Forgive me my foodie friends! Between visiting SoCal for a folk dancing competition and then being struck down by an awful cold, I have been forced off the radar for about 10 days. But, fear not! I am back with a different spin on examining and reporting Ethnic Food.
Today we’re revisiting Fesenjoon. Why? Because I had a craving and I promised friends I’d make them lunch. But, I digress. If you’re interested in the restaurant version of this dish, I suggest you take a gander at my post from Sunday, February 10th, 2013; today’s article deals with a homemade twist on the beloved tradition of Chicken Friday.
As I mentioned in my previous article, I found this particular Fesenjan recipe (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fesenjan_persian_chicken_stew_with_walnut_and_pomegranate_sauce/) whist spending endless hours on Pinterest: and they were hours well spent mind you. Yes, I know that there are pictures on the original recipe page, but I’ve also taken the liberty of uploading my own step-by-step slide show, just because it feels more authentic.
Onto the food discussion. A few points about the recipe and my take on it:
1. Despite the initial picture, I only used one of the onions. Even though the recipe calls for 3 cups of onions, half that much was just fine for my taste.
2. I used four skin-on-bone-in thigh pieces (Foster Farms from Costco), that I did work on and chopped into smaller bite-sized pieces this morning.
3. While the recipe called for really finely ground walnuts, I opted to keep mine at a coarse meal, just for mouth feel. Having pointed out in the last article that the walnuts were almost too finely ground and blended into the sauce, I wanted my homemade version to have a certain crunch.
4. The only ingredients that I measured out precisely were the walnuts (which I baked, instead of pan-toasted), spices and the pomegranate molasses (Carlo brand, purchased at the Davis Food Co-op for $4.89. I also saw it at the Yolo Fruit Stand for a little over $5).
While making this dish, I was surprised by its simplicity: brown the chicken, sweat the onions, pour in some broth, let simmer, throw everyone else into the pool and cook for an hour at low heat. Bam. That’s not to say that it isn’t time consuming. I started cooking at 9am and was finished at about 11:45am, with just enough time to get to UCD, where we’d be lunching. The magic, however, is in letting all of those flavors marry in that one hour on super low heat (though I admit I had it on medium high heat just to see a subtle simmer).
Don't be daunted by the amount of pomegranate molasses sited in the recipe: while it’s tart on initial taste, much sour cherry, it marries with the sugar in the spice blend and the sugars given off by the sautéed onions. The dish’s distinctive red-brown color is developed over time, and continued to darken even after I had taken it off the heat. Also, don't be surprised by the bright neon-like yellow color given off by the turmeric powder.
So, how did it taste? First, I have to say I got rave reviews from my food guinea pigs, who are just as well versed in Chicken Friday as I am. Second, it tasted phenomenal. A complex flavor profile exploded on every bite, set perfectly against a background of jasmine rice: tender chicken infused with all of the brothy pomegranate-y goodness. Each bite revealed a burst of onion, pomegranate, cinnamon, and sweetness. If I do have to critique this dish, I would say that it was much sweeter than I was anticipating, despite the fresh pomegranate seeds added on top as garnish. Having said that, adjust your sugar accordingly.
Lastly, I have to say a couple of words about the jasmine rice. Despite the leaps and bounds I have made in my culinary progress over the last two years, the nuances of rice seem to escape me…until now! Thanks to the fabulousness of http://chinesefood.about.com/cs/cookingbasics/ht/steamrice.htm, I didn't have mushy rice that was stuck to the bottom of my pot this time around. However I would have to say my cooking time was much less than 20 minutes.
Verdict? Now that I know how simple this dish can be, I will definitely be making it more regularly…or until my bottle of pomegranate molasses runs out! I hope you feel inspired to try this recipe or any ethnic food recipe in your home, for that matter.
Be food spontaneous! Be food-venterous! You won’t be disappointed!