Khoobi? I hadn’t cooked this recipe in at least 10 years. I discovered it about 12 years ago at my Persian girlfriend’s house. I only had fesenjoon 3-4 times in my life and I still have very good memories of it.
Persian cuisine is very rich but there is one ingredient that is essential to this cuisine: rice . Indeed, Persians cannot conceive serving their kebabs and stews with something other than rice. This rice called polo is available in several versions such as sabzi polo (with herbs), albaloo polo (with sour cherries), baghali polo (with fava beans and dill) or my favorite rice, zereshk polo (with sour berries from the berberis vulgaris) to name only a few variations. I will probably devote a future post on the Persian rice…
Fesenjan (also called fesenjoon or khoresh-e fesenjan) is originally from the province of Gilan, bordering the Caspian Sea. This region is known for its wild ducks. In fact, the original fesenjan recipe is cooked with duck . Duck was eventually replaced by chicken. It is usually prepared with chicken legs or wings (with bones). I cooked this version with pieces of deboned chicken thighs and chicken breast. This dish can also be prepared in a vegetarian version and some also cook it with lamb, ground beef or fish, but I have personally never tasted or seen these versions here in Los Angeles.
This dish is typically prepared during the fall season when pomegranates mature. This is also a traditional dish of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year as pomegranate is one of the new fruits that are eaten during this holiday. Luckily, this is the theme of the week on 196 flavors !
According to the original recipe, this dish is cooked with fresh pomegranate juice. However, nowadays, Persian mamas cook fesenjoon with pomegranate syrup or molasses. Los Angeles has the largest Persian community in the diaspora, i.e. outside of Tehran. We therefore have access to many supermarkets, restaurants and other shops selling Iranian products like pomegranate molasses.
Khoresh-e fesenjan is one of many khoreshs in Iranian cuisine. Khoresh (which translates to “meal” in Farsi) , is actually a generic term that defines many stews in Persian cuisine. One of the most famous is khoresh ghormeh sazbi, a beef stew with herbs, red beans and dried lemons (called limu omani). It looks very similar to pkaila… although it’s obviously not as good !
Fesenjoon is a very unique dish. Indeed, even if sweet and sour is very common in Mediterranean cuisine, as illustrated by the use of dates in Moroccan dafina , pomegranate gives here a very tart taste that is not found in Moroccan dishes.
Are you nuts?
This is the walnut that gives the dish its smoothness and richness. Persians often say that fesenjoon is better the next day because the sauce has time to thicken and concentrate the flavors.
This time, I cooked this dish on Labor Day. We were invited to our friends Bettina and Jonathan for a BBQ. Jonathan has Persian origins and I wanted to him to taste my khoresh. Yes , I know, I love to take risks and have my friends compare my dishes to those of their ancestors! I sincerely believe that my fesenjan was well prepared… but I totally failed on the rice. How can we miss rice, shall you say? Well, the preparation of Persian rice is very unique and we will also probably have a full post to explain it… when I finally master every stage… which is definitely not the case yet.
At home, my fesenjan was not the success I expected… judging by the plates of my children left half full. My wife Anne obviously did not like it … but that was expected since she doesn’t like anything sour.
Never mind, fesenjan was a success in my stomach ! And it’s not every day that a dish has its own world famous song, ok maybe not world famous… but the YouTube video by A$A is something from another world!
- 8 pieces chicken (with bones, skinless)
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups walnuts
- 1 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds (optional)
- A few pomegranate seeds (to garnish)
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Sauté them in a pan with a little oil until browned on all sides.
- Remove chicken. Add a little more oil and fry the onions for a few minutes until they are translucent.
- Put the chicken pieces back in the pan. Add 2 cups of water (or chicken broth). Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast the walnuts on a pan (with no oil) for a few minutes. It is also possible to toast them on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 F for 8-10 minutes.
- Wait for a few minutes until the walnuts are warm and grind them in a blender to obtain a powder.
- Add this walnut powder, the pomegranate molasses, sugar and cardamom seeds to the chicken.
- Cover and simmer over very low heat for 1 hour. Make sure to stir every 20 minutes to ensure that the walnuts do not stick to the bottom.
- Adjust the taste with salt and sugar before serving.
- Serve with white Persian rice ( polo) and pomegranate seeds to garnish.