Persian Chicken and Pomegranate Stew (Fesenjoon)

This may be one of my favorite Persian stews. Traditionally made with duck, fesenjoon can be a super heavy dish, as a calorie-rich meal that would be eaten to provide energy to last throughout the day. My version is a bit lighter using chicken legs and adding butternut squash to the mix. After searing the legs, they are braised in a rich blend of walnuts, chicken stock, pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses. It's nutty, sweet, sour and savory all at the same time, making it a powerhouse of a dish.

Like most stews, it's always better the next day, so feel free to make this recipe a day or two in advance of when you're going to serve it. And on the off chance you have leftovers, strip the meat from the bones and use it as a filling for tahchin! You won't be sorry.


Persian Chicken and Pomegranate Stew (Fesenjoon

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes


Ingredients

3 cups walnuts, toasted

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses

3 tablespoons chicken fat or oil

3 1/2 pounds (6 each) skinless chicken legs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 yellow onions, diced 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound peeled butternut squash, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Directions

  1. In a blender, pulse the walnuts into a coarse powder. Add the stock, pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses, then blend until smooth. 
  2. In a wide Dutch oven, heat the chicken fat over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, sear the chicken legs, turning as needed, until lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer the legs to a plate. 
  3. To the Dutch oven, add the onions and turmeric and cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the walnut mixture, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken back in and bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 45 minutes, giving the legs a stir every 15 minutes. Add the squash and continue to cook, covered, until both the squash and chicken are very tender, another 45 minutes. 
  5. Remove from the heat and serve with rice.