Fesenjoon: Roshanak’s Braised Walnut and Pomegranate Chicken

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Fesenjoon, a dish from the Northern part of Iran, is a sweet and sour main course made with poultry, in this case chicken.   The chicken is braised in pomegranate paste or molasses, brown sugar, finely ground walnuts, and onions.  The result is fork tender chicken in a thick, dark sweet and sour gravy.  Serve it sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds over steamed basmati rice.


Serving Size: 4-6 People

Ingredients

1 whole organic chicken, cut up into 10 pcs. (cut breast in 2)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
½ tsp. turmeric
3 ½ cups fresh walnuts
Canola oil, as needed
2 medium onion, 1 finely chopped, 1 grated
1 pinch saffron*
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses or paste**
1 tbsp. brown sugar, plus more to taste

Garnish: fresh pomegranate seeds
Serve with steamed white basmati rice***

Instructions

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper & turmeric.  Set aside.

2. Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the nuts until very finely chopped, scraping down the bowl ever so often. Continue to pulse and run the machine until the mixture becomes fluffy and no longer granular.  The mixture will feel like a soft dough and this consistency will be reached before the oils release and the mixture turns into a nut butter.  Set aside.

3. Cover the bottom of a medium-large pot with a thin layer of oil and heat over medium high.  Cook the chicken in batches until golden brown on all sides.  Remove from the pot and set aside.

4. Add the finely chopped onion to the same pot and sauté over high heat for 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook another 5-6 minutes until golden.

5. Put the chicken back in the pot along with the saffron and 1 cup of hot water.   Season lightly with salt.  Simmer covered over medium low heat for 30 minutes.

6. At the same time, heat a separate pot over medium heat. Cook the grated onion until the moisture evaporates.  Add a thin layer of oil and sauté for 5-6 minutes or until golden.   Next add the walnut puree and sauté, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn the nuts.  Cook until the aroma smells of roasted nuts and the color of the paste turns golden brown.  

7. Add the pomegranate molasses, brown sugar and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes.

8. Add the mixture to the chicken. The liquid should cover the chicken.  If it doesn’t, add more water just until covered.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

9. If towards the end you see it's still watery and not of a thick consistency leave the cover a little ajar, to let the steam and moisture out. The mixture should appear like dark thick gravy.

10. Fesenjoon is a well-balanced, sweet and sour dish so taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, to taste first.  Next, add brown sugar, a little at a time, to taste until you reach that balance of sweet and sour.  Serve over steamed white basmati rice.

Cook's Notes

*To intensify the color of the saffron, add it to the bottom of small dish and place on top a very small ice cube.  Set aside as you cook and watch the color turn a deep burnt orange red.
**Pomegranate molasses can be purchased on www.Kalustyans.com.  We used the Cortas brand.
***Quality basmati rice may be purchased in Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern markets or purchased online at www.kalustyans.com