My aunt explained that the best lawndee should be completely dry and white in color as you see above. She didn’t trust the quality of the lawndee in the Bay Area so she brought meat from her own trusted source.
Below marks the process Khala Mayen took to make lawndee palau:
-She washed about 10 pounds of meat three times in cold water, and then soaked it overnight in a big pot.
-The next morning she rinsed 10 cups of long grain rice three times and soaked it in a large bowl.
-She soaked 2 cups of black raisins in warm water.
-She chopped two onions and sautéed them in ½ cup of vegetable oil.
-She drained the meat and then added it to the onion mixture along with enough water to cover the meat. After bringing it to a boil, she dropped the temperature to low and cooked it for an hour or so until it was soft and the liquid had reduced. She scooped off the fat from the top of the pot.
-Khala Mayen makes her own fried onions, which she uses generously in palau and other dishes. She added a few scoops of the onions and cooked the meat another 10-20 minutes until the sauce took on a deep brown color. She separated the meat and the sauce in two separate bowls.
-She boiled the rice until al dente and drained the water. She then returned the rice to the pot with the sauce from the cooked meat along with Jeja’s pre-mixed palau spices (coriander, black pepper, black and green cardamom) and a generous amount of salt. All the ingredients were mixed together until all the grains of rice were coated with the sauce.
-She piled the cooked meat on top of the rice. She topped all of this off with an additional cup of vegetable oil and an entire stick of butter (to which I gasped over the amount of fat).
-She wrapped the raisins in aluminum foil and placed them on top of the rice to cook along with the rice.
-She baked this giant pot of rice and meat in the oven at 500 degrees for 20 minutes and then baked it another 30 minutes at 250 degrees.
As the lawndee cooked a strong scent of lamb filled the kitchen. It’s a smell many Afghans savor, but it frankly overwhelmed my senses. This didn’t stop me from hovering nearby when my aunt pulled the pot from the oven. I wanted to take in the lovely sight of golden brown long rice kernels, the plump raisins and the flaky pieces of meat. Khala Mayen was worried that she didn’t make enough food but I assured her that she made enough to feed the whole neighborhood.
As she was putting the rice onto my mom’s unusually large serving platter, she kept worrying that the rice was too dry. Her daughters told me that normally oil drips from Khala Mayen’s lawndee palau that no orange or lemon juice could cut through that fat. I think secretly Khala Mayen blamed me for the lack of oil in this dish.
Everyone loved the lawndee palau. Our Iranian friend Sasha had three large servings and then promptly took a nap.I was surprised to find I didn’t enjoy the dish as much as I had remembered. Don’t get me wrong, I ate a plateful, and it was tasty, but the combination of the lamb scent and seeing the amount of oil and butter that went into the dish didn’t sit well with my Americanized sensibilities.