Let me introduce you to fesenjan. Fesenjan is deliciousness. A proper fesenjan dish is made with pomegranate molasses, walnuts, and meat. It’s sweet but tangy, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll fall in love with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg spices. After doing my research, I have found that it is a Persian dish usually made for special occasions and can be made with really any kind of meat you desire. I really do strongly recommend making fesenjan if you enjoy combinations of different flavors. It’s become one of my top 5 favorite dinners.
I had originally planned on making a recipe from Rachael Ray’s magazine that called for pomegranate juice, so I had that on hand, but the recipe I ended up making used pomegranate molasses. Molasses is thicker and more like a syrup, so I used Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes recipe to make my own molasses. It was super easy, but did take an hour, so if you plan on making this, keep that in mind.
The walnuts are ground down so fine that they create a creamy (not crunchy) texture. They are sauted with the chopped onion until they give off a delicious aroma that fills your kitchen. I threw in about a teaspoon of both cinnamon and nutmeg during the saute. The raw chicken is then added, topped with pomegranate molasses and a cup of water. The chicken needs to steam for about 40 minutes, flipping once. I was really surprised how tender the chicken was in this dish, too. I used boneless chicken breasts and it shredded so easily.
Saffron rice is very commonly paired with this dish, but instead, I made a long grain white rice that was buttery and went really nice with the flavors of the fesenjan. The recipe that follows serves two, but you can change the serving size and get the correct measurements here.
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 2/3 quart water
- 1/3 cup water
Boil the 2 quarts water and salt in large stock pot or dutch oven. Rinse rice until water runs clear (or as close to clear as you can get it). Add rice to boiling water, boil about 10 minutes or until rice is about half cooked. Drain rice in colander and reserve about ½ cup of water.
In the same pot, pour about 1/4 cup melted butter on bottom, tilt to cover 2 inches up sides. Pour the half-cooked rice into the pot, try to make a nice mound in the middle, and avoid the sides as much as possible.
With the end of a wooden spoon, make holes in the mound of rice (5 or 6 places) evenly around. Pour the remaining melted butter onto the rice, and drizzle 1/4 cup of the extra water into the holes you made. Cover pot with kitchen towel to absorb the steam, place pot lid on towel.
Cook on very low heat, checking after about 15 minutes. If the rice is browning too fast, add the remaining extra water a little bit at a time. Cook rice until it’s done, about 30 minutes. Try not to check it too often, as it needs to steam.
And to top off this ethnic dinner, I made a nice little American dessert straight from Dorie Greenspan’s bake-book. Chewy, chunky blondies. Yes, they are as magical as they sound and look. Recipe to come, because I have to get your all to come back somehow!
The fesenjan recipe comes from Leela’s blog SheSimmers. I added cinnamon and nutmeg, but that can be left out or the amount can be increased. Make this and enjoy this, it really is a palate-pleaser!!
Fesenjan: Persian Chicken Pomegranate and Walnut Stew
- 4 large bone-in chicken breasts, skinned
- 2 cups raw walnuts
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 3/4 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
In a food processor (or if you don’t have a food processor, a blender works just as well), grind walnuts into a fine meal, taking care not to over-process lest you end up with walnut butter. In a large saucepan, saute ground walnuts over medium heat with chopped onion until walnuts release some oil and turn darker in color. By that time, the onions will become soft and translucent as well. Arrange the raw chicken breasts in the pan in a single layer, bone side down. Drizzle pomegranate molasses and sprinkle salt all over the chicken. Add one cup of water to the pan and bring to a gentle boil; cover, lower the heat slightly, and let the stew simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
Flip the chicken pieces and scrape the walnut sauce off the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Continue to simmer gently for another 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and transfer chicken to a separate bowl and let cool (I didn’t let my chicken cool at all. I simply put it on a plate and shredded it, and then added it right back into the pan). Remove bones and shred into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pan and stir to cover chicken with sauce; heat through.
Correct the seasonings with more salt, if necessary. If the stew is too acidic for your taste, add a pinch of sugar to help balance it out. Serve warm over desired rice.