This is one of the most inspiring dishes we’ve ever had. It’s not glamorous looking; a seemingly simple rice dish with meat and vegetables. Seems pretty basic... But then it surprises you with the complexity of saffron, sweetness of cinnamon, acidity of the tomato paste, and that snap of lemon juice at the end. It’s a mesmerizing flavor combo. No wonder Naz Deravian — author of the amazing cookbook: Bottom of the Pot — describes Loobia Polo as a comfort food that is basically the Iranian equivalent of mac and cheese. This Persian green bean stew is most often made using beef, but we don’t eat a ton of beef so this chicken variation is our go-to.
Makes: 8-10 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
2 cups white basmati rice
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tsp of salt (divided into 1 tsp and 2 tsp)
1 tsp Ground Turmeric
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly ground Black Peppercorns
¼ cup tomato paste, soaking in ½ cup hot water
¼ teaspoon of Saffron Threads, grind and steep in ¼ cup of hot water
Juice of 2 lemons
Start by making the rice — preferably in a rice cooker. First, rinse the rice until the water is clear, then drain. Now add just enough water to cover the rice plus your tablespoon of butter and a pinch of salt. Close the lid, set to the “white rice” setting, and start. (If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can make it in a medium pot on the stovetop.)
In the largest pot you have, heat the olive oil on high heat and add the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook the onions until they’re soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
Add your green beans and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring pretty regularly. Don’t let the green beans get soft/soggy.
Add the chicken thighs, 2 teaspoons of salt, turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper. Combine everything well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste mixture, saffron water, and lemon juice. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
When the rice is ready, transfer it all to the chicken pot and fold everything together. Set the heat to low. Wrap a towel (or a few paper towels) around the underside of the lid of the pot to absorb condensation. You should be able to secure the corners of the towel in the lid’s handle to keep it from falling toward the flame. Cook the green bean stew for about 20 more minutes. Fluff rice with a spoon and serve. Enjoy!