Citizens, Fesenjān is an Iranian stew (a khoresh) flavored with pomegranate syrup and ground walnuts. It is traditionally made with poultry (duck or chicken), and is served with Persian white or yellow rice (polo or chelo).
Fesenjān is one of the best stews of Iran which is believed to have originated in the province of Gilan bordering the Caspian Sea. The area was particularly renowned for its wild duck population and the Fesenjān recipe first made use of duck meat, which was substituted with chicken at a later date. The dish was much favored during the fall season in Persia when the pomegranates matured.
As noted in a Wall Street Journal article:
Fesenjān is believed to have originated in Gilan province, a temperate green swath of land along the Caspian Sea in the north of Iran, where wild ducks are plentiful. Gilanis have a taste for tart, fruity flavors like those in this dish, which has been around in one form or another since the days of the Persian Empire. A cache of inscribed stone tablets unearthed from the ruins of the ancient capital of Persepolis show that as far back as 515 BCE, early Iranian pantry staples included walnuts, poultry and pomegranate conserve. Today, Fesenjān is a de rigueur dish for weddings and special occasions.
Fesenjān was also considered to be a classic Persian Jewish Rosh Hashana dish to celebrate the New Year and to remember it will have both sweet and sour moments in it.
My version of Fesenjān (of course) uses the classically prescribed duck and my own special Iranian Baharat spice blend for absolute flavor mastery! It is supremely delicious and well worth trying, Citizens!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
3 cups walnuts, toasted
3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 duck legs, skinned
Salt, to taste
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
⅓ cup pomegranate molasses – available in any Middle Eastern grocery store or on Amazon
1 cup fresh pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons of The Hirshon Fesenjān Baharat spice mixture, made as follows:
Blend 2 parts of each whole spice together in a bowl:
Black Pepper, Cumin, Coriander seed & Paprika
Next, add one part of all the following:
Clove, Nutmeg & Sea Salt
Now add ½ part of Cardamom seeds and Cinnamon
Grind all the spices together into a powder. Lightly toast until fragrant and darkens slightly. Keep the leftover blend in an air-tight container.
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Place the walnuts in a food processor and grind them until they resemble coarse meal. Combine the walnuts and stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, season the duck legs with salt and add to the pot. Cook the legs, turning, until they are light golden brown on both sides, about 20 minutes. Remove the legs, transfer them to a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Cook until the onions have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and reserved duck legs. Cook until the turmeric becomes fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the walnut mixture and Baharat mix to the duck and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat to medium-low. Place a wooden spoon into the pot so that it is touching the bottom of the pot and cover (thus keeping the lid ajar).
Stir the stew every 20 minutes and skim any excess fat that rises to the top for about 1 hour. Add the molasses, pomegranate juice and sugar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the stew has become deep brown in color and the duck is tender, about 1 hour. Taste and add sugar if necessary. The stew should be balanced between sweet and sour.
Garnish the stew with pomegranate seeds and serve over basmati rice or crusty bread alongside a mixture of fresh herbs.
Note: As with most stews, it’s best made the day before. Gently reheat before serving.