The most difficult thing for me when making khoresh fesenjoon (or fesenjān), a pomegranate-walnut stew, is finding that balance between sweet and sour, and not letting either overpower everything else. The pomegranate molasses or concentrate brings the main flavors of the dish–tangy, sweet, and sour–while the ground walnuts establish the creamy, nutty body. The flavors are quite unlike what most people have eaten.
The stew is served with some type of poultry–chicken or, more luxuriously, duck. While chicken is more common now, traditionally duck is used. In fact, fesenjoon originated from the province of Gilan in Iran, bordering the Caspian Sea, and is well known for its wild duck. I’ve never made it with duck before, but I can imagine the gaminess balances well with the sourness of the pomegranate and the fat adds to the richness.
My recipe draws from two other ones I found on the Internet, finding where they overlap and where they differ, and forging my own path forward with a blended version. I aimed to keep the instructions as simple as possible and to rely on minimal pots and pans.
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken (breast, thighs, whatever)
- 2 cups walnuts (about 8 oz)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup water for ground walnut
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup pomegranate concentrate (a little less for molasses, which I use)
- Pick through the walnuts for any shells, and add to a food processor and process until it turns to a tan-colored paste.
- With the food processor running add ¼ cup cold water through the feed chute. Continue processing until the paste becomes uniformly beige in color.
- Saute onion until translucent.
- Add chicken to the onions, add pepper and salt, cook on all sides.
- Add 1/2 cup water and bay leaves. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add walnut paste, add pomegranate concentrate.
- Add more water as needed.
- Add brown sugar to taste, if need and desired, to balance out the tartness–all personal taste, of course.
- Bring to boil, lower heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes or until thick and chicken is soft. Stir frequently–if you don’t the sugars will burn onto the bottom of the pot!
If the stew is a bit too tart for your taste, simply add a bit of brown sugar. I prefer the Sadaf brand of pomegranate molasses because it has a good balance of tart and sweetness, but others might fit your own preference better.
Simply serve the khoresh with steamed Persian rice, polo in Farsi.