Friday, February 12, 2016

Flashback Friday - Khoresht-e Fesenjan

My version of the Persian dish, fesenjan, is inauthentic, perhaps, but still utterly delicious.


This post was originally published on November 5, 2008.
Khoresht-e Fesenjan

We bought a pomegranate at the Superfresh the other day.  When I was a kid, my Uncle Frankie bought a pom every fall for my mother and me. He had done this since she was young, and after so many years of wrestling with the fruit, she let me mangle and eat most of it.  When Frankie died, in 1983, so did the annual tradition of red hands and stained kitchen table.  Nowadays, I slice open the fruit and rip it apart in a big bowl of cold water.  The arils sink to the bottom and the tissue-like membrane floats to the top, making the fruit a breeze to dismantle. Plus the water keeps my hands from getting stained.

The pomegranate sat on our kitchen counter for a few days when I was struck with the idea of making fesenjan, a Persian preparation featuring pomegranate and walnuts.  I had eaten a version with made with duck at the Orchard Market and Café many years ago and remembered enjoying it. We had a small half leg of lamb in the freezer, and I decided that would be the perfect protein to match with the tangy fruit and nut sauce.

I got Mr Minx to whip up some of his delicious pilaf (sautéed onions, broken capellini pasta, and leftover rice, flavored with saffron) as a go-with, and cooked some okra pods with various spices: mustard and cumin seeds, charnushka, coriander, salt and pepper.

The meat was deliciously tender.  I had cut off most of the fat but left all of the annoying silver skin and other connective tissue, which melted away during the long slow cooking.  The sauce was tangy and rich, with just enough spice flavor to keep it far away from the realm of ordinary lamb stew.  In short, it was delicious, and I would definitely make this dish again.  Perhaps I'll try chicken next time....

Lamb Fesenjan
Serves 6

1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tblsp oil
2 lbs lamb, cut into cubes
1 tblsp flour
8oz walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tblsp honey (optional)
salt to taste

Sauté onion with turmeric and pepper in the oil until browned.  Remove from pot.  Add meat and brown on all sides.  Sprinkle meat with the flour and the chopped walnuts and sauté for a few minutes.  Add water, pomegranate juice, cardamom, and cinnamon and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer 2 hours or so until meat is very tender and the juices have thickened.  Add salt to taste and honey, if the pomegranate is too tart for you.  Conversely, if you want the dish to have more tart flavor, add lemon juice.

Serve with rice or pilaf.
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