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Chicken or Duck in Walnut-Pomegranate Sauce, Persian: Fesenjan - meat

Posted by : Schelly Dardashti

Lenore Gould wrote:

> Since all of this is so new to me I do hope you will tell us
> more. Could you please explain, "Duck was used in the
> Caspian region, particularly for fesenjan (cooked in
> walnut/pomegranate sauce)."
> 
> I have a friend who is most interested in the
> walnut/pomegranate sauce. I did days of web searches but
> only came across the use of walnuts with pomegranate
> mentioned once.

I think I have gained a few pounds just posting these recipes recently!!

Fesenjan (chicken or duck in a walnut-pomegranate sauce)

This is supposed to be the ultimate test of a cook's ability. It has been 
called the queen of stewed meats and is a company dish. Once tasted, 
never forgotten. In the north, on the Caspian Sea it is always prepared 
with duck or pheasant. In the main cities, it is chicken.

The chicken becomes coated with a rich, dark sweet-sour sauce, and this 
dish is served with white steamed rice (chelo). it is very rich, be 
warned. Generally, it is not served alone for a meal, but is one of 
several dishes at a company meal. Walnuts were very expensive in Iran, 
and when you consider that enough had to be made for an "immediate" 
family of 30 or more people -- it became quite an expensive dish, 
therefore, was made for company, and not just for ordinary home dinners.

For about 6 Americans or 3 hungry Persians.

2 large onions, chopped or sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
5 TB oil (non-Jews use butter -- 
	Jewish homes had the green Israeli Shemen oil can!)
1 large fryer chicken or 5 whole chicken breasts (I use)
1 1/2 cups beef bouillion (from Telma cubes - kosher chicken)
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups finely ground (food processor) walnuts (shelled, of course)
2/3 to 3/4 cup pomegranate syrup (see note below)
2-3 TB sugar
2-3 tsps salt (less if using cube bouillion)
1/2 tsp saffron (or turmeric)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TB fresh lime juice (always fresh-squeezed lime juice for Persian food)

1. In a heavy, 5-quart Dutch oven, saute onion and garlic (don't burn) in 
2 TB oil until golden brown. Add ground nuts and saute 3 minutes, mix in 
salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour in water.

2. Combine pomnegranate syrup, sugar, dissolved saffron (in 1 TB hot 
water), add to nuts and onions. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add more 
sugar if too sour.

3. In a separate pot, take a small chopped onion, 1 1/2 cups chicken 
bouillion and chicken, and simmer covered over low heat for about 20 
minutes, if using whole chicken, bone it and discard skin and bones.

4. Put boned chicken or breasts in pot with sauce, add lime juice, and 
cook at least another 30 minutes longer over low heat. Careful not to 
burn!!! Stir frequently. The sauce becomes quite dark--sort of a 
reddish-brown. Check frequently to make sure it is not burning. Add more 
bouillion or water by TB if it is too dry.

This is even better the next day (like a good brisket!) and will keep
in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with platter of white steamed 
rice (chelo). It also freezes very well -- I took it to my daughter at 
college frozen in zip-lok bags, she started eating it with a spoon before 
we got to her dorm!

For duck: Saute duck pieces in a little oil until golden brown, cook for 
45 minutes in step 3, and for an hour in step 4. Check for doneness.

Pomegranate paste, rob-e-anar, is available in bottles in all 
Persian/Middle East stores. A really good brand is Gourmet, a sweeter 
Persian-tasting brand. Other brands are from Lebanon or other countries, 
seem to be more sour. This is a thick but pourable concentrate.

Lee, have fun.

Schelly Dardashti
dardasht@ix.netcom.com

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