Fesenjan is a Persian pomegranate-walnut stew base. It is delicious, and was actually rather easier to make than I expected -- it came out very well on the first attempt. I think the below recipe should make enough for 4-6 servings, depending on how large the servings are.
The traditional accompaniment would be a long grain rice. plymouth doesn't like rice. I thought about using some saffron in the couscous -- it's what would be in the rice -- but I decided that really, the saffron would just be wasted; fesenjan is strongly flavored. I'd rather use saffron in my starchy side dish when the main course I'm serving it with is a bit more subtle. So I just went ahead and hit the couscous with similar flavors to what was in the stew. (See comment below, I ended up changing my mind about that eventually.)
If you wanted to make this vegetarian, you could use seitan (as long as it's not overly salted or soaked with soy sauce) or a very firm tofu, or maybe some sort of firm mushrooms or chunks of eggplant.
Lamb and duck are also traditional proteins for this; with the duck, you want to basically render the fat out of the skin at the beginning, and use that in place of most of the walnut oil that's used here.
- 1 to 1+1/4 pound boneless chicken, cut into pieces (1" cubes)
- 1/2 pound walnuts (whole raw shelled)
- roughly 1 cup pomegranate concentrate or molasses
- 1 medium onion, chopped (any color is fine)
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- walnut oil (just have a bottle around -- the amount used isn't precise)
- lemon juice (similar)
- 1 large sweet pepper (preferably red, but orange or yellow will do), finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1+1/2 cup couscous (the Moroccan kind, not the Israeli kind)
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- roughly 3 cups of some kind of lightly savory liquid -- we used water with roughly 2 tsp of white miso dissolved in it, because the only broth we had handy was an entire large box that we didn't feel like opening; you could probably use pom juice as your main liquid, rather than having pom concentrate (I think I'd enhance it with some miso if I was doing that, to get back the savory quality you'd get from a broth)
- salt and black pepper to taste
At least a few hours ahead of time: After chopping the chicken, put it in a bowl or tupperware that is just large enough to contain it; in a separate container, mix up a splash of lemon juice and a drizzle of the pom concentrate (about a quarter cup juice, maybe a little less than that of pom) and the sumac, cardamom, and cinnamon. Stir around to coat the chicken, cover, allow to marinate.
- In a 1.5 to 2 quart pot over medium heat, sautee the garlic and bell pepper in walnut oil with a little salt (to extract liquid) until the pepper softens and turns slightly translucent.
- Mix 2 cups of liquid with a quarter cup each of lemon juice and pom concentrate, add to pot.
- Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat off, dump in couscous, cover.
- After a few minutes, stir/fluff, re-cover, and allow to finish absorbing any remaining liquid.
- Toast walnuts at 300 degrees until they start to darken slightly and give off a distinct toasted-nut aroma, about 10 minutes, maybe a little more. (I used the toaster oven for this.) Remove from toaster oven, set aside.
- Put a 2 to 3 quart pot over medium-low heat. Heat just enough walnut oil to cover the bottom of the pot when you're moving the pot in a swirling motion or tilting it around (if you stop, it should tend to contract back into a smaller pool that doesn't completely cover the bottom).
- Turn heat to medium-high, and add the chicken pieces, using a slotted spoon and attempting to reserve most of the liquid in the bowl the chicken was in.
- Sear chicken on outside until it no longer looks raw. Use slotted spoon to transfer chicken to a larger, clean bowl.
- Add a little more oil to the pot, and dump in the onion and shallot.
- Sautee until translucent. Use slotted spoon to transfer to the bowl with the chicken, attempting to keep as much of the oil as possible in the pot. Turn heat to low.
- Add the walnuts, a bit more walnut oil, and any remaining lemon juice, pom concentrate, and broth/liquid. Use a stick blender on low power to pulverize the walnuts; you may need to tilt the pot to make sure the head of the blender can be completely submerged, so it doesn't splash. (Alternately, you can transfer all this stuff to a blender or food processor.) You don't need to render the fesenjan completely smooth like peanut-butter or anything, you just want to break the walnuts down finely enough that the mix begins to thicken and you can't find any significant chunks. Some variations of the recipe call for blending the onion/shallot into the sauce, but we kinda like having identifiable pieces of them left at the end.
- Put the chicken and onions back in the pot. Cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
- Serve over couscous, with salt and pepper as desired.
If you happen to be able to acquire Persian ice cream (saffron-rosewater -- quite similar to a traditional flavor of Indian kulfi, which you can get at Bombay Ice Creamery in the mission) and/or faloodeh (very fine noodly things commonly served over shaved ice with a rosewater syrup) for dessert, that would round out the meal nicely.