The other day, one of Dee’s students presented her with an edible gift.
Eschewing long-standing traditions, said student did not bring the usual apple for the teacher. Instead, she fell back on her own family heritage with a Foodly Offering of zereshk polo.
“Zereshk polo? WTF izzat?” I can hear you asking. It’s a reasonable question, unless you spend time hanging out with people of Persian extraction. It is nothing more or less than a rice pilaf (pilaf, polo, and pullao being linguistic and culinary relatives) with a liberal dose of sweet-sour zereshk (barberries), along with saffron to provide a subtle flavor counterpoint.
Zereshk polo, fresh from the Polo Grounds. Yum.
What elevates a Persian-style polo above its ricey cousins is the marvelous caramelized crust that forms on the bottom of the pan as it cooks. When the polo is ready to be served forth, the pan is inverted onto the plate so that that crust - the precious tahdig - sits on top of the pile of polo. The considerate host will ensure that everyone gets his or her share of tahdig by hacking it into manageable portion-size chunks.
On a somewhat unrelated note, Dee and I had been watching a show on the Food Network the previous evening, the one in which Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri take turns mugging for the camera while coaching teams of skillet-wielding toddlers. When one of said toddlers prepared a smoked chicken gumbo using red bell peppers in lieu of green, it struck me as unusual: Green peppers are one of the traditional components of the “trinity,” the Cajun-Creole mirepoix that forms the base of all good gumbeaux. (If that’s not how you spell the plural of “gumbo,” it oughta be.)
Neither of us are big fans of green peppers, gumbo being one of the few dishes in which we use them (the other is gazpacho) - so right then and there I resolved to try making a gumbo with red peppers. Said gumbo, crammed with chicken Andouille sausage, turned out to be similar in flavor to the conventional version but far more colorful. Even better, it was a fine accompaniment to my little plate of zereshk polo at lunch the following day.
Andouille sausage gumbo with red bell peppers. When your Polo Match is gumbo versus polo, everybody wins!
In case you’re curious, I did not put the polo in the gumbo. That’d be a no-no.