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Fesenjān (Chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranate)

Pronounced "fess-en-jahn". A unique Persian stew of tender chicken covered in a tangy sauce of toasted walnuts and pomegranate. A wonderful main course for the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah.

Fesenjān (Chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranate)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of unshelled walnut halves or pieces
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed or cut into strips
  • 2-3 cups of chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 5 tbsp of pomegranate molasses
  • 3 tbsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat up your oven to 350º.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the walnuts over it.
  3. Place the walnuts in the oven and toast for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the walnuts and set aside to cool.
  5. In a large pan or Dutch Oven, heat up 2 tbsp of the olive oil on medium-high heat.
  6. Pat dry the chicken pieces and then cook them in groups until golden brown on all sides.
  7. Set the chicken aside.
  8. If the walnuts are cool, run them in a food processor until finely ground.
  9. In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, heat up the remaining olive oil on medium-low heat.
  10. Place the onions in and sauté until soft and translucent.
  11. Return the chicken to the pan with the onions.
  12. Pour in the chicken stock, stir, and then bring the entire mixture to a boil.
  13. Add in the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
  14. Stir it all up, then reduce your heat to low.
  15. Cover the pan and simmer for an hour with occasional stirring to keep ingredients from sticking to the bottom.
  16. Remove from the heat and taste the sauce. Adjust with sugar or salt to your desired flavor.

Quick Notes

Be sure to let the walnuts cool before you grind them. The goal is a nice nut meal with a toasty flavor, and walnuts will be a softer when hot.

Don’t overlook patting the chicken dry before cooking. We want a nice sear, not chicken boiling in a pool of liquid. Be patient and cook the chicken in groups so there is no crowding.

It might seem like you’ll have a lot of liquid after adding in the stock. Don’t worry. Some of it will boil away in the simmer, but the walnut meal will act as a thickening agent when added.

Be sure to taste the final result. Some like their fesenjān more tangy, others more salty or more sweet. Take the time to taste and season accordingly.

Variations

You can also use duck, lamb, beef, or ground meat as opposed to chicken.

Serving Suggestions

Fesenjān is traditionally topped with pomegranate seeds and served with white or yellow rice.  Some will use rice pilaf, I used a coconut basmati.  You could also serve it with pasta if you wish.

Tags: Persian, Jewish, chicken stew, walnut, pomegranate

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