Fesenjan, and Why I Started Kitchen Whimsies

IMG_2639When I started Kitchen Whimsies, I was living in a college dorm whose stained, old white stove with rickety, finicky burners sat atop an oven that was at least 20 degrees cooler than the supposed temperature. I had no idea how to cook, as evidenced by early attempts at shakshuka (which turned out more like overspiced soup with poached eggs) and fried tomatillos (mercifully no pictures survived).

In a dorm where (clean) counter space is often limited to nonexistent, one-bowl or one-pot recipes are lifesavers. There are, of course, the so-called “curries” made by mixing some curry powder with beans or lentils, or the one-bowl brownie mixes, but once in a while, a one-pot dish is actually outstanding.

Fesenjan, a Persian pomegranate walnut stew, requires no easily-perishable ingredients and can be made in one pot, and tastes like nothing I’ve ever eaten before. Though I’d made it at least four times while at college, I never posted it because it’s such a quick and easy recipe, I’d often make it in a rush for hungry friends. Though it’s a running joke that all the pictures on this blog are #iphoneonly, I still do put in a little time and effort (even if it doesn’t show :p). After teasing them with enticing aromas, I never had the heart to make my friends wait for me to take some admittedly subpar photos for the blog.

Since I now cook for smaller crowds (a.k.a. myself), I can finally take a half-decent photo of one of my favorite dishes. Fesenjan tastes delicious atop white rice, but I also realized that it has the consistency of pulled pork. Persian take on pulled pork sandwiches may have to appear in the future…

Fesenjan (Pomegranate Walnut Stew) – adapted from The New Persian Kitchen (makes 4 really large servings, or 8 regular-sized servings)

Grapeseed oil (I’ve used olive oil and canola oil previously and it’s turned out fine)
Coarse salt
2 lb skinless chicken breast or thigh (I prefer thigh – juicier and more flavorful)
2 medium-sized yellow onions, finely diced
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses (I found this to be too strong – I used 1/3 cup)
2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water, hot (ehh not the end of the world if it’s not hot, but it should at least be room temperature)
1 cup peeled and grated beets
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish (~1 pomegranate)
Mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts for 8-10 minutes, until golden-brown and fragrant. Set walnuts aside to cool, then coarsely grind them in a food processor.

In the same skillet, add ~1tbsp oil and add onions. After 7 minutes, lightly salt chicken and add it to the pan, searing for 6-7 minutes until well-browned.

Add the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and 2 tsp salt, and stir to coat the onions and chicken. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cook, partly covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the beets and cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, until stew is thick and beets are tender. Salt to taste.

At this point, the chicken will be quite tender; pull out chicken with tongs and cut into 2-3 pieces. (Or the lazy way: use tongs to shred chicken.) Spoon fesenjan atop some rice and garnish with pomegranate seeds. (Mint also makes a great refreshing garnish.)

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