Saturday, March 24, 2012

Old World food

I am fascinated by Middle Eastern food, flavors and spices. There was a wonderful article in the March issue of Saveur magazine about Iran. If you have never picked up an issue of Saveur check it out. It is very different from most cooking magazines, the recipes are not the focus. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of recipes but the focus is more on people, places, culture. I decided to try Khoresht-e Fesenjan or Chicken and Walnut Stew. A man in my office from Iran said that his mother makes a version of this stew and that it is a national dish. He promised to get her version for me. Here's the Saveur link

Chicken and Walnut Stew my way

Note: The original recipe had the very long process for cooking the walnuts after browning the chicken. That was backwards to me although it would have helped if I had read the whole recipe first. This is not something you can make after work for dinner. Make on a rainy weekend or the day before you plan on eating it.

2 cups walnuts
1 cup pomegranate molasses
sugar to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
~3/4 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
~1 cup chicken stock
~1 cup white wine
5 ounces fresh spinach, finely chopped

Process walnuts in a food processor into a very fine paste, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large pot, and cook over medium low heat; stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Stir in 4 cups water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook, until light brown and thickened, about 2 hours. Cool and refrigerate overnight. Skim off oil and reheat over medium heat. Add molasses and sugar; cook until thickened once more, about 25 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and add to skillet; cook, turning, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside. Add turmeric and onion; cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add stock and wine and deglaze the skillet. Simmer until liquid is reduced and chicken is cooked, about 20-30 minutes. Add spinach; cook until wilted, about 1 minute.

Add walnut and pomegranate mixture to the chicken. Stir and simmer for a couple of minutes to thoroughly incorporate. Serve with basmati rice or flat bread.

I had really high hopes for this dishes but the pomegranate molasses overpowered everything for me. Mike liked it much more than I did. It was not inedible but I could not taste turmeric or even much of the walnuts. I've decided to deconstruct this dish and make it again. I will definitely blog about my 2nd attempt. I like the ingredients too much not to give it a try. Since I did change things if you are interested in this dish check out the original recipe on Saveur, maybe something I did made the difference. Try it your way and let me know how it comes out. Enjoy!

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