Fesenjan is a simple and intensely flavored Persian chicken stew, thick with tart-sweet pomegranate molasses and rich toasted walnuts. Pomegranate molasses is a pantry staple of mine, and this recipe relies heavily on the syrup for it’s fruity tartness which permeates the chicken as it cooks. The use of walnuts meanwhile reminds me of the cashews in my vegetable korma except the walnuts here are only ground to fine bits instead of a paste. Actually, I think I’ll try grinding the walnuts to a paste with water as in the korma recipe next time; I imagine that would work well for anyone who doesn’t want actual crunchy bits of walnuts in the finished stew (although, personally, I like the variety of textures). The spicing is very simple with a few whole cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick thrown in – many recipes actually don’t even call for these (and you’ll be okay leaving them out), but I’ve found they add a little extra depth.
Fesenjan – Persian Pomegranate Walnut Chicken (adapted from She Simmers)
Yield: 6 – 8 servings
- 2 cups walnuts halves and pieces
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 whole chicken, cut up or 3 lbs chicken breasts, thighs, or legs
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 3″ stick cinnamon
- 1 cup pomegranate molasses*
- 2 cups water
- brown sugar, to taste**
- salt and pepper, to taste
*Pomegranate molasses is a staple in my cabinet; find it at a Middle Eastern market (or even in some grocery stores these days!) or make your own (recipe forthcoming).
**This will vary depending on how sour your pomegranate molasses are.
- Using a food processor, blend 2 cups walnuts halves and pieces until finely ground but not yet releasing their oil, then set aside.
- In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over high heat, then add 1 whole chicken, cut up or 3 lbs chicken breasts, thighs, or legs and brown pieces on each side before removing from pan and setting aside.
- Lower the heat to medium, then add 1 onion, thinly sliced, and sautee until translucent, about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Add the ground walnuts, and sautee until darkened, about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Add 4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced, 5 cardamom pods, and 1 3″ stick cinnamon, and sautee until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Return the chicken to the pan, and pour in 1 cup pomegranate molasses and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 40 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through.
- Remove the chicken when cooked, then bring sauce to a boil, and reduce to desired consistency. Add brown sugar, to taste and salt and pepper, to taste, then re-combine the chicken and sauce.
- Serve atop rice pilaf, and garnish with pomegranate seeds.