Thursday, May 12, 2011

Persian Chicken or Duck in Pomegranate Walnut Sauce (Fesenjan)

Fesenjan, also known as khoresht-e fesenjan, is typically made for special occasions in Iran. It is traditionally made with duck or pheasant in north along Caspian sea. It is thick, rich, sweet-sour dish that improves in flavour next day. Pomegranate syrup, sometimes called pomegranate molasses, is available in most Middle Eastern & health food stores (make sure it doesn't say "sour"). If using fresh pomegranate juice, use 1 1/2 to 2 cups & reduce amount stock or water used in recipe. Adding 1/2 tsp ground cardamom or 1/2 tsp cinnamon when sautéing onions will add a richer flavor. Add more sugar if sauce is too tart, or lime or lemon juice if it is too sweet. A peeled & cubed eggplant is sometimes added. Sauté eggplant along with onions. You may need to add little more liquid as it simmers.

1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup butter or 1/4 cup oil
1.15kg chicken or duck (cut up, bone-in)
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 cups walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
1 1/2 - 2 cups chicken stock or water
2/3 cup pomegranate syrup
2-3 tbsp sugar
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sprinkle meat with lime juice & allow to marinate for 1-4 hrs.
Over medium heat in large, heavy-bottomed pot heat 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) of butter or oil until shimmering.
Add chicken/duck pieces a few at a time & brown on all sides.
Remove to plate.
Add onions (& eggplant, if using) & sauté in remaining butter or oil until translucent.
Stir in ground walnuts & sauté for 30 sec.
Add stock or water & browned chicken/duck pieces. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover & simmer 20-30 min.
Stir in pomegranate syrup/juice, sugar, salt & pepper.
Taste & adjust seasoning.
Sauce should have balanced sweet-sour flavour.
Simmer another 15-20 minutes until chicken/duck is tender, sauce is somewhat thickened & walnuts begin to give off their oil.
Serve with plain white rice.

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