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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Ready Time: 1 1/2 hours
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
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.