(Persian chicken in pomegranate-walnut sauce)
Fesenjan — also known as khoresht-e fesenjan or fesenjoon — is special occasion food in Iran. It is traditionally made with duck or pheasant in the north of the country along the Caspian Sea.
A thick, rich, sweet-sour dish, fesenjan improves in flavor if served the next day.
4 to 6 servings
- Butter or oil -- 1/4 cup
- Chicken, cut into serving pieces -- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
- Onions, thinly sliced -- 2
- Walnuts, finely ground in a food processor -- 2 cups
- Stock or water -- 1 1/2 to 2 cups
- Pomegranate syrup (see variations) -- 2/3 cup
- Sugar -- 1 to 3 tablespoons
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Heat the butter or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium flame. Add the chicken pieces a few at a time and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onions to the pot and saute until translucent.
- Stir in the ground walnuts and stock or water and return the browned chicken pieces to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Stir in the pomegranate juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken is tender, the sauce is somewhat thickened and the walnuts begin to give off their oil. Adjust seasoning and serve with plain white rice or a fancy tah chin.
- Poultry and meat variations: The chicken can be marinated in a few squeezes of lime juice for a few hours if you like. You can use duck or pheasant instead of chicken. If using duck, trim of all excess fat before browning and spoon off any excess fat as the dish cooks. Cubed lamb or meatballs are sometimes used instead of poultry.
- Pomegranate syrup, sometimes called pomegranate molasses, is available in most Middle Eastern and health food stores. If it is unavailable, you can use an equal amount of frozen, concentrated cranberry juice. The flavor is roughly the same. If using fresh pomegranate juice, use 1 1/2 to 2 cups and cut back on the stock or water.
- Spices: Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon when sauteing the onions for a richer flavor.
- Sweet-sour adjustments: Add a little more sugar if the sauce is too tart, a little bit of lime or lemon juice if it is too sweet.
- Vegetables: A peeled and cubed eggplant is sometimes added to fesenjan and helps to thicken the sauce. Saute the eggplant along with the onions. You may need to add a little more liquid to the simmering stew.