A magical burst of flavor that meshes both sweet & sour, Fesenjoon is a rich chicken (or duck!) stew recipe & classic in all Persian homes, made with walnuts & pomegranate!
Fesenjoon, or Fesenjan, originates from the Gilan region in the North of Iran, but has found its way into millions of homes (and hearts!) across Iran.
This mystical dish has stood the test of time.. In fact, “[Fesenjan] has been around in one form or another since the days of the Persian Empire. A cache of inscribed stone tablets unearthed from the ruins of the ancient capital of Persepolis show that as far back as 515 BCE, early Iranian pantry staples included walnuts, poultry and pomegranate conserve. Today, fesenjan is a de rigueur dish for weddings and special occasions.” — Louisa Shafia, Wall Street Journal
This dish especially pops around at this time of year for the ancient Persian winter-solstice tradition or “Shab-e Yalda“, the night of “Yalda” or rebirth (of the sun, as the days will get longer in the Northern Hemisphere) — taking place during December 21 or 22 each year. The winter-solstice is also called ‘Shabe Chelleh‘, which means the ‘40th night’ of the winter-solstice.
On this night, it is customary to gather with loved ones and eat mixed dried nuts and fruits (such as pomegranate, watermelon, and persimmon), while reading some Persian poetry, especially by Hafez, Rumi or Saa’di among others, or recounting folktales.
How about celebrating Shabe Yalda with this delicious Fesenjan recipe?
- 1½ large yellow onion sliced thin and fried golden brown in 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil (or 5 ounces fried onions)
- 2 pounds skinless chicken drumsticks or thighs (4-5 pieces)
- 8 ounces walnut halves (about 2 cups)
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 cup pomegranate concentrate
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Pomegranate seeds for garnish
- 2 tbsp sugar (or more, to taste)
- 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.
- Fry the sliced onions with 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil in a 6 qt stockpot until golden brown. Remove from the pot.
- Add chicken to the same stockpot and top it with the fried onions.
- Spoon the walnut paste evenly over the fried onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the pomegranate concentrate over all the ingredients, and add the sugar if you prefer a sweeter-tasting stew.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat. The pomegranate concentrate tends to stick and burn fairly quickly so avoid high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Now reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for an additional 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is fork tender and falls off the bone. Stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure the sauce does not stick to the pot. If at the end of this time period the sauce has not thickened enough, leave the pot uncovered for about 10 minutes on low heat for a thicker sauce. Transfer the Fesenjan to a serving dish and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top as garnish.
- Serve over white Persian Steamed rice!
Nooshe jân (نوش جان ) and Yalda Mobarak (happy winter-solstice)!