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Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

My New Zealand girlfriend introduced me to fesenjan, a chicken-andwalnut stew from Iran, many years ago. I loved its dark richness and spicy taste, but over time forgot about it. Now, with Iranian food becoming so trendy, I unearthed the recipe and updated it. My friend liked to use a whole chicken cut into pieces but I like it made with just the breasts – choose ones that are still on the bone. It's a wonderful main course and just the thing to take the edge off the end of winter. Serve it with basmati rice or with noodles and rice, a classic Persian combination.

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Servings: 4

Ready Time: 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

1 cup walnut pieces

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 bone-in chicken breasts with skin

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp star anise

3 cups chicken stock or water

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat and stir until lightly toasted (about 5 minutes). Place in a food processor and pulse until ground. Heat butter and oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Sear the chicken skin-side down for about 2 minutes or until golden, flip and sear another 2 minutes. Do not crowd the pan. Remove chicken to a plate and reserve, skin-side up.

Return pan to medium heat and add onion. Sauté until softened (about 4 minutes). Stir in cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and star anise and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add ground walnuts, chicken stock and pomegranate molasses. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Return chicken skin-side up and cover.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Remove from oven and transfer chicken to a plate to let cool. Return pan to stovetop and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 5 minutes). Peel skin from chicken and reserve. Shred the chicken, discard the bones and return to the sauce.

Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken skin and fry until crisp (about 3 to 4 minutes a side). Remove from heat. Slice into thin strips.

Spoon chicken into bowls and garnish with fresh herbs and crispy chicken skin.

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