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Turkey with Cranberry Polo
Turkey and Cranberry Polo
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Combined cooking time: 2½ - 3 hours
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Persian American
  • For the Turkey:
  • 2 large skinless, bone-in turkey thighs (about 3 ½ - 4 pounds)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/16 tsp ground saffron powder (optional)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled, sliced thin and fried until golden brown (divided, ½ for turkey, ½ for the rice)
  • 2-3 TBSP vegetable oil for frying the onions
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups fresh, or frozen cranberries
  • For the Cranberry Polo:
  • 3 cups uncooked basmati rice (recipe for steamed rice HERE)
  • Half of the fried onions
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, rinse under cold water and drain completely
  • A pinch of ground saffron powder
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup sliced or chopped pistachios
  • For the Potato Tahdig:
  • 1 ½ - 2 medium white potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin (I used a chips cutter)
  • 1/16 tsp ground saffron powder (optional)
  • 1 TBSP water
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • A light sprinkle of kosher salt
  • Optional: Extra ground saffron, to sprinkle between the layers of rice
  1. Add the skinless turkey thighs, onion halves, ground turmeric, ground pepper, salt and water to a 5-6 Qt. Dutch oven, or another heavy bottomed pot with a tight lid. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Skim the foam from the top.
  2. Reduce the heat to between low and medium low; cover the pot and cook for 1 hour. Turn the thighs and continue cooking for 1 more hour, or until the meat is completely tender but still holds its shape. Discard the onion halves.
  3. Meanwhile in a large skillet fry the sliced onions in 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until golden brown. Reserve half of the fried onions for the rice.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste to the rest of the fried onions and sauté over medium low for couple of minutes until aromatic; mix into the broth that turkey is cooking in.
  5. Sprinkle 1/16 teaspoon saffron (optional) on the meat side of the thighs and use the back of a spoon to rub it all over the tops until evenly covered. This simple technique gives a good color to the thighs without using a lot of precious saffron.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 ½ cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries to the broth. Cover the pot and simmer over the mark between low and medium low for 30 minutes (the cranberries will pop over higher heat and the presentation will not be as pretty). Open the lid 3-4 times and baste the top of the turkey thighs with the broth to give the meat a rich golden brown glazed look.
  7. To make the tahdig: Sprinkle the sliced potatoes with ground saffron powder, add 1 tablespoon water, and stir to coat all the slices.
  8. Heat the oils until sizzling.Turn the heat off. Starting from the outer edge of the pot, arrange the saffron potato slices. with each slice overlapping the previous one half way (see the picture). Continue until the bottom of the pot is covered. Use a rubber spatula and scrape all the saffron and water and drizzle over the potato slices.
  9. Lightly sprinkle the potatoes with kosher salt. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to add the rice over the potatoes; sprinkle a pinch of ground saffron powder in between the layers if you wish. Cover the lid with Damkesh and steam over medium low for 45 minutes to one hour, or until steam rises and the potato tahdig is golden and crispy.
  10. Prepare the cranberry/onion mixture: Saute the reserved fried onions, dried cranberries, pinch of optional saffron, and ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice in a medium skillet, over low heat, until the cranberries are glistening and bright red.
  11. In the same skillet, push the cranberry/fried onion mixture to the side and add the pistachios and sauté briefly, just until coated with oil.
  12. To assemble the Cranberry Polo: Use a spatula to transfer ⅓ steamed rice to the serving platter. Sprinkle ⅓ of the cranberry/fried onion mixture over the rice, and repeat until both are finished with the top layer being the cranberry/fried onion mixture. Sprinkle the pistachios on top.
  13. Invert the crispy golden potato tahdig onto another platter.
  14. Serve the turkey and broth in a deep serving dish and have your guests help themselves to the rice and top it with turkey and some of the broth.
Freeze cranberries when in season (Oct-Nov) and use them all year round. Pick through and discard any soft berries, then rinse under cold water. Drain all the water and allow the surface moisture to air dry for an hour or so in the colander. Store in freezer bags for several months and use frozen, or thawed when needed. With this method the frozen cranberries don't stick together, so you can easily fill a gallon size bag and freeze them.
Recipe by Persian Mama at