Iran - Khoresh Fesenjan
I had no idea what to expect making this dish and unfortunately I had to substitute the pomegranate extract for juice, which I think was my first mistake. The pomegranate flavor was so subtle and lacking that if I were to make it again using juice, I’d double the juice, and halve the cashews. Honestly, the cashew flavor was so strong and good, but I also wish I made the cashew sauce smoother. It was a bit grainy.
Overall though, this cashew and pomegranate chicken was bomb and went so well with saffron rice and salad shirazi (Persian salad). It’s a great meal and fairly easy to make. Lots of simmering and you get perfectly flavored and tender chicken. Plus, adding fried onions in anything is going to give a wonderfully subtle flavor to any dish.
8 ounces walnut halves
1 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds chicken drumsticks and thighs
1/4 cup water
1 cup pomegranate concentrate
Salt and pepper
Pomegranate seeds, to garnish
Before you get started, you’ll want to run the walnuts through a food processor until it turns into a paste-like consistency. Add the 1/4 cup of water and process it again until it becomes a smoother consistency, almost like a sauce.
Heat a big pot on medium-high heat until the pan is hot. Add the vegetable oil and let it heat up until it starts to shimmer. Add the thinly sliced yellow onion and fry until it becomes golden brown. When the onions are ready, remove them temporarily.
Add the chicken and sear on all sides. Add the fried onions on top and spoon the walnut paste on top of the onions. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the pomegranate concentrate over all the ingredients.
Note: I used pomegranate juice, and while it turned out fine, the pomegranate flavor wasn’t strong. You will probably have to go to a specialty store or order online. One possible suggestion, if you do buy pomegranate juice, let it simmer to thicken - similar to a balsamic reduction.
Reduce the heat to medium and bring everything in the pot to a boil.
Note: pomegranate concentrate will stick and burn if the heat is too high.
When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. At this point, the sauce should have thickened and the chicken should be fork tender. Make sure to stir every 15-20 minutes. This is to avoid burning the sauce.
If you want the sauce to be even thicker, uncover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. However, I don’t mind a more liquid consistency, so it’s up to you.
Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve with steamed rice - I made it with steamed saffron rice.
Recipe adapted from My Persian Kitchen.