Khoresht Fesenjan

When I posed the question of what my readers would like to see on this blog, one replied that she would like to see a recipe for Persian Chicken with Pomegranates, or Khoresht Fesenjan, as it is otherwise known.  Given the similarity of this dish to satsivi, I was very curious about its history.  According to one source (although I have to admit that I can't vouch for its accuracy), it may be from the Gilan province of Iran, which is near the Caspian Sea and borders Azerbaijan. So Khoresht Fesenjan is from an area near the Caucasus and possibly shares some of the same culinary influences.  It certainly seems to share an appreciation for walnuts, spices and fresh fruity flavors, as demonstrated here by the use of pomegranate.

This recipe is my first attempt at making Khoresht Fesenjan, so if it's not quite authentic, please let me know where I can improve it.  I wanted to go ahead and put it up here, though, because Soslan and I both thought it was quite tasty.  But I have seen so many different variations of this recipe that I do want to play around with it a little more and see if I can improve upon an already-good thing.  For example, I've read some recipes online that use more spices, including turmeric and saffron.  I think it would be interesting to try using a little more spice to round out the flavors a bit more.  Assuming it turns out well, I will be sure to share that with you all too!

Without further ado, here's the first go at Fesenjan:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 tsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 C walnuts
  • 4-5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • salt, to taste
  • sugar, to taste

First, heat a little oil in a dutch oven and brown the chicken breasts deeply on both sides.

Add the onion and spices and enough water to cover the chicken.  Bring to a boil and then boil gently for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely grind your walnuts in a food processor. 

When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a bowl and cut it into large chunks.  Set aside for now.

Strain your broth into a large bowl or pitcher.  I used an 8-cup measuring cup for this purpose.  Discard the spices and bits that you strain out.

Dump the ground walnuts into your now-empty dutch oven and, stirring constantly, toast them over medium heat until slightly darkened and fragrant.

Now slowly add in some chicken broth until you get the right consistency.

Hint: this is too thick.

This is better.  It should be pretty soupy at this stage because you will continue to cook it a bit and it will thicken as it reduces.

Next you can start adding some pomegranate molasses.  I would pour it in a little at a time, stirring well and tasting after each addition to get it to the point where you like the flavor.  For us, that point was five tablespoons of molasses.  This gave us a rich brown color and a complex fruity-nutty flavor.  You can add about a teaspoon or so of sugar if it tastes too sour for your liking.

Stir in the chicken pieces, cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

By the end of 45 minutes to an hour, the walnuts should have released their oil and you should see some of it floating on top of the stew.  This is normal.  In fact, this exactly what you are looking for!  Your Khoresht Fesenjan is ready!

Serve with basmati rice and garnish with pomegranate arils and cilantro leaves, if desired.  Also, I would like to note that while it is traditional to eat this dish hot, we actually felt that the flavors were more clearly pronounced when served cold, after a night's stay in the fridge (and we tried it rewarmed too, but the Fesenjan tasted best cold, like satsivi). 

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