Khoresh-e Fesenjoon (Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts)
Fesenjoon hails from the verdant northern Iranian hills and coast, where pomegranate and walnut trees grow. Taking its flavor cues from the land, this stew braises bone-in chicken thighs in a blend of toasted walnuts, pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses. As the sauce cooks, it thickens and deepens to a shade of dark brown similar to that of mole poblano. You’ll need to thin it out with water to prevent it from becoming overly sticky and syrupy. The sweet and sour flavors of the pomegranate, along with the silky texture the walnuts bring to the stew, make it one of the most elegant dishes in Persian cuisine.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 1pound walnut pieces (about 4 cups)
- 6to 8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 1/4 pounds)
- 1teaspoon ground turmeric
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3tablespoons olive oil
- 1yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 4cups cold-pressed pomegranate juice
- ¼cup good-quality pomegranate molasses, plus more as needed
- ¼teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
- 1to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (optional)
- Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- Polo Ba Tahdig (Persian Rice With Bread Crust), for serving
- Mast-o Khiar or plain yogurt, for serving
- Salad-e Shirazi, for serving
Step 1Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts out on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown inside, about 12 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Step 2Remove chicken skin and discard or save for another use. In a large bowl, season the chicken with turmeric, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Step 3Set a large Dutch oven or similar pot over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add oil and carefully lay chicken thighs into the pot in a single layer. It is crucial to leave space between the pieces to allow steam to escape, so brown chicken in batches if necessary. Cook until browned on both sides, flipping halfway through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Add onion to pot with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.
Step 4In a food processor, grind the cooled walnuts as finely as possible without turning them into a paste. (Alternatively, you can chop the walnuts as finely as possible by hand.) Add 2 cups pomegranate juice and 1/4 cup molasses to the walnuts and continue blending until you have a very smooth paste.
Step 5Add the walnut paste and remaining pomegranate juice to the pot. Season with salt and partly cover with a lid. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 2 hours. If the sauce begins to stick, stir in 1/4 cup water. The sauce will thicken and change color as it cooks, turning a deep, dark brown, similar to mole poblano.
Step 6Add the saffron, and taste the sauce. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and pomegranate molasses as needed. The sauce should be delightfully sweet and sour, so add up to 2 teaspoons sugar, if needed, if it’s too tart.
Step 7Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until chicken is falling off the bone. Keep stirring regularly — the sauce should be thick, but not so thick that it sticks to the bottom of the pot, so add a splash of water as needed to prevent burning. Use a large spoon to skim away any walnut oil that has pooled on top of the stew. Taste and adjust seasoning, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh pomegranate seeds. Serve hot, with Persian rice, mast-o khiar and salad-e Shirazi if you like.