Walnuts and pomegranates are in season! Have you ever imagined a stew made with these two ingredients? Sounds heavenly! I’m always a little hesitant to recommend Fesenjoon to my non-Persian friends based on it's brownish, stew appearance; which is similar to the Mexican dish the Mole- dark brownish stew with chicken. But unlike the Mole, this Persian stew has a robust, tangy, earthy flavor; whereas the mole has a subtle chocolate and spicy tone to it. The ingredients are simple: crushed walnuts, pomegranate syrup (please do not substitute pomegranate juices for syrup - Anja tried this and can attest to its disappointing outcome) and chicken. Pomegranate syrup can be purchased in most Middle Eastern markets. This sweet and sour stew takes some time to fully prepare, but once you have it, you will dream about it at night. Fesenjoon is best served with Persian rice; however, it even tastes good cold with a slice of pita bread…I often sneak into the refrigerator and eat spoons of it like dessert. It is sinfully good and comforting in frigid winter weather.
Not only is this my father’s favorite Persian dish, but it will soon become yours. Give this recipe a try and email me with any questions.
INGREDIENTS (for 6-8 people)
1 medium onion
8 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ lb. crushed walnut
4 cups water
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken pieces
½ cup pomegranate concentrated juice/syrup
1 tsp salt
¼ - ½ cup sugar (to taste)
1. In a food processor, crush walnuts into small, powdery granules. If using a blender, add some water to the walnuts to crush easier.
2. In a large stew pan, over medium-high heat, add crushed walnuts and 4 cups of water and bring to a gentle boil; constantly stirring to prevent settling of the walnut on the bottom of the pot and also to prevent the mixture from boiling over. Add cold water if needed to create a runny consistency if mixture is too thick and clumpy. Bring the heat down low and continue to stir for an hour.
3. Meanwhile, finely dice onion and sauté over low heat in 4 tablespoon vegetable oil until evenly, golden brown. Take extra precaution to not burn onion or have the edges black. Once complete, strain onion from the oil. Discard oil.
5. Add ½ tsp. salt and pomegranate syrup to the walnut mixture and continue to simmer over low heat. Again continue to stir every thirty minutes to prevent settling of the walnut at the bottom of the pot. Allow mixture to gently boil for 3 hours. The finished consistency should be similar to runny oatmeal; if not, add cold water to the mix until a runny consistency is achieved. If the mixture has too much liquid, continue to boil until the excess liquid evaporates.
6. Add sugar (to taste) to the mixture and continue to simmer.
7. Meanwhile, in the same frying pan used to prepare onions, heat remaining oil and sauté chicken pieces for 6-8 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir for an additional minute. Do not fully cook pieces.
8. Transfer chicken and all of the juices and oil to the walnut mixture and continue to cook for 30 minutes longer.
9. Taste the walnut mixture and add more salt or sugar to taste. This dish is delightful with Persian rice, or it can be enjoyed cold with pita bread to snack on the leftovers (if any is left).