Persian Chicken w/ Rice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
6 pounds chicken breasts, thighs and legs, with skin, on the bone
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups basmati rice
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, onion, lemon juice, cumin and half of the saffron. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and turn to coat. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Drain the chicken, scraping off the onion and saffron and transfer it to a large metal roasting pan. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 25 minutes longer, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander and shake out any excess water. In a small bowl, dissolve the remaining saffron in 1 tablespoon of water. Return the rice to the saucepan and stir in the saffron water.
In a small skillet, melt the butter with the dried sour cherries and sugar. Spoon one third of the rice into a buttered 2-quart soufflé dish. Top with half of the sour cherries and slivered almonds. Cover with half of the remaining rice and the remaining sour cherries and almonds. Top with a final layer of rice and pour any remaining butter on top. Cover the soufflé dish with foil and bake for about 20 minutes (while the chicken is baking), or until the rice is tender, light and fluffy.
Preheat the broiler when the rice is done. Broil the chicken, skin side down, for 2 minutes. Turn the chicken and broil until the skin is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Pour the pan juices into a warm gravy boat. Serve the chicken with the rice, passing the pan juices at the table.