive. You’d think the yogurt might clump up or even curdle, but just the opposite is true; the rice has an unbeatable creamy texture and tangy flavor.

Salt

11/2 cups white or brown basmati rice

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1/4 cup yogurt, preferably whole milk

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon curry powder (to make your own, see Hot Curry Powder)

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Stir in the rice and return to a boil, then lower the heat so the water bubbles along nicely. Cook undisturbed white rice for about 5 minutes, brown rice for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Taste (the rice will be only partially done), add salt if necessary, and sprinkle with pepper.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large bowl and whisk in the yogurt, lime juice, and curry powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep whisking until smooth. Add the rice and use a fork to toss gently, coating it with the yogurt mixture.

Put the remaining oil in a large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the rice mixture, pressing it down in the pan with a fork. Wrap a clean kitchen towel around the lid of the pot so that it completely covers the inside of the lid, with the corners gathered on top so they don’t fall anywhere near the stove. Then carefully cover the pot to seal the rim. The mixture will sizzle immediately. But when you start to smell the spices and the rice cooking in 3 to 5 minutes turn the heat down very low. Cook, completely undisturbed, for about 30 minutes, or until the rice smells toasty you will know but not burned. Remove from the heat and let sit for another 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the lid and the cloth and turn the pot upside down over a plate. If the rice crust comes out in a single piece, terrific. If not, use a spatula to scrape the crisp pieces out of the pan and put them on top of the remaining rice. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper if you like.

Variations

Stuck-Pot Rice with Yogurt and Mango. Astonishing stuff and very pretty: In Step 2, instead of whisking the yogurt mixture together, put those ingredients in a food processor. Peel and chop a medium mango; (you should have about 1 cup) and about an inch of fresh ginger and add them to the food processor. Pure until smooth. Now toss the rice with 1/3 cup of this mixture, cover the rest, and set it aside in the refrigerator. Proceed with the recipe from Step 3. Serve the finished rice along with a bowl of the mango-yogurt mixture as a sauce to pass at the table.

Stuck-Pot Rice with Sour Cream and Chiles. Hot and cool, spicy and rich: Instead of the yogurt, use sour cream. Replace the curry with chili powder (to make your own, see Chili Powder). Proceed with the recipe, garnishing the finished dish with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and a few lime wedges if you like.