Definition of insanity: living here for a month before thinking to buy pomegranate molasses (dibs al-ruman). It is borderline criminal that my subconscious was so mushawash (that would be confused, clearly) that I’ve only just gotten around to using it here in Jordan.
But let’s put all that behind us. Because tonight I made an Iranian-inspired pomegranate chicken (h/t Schadi Semnani). It was a long, up and down sort of day, and by 7 pm, faced with a stack of work, all I wanted to do was cook something with pomegranates. So that is what I did.
Chicken with Almond & Pomegranate Sauce
This is adapted (very loosely) from a Persian recipe for Khoresht-e-Fesesnjan, or chicken with walnut & pomegranate sauce, from Saveur. The biggest adaptation is that I used almonds and not walnuts, because I’m a rebel like that, and because I didn’t feel up to going back out for another round of shopping to get walnuts. Imagine my joy when the comments on the linked recipe insisted that the spinach it calls for (which I also didn’t have on hand) is almost offensively inauthentic and should be dispensed with entirely.
Actually, the comments were rather hotly debated on the Saveur website, and so I decided to play with the recipe quite a bit.
What you’ll need:
1 chicken, quartered
1 onion, sliced thinly
Salt, pepper, turmeric, and powdered ginger
Several pinches of saffron (why not?)
1 cup almonds
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Several tablespoons of sugar
A cup or less of pomegranate molasses (which you should be able to find in the US, but most likely at a specialty store…you can probably experiment with pomegranate juice, which you’ll probably need more of to achieve the same level of intensity)
Pomegranate seeds and plain Greek yogurt or lebneh for garnish, if you can swing them
Start by blending the almonds into a paste in a food processor. Add them with the saffron to a large pot and cook on low, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes.
Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour or so, periodically skimming off the foam and oil that form and rise to the top.
In the meantime, heat up the oil in a pan. Rub your chicken pieces down with a blend of the spices (salt, pepper, turmeric, ginger) and brown them, a piece or two at a time. Several minutes per side should do it.
Once the chicken has been duly browned, set it aside and toss in the onions to the pan; cook till translucent.
After the almond & saffron mixture has been simmering for about an hour, add the onions, simmer for 15 minutes, and then start to add the pomegranate molasses and sugar. Do this gradually, as the pomegranate molasses packs a serious punch. I dolloped in a bit of molasses and followed it with a tablespoon of sugar, stirred, tasted, and repeated, then added one more generous dollop of molasses before finding a tart-sweet-sour balance I liked.
After that, add in the chicken (it should be able to comfortably swim in the sauce) and simmer for another 30 minutes. At this point your chicken should be done, but test a piece to make sure it’s cooked through. Then remove your chicken and set aside; if you wish, simmer the remaining liquid till it reduces further to make a nice garnishing sauce. Because you should eat this chicken with lots of sauce.
I arranged some chicken on a plate with some very artfully arranged pomegranate seeds but felt that something was missing. Then my glance fell upon our list of house rules (well, guiding principles):
And there you have it. I’m eating this now. It is just what I was looking for. The fresh pomegranate seeds are an especially nice touch – a bit of cool sweetness to contrast the much more intense sweet-sour pomegranate molasses in the sauce.