Fesenjan: Persian Chicken with Pomegranate and Walnuts
Fesenjan is one of the most revered dishes of Persian cuisine, and deservedly so because it is so exquisite. The recipe calls for pomegranate syrup, which you should be able to find in your supermarket or at a store that specializes in Middle Eastern foodstuffs. Pomegranate syrup comes in two forms: very thick dark grenadine “molasses,” which is quite tart, and one that is sweeter and thinner called concentrate or syrup. (You can use bottled pomegranate juice, but you have to reduce it to a syrupy consistency.) Whichever pomegranate extract or juice you use, you will have to balance the sweet to tart ratio with lemon juice and sugar and cook the sauce until it is thick. The best results come with the molasses or concentrate rather than the plain juice. Fesenjan is usually served with chelo, Persian-style rice pilaf.
Adapted from The Tagine Deck by Joyce Goldstein (Chronicle Books 2008).
- Servings Serves 4
- 45 ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs and 4 legs, or 8 thighs, or 1.1 kg (2½ pounds) mixed pieces
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Ground cinnamon for sprinkling, plus 10 ml (2 teaspoons)
- 57 grams (2 ounces/4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 3 onions, chopped, (about 946 ml/4 cups)
- 118 ml (½ cup) pomegranate molasses, or 156 ml (⅔ cup) pomegranate concentrate or syrup
- 118 ml (½ cup) tomato sauce
- 473 ml (2 cups) walnuts, toasted
- 359 ml to 473 ml (1½ to 2 cups) chicken broth
- Lemon juice and sugar, as needed
- In a skillet or sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat and sauté the chicken pieces until lightly colored, sprinkling with salt and pepper and a bit of cinnamon as you go. Transfer to the tagine and set aside while you make the sauce.
2. Melt the butter in the pan. Add the onions and cook them over low heat for about 15 minutes, until they are tender. Add 10 ml (2 teaspoons) of the cinnamon and cook for a minute or two. Add the pomegranate molasses, tomato sauce, walnuts, and broth and simmer for about 20 minutes, until thickened.
Transfer the sauce to the tagine, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice if the pomegranate syrup is too sweet; add sugar if it is too tart.