This is a family favorite. Fesanjoon is very rich and mellow, and is often served for guests. Serve by spooning fesanjoon over skinned chunks of baked chicken on plain rice. Fesanjoon increases in flavor when served the second day.
Servings: About 4
Ingredients for fesanjoon
1 c. walnuts
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. water
2 c. cranberry or pomegranate juice
1 1/2 t. salt
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. lemon juice
Step 1: Process the walnuts until finely ground. Over medium heat, stir the ground walnuts until toasty smelling.
Step 2: Add the other ingredients and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Keep the pot covered during cooking; add more water if it becomes too thick. The sauce will turn very dark brown during the simmering.
Recipe © Nura Amerson 1991
Fesanjoon has always struck me as a dish that proves the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In this case, don’t judge a stew by its dull appearance! To echo my mom’s description, its flavor is mellow and rich, rather like mole sauce. It is delicious!
I first made this dish when I was living in Haifa, Israel, and serving at the Bahá’í World Centre. My orientation group was having a potluck dinner at which we were hosting a prominent Bahá’í; fesanjoon seemed like an appropriately elegant contribution. My apparel, on the other hand, ended up not being very elegant. I had unwisely carried my covered pot of fesanjoon to the event in a tote bag. The pot leaked…through the bag…onto my skirt. So, I spent the evening smelling like stew. But at least the fesanjoon was appreciated!
Over the years, my mom has refined her recipe; I provide here her update, which is the version I use:
If you prefer less meat, just use less. The success of the sauce is not dependent on the meat. Bake a “family size” package of bone-in and skin-on chicken breasts, let cool, remove skin and bones. Or, gently fry the equivalent amount of boned, skinned breasts in covered pan to retain moisture (no need to brown). The former takes longer, but the meat is moister and flavor is better. Cut or tear the meat into bite-size pieces.
8-10 oz (2-3 cups) whole walnuts, toasted (in oven), cooled, pulverized until fine crumbs
1 med or lg yellow onion, chopped fairly small
1 15-oz can pumpkin (Libby’s is best)
1 med size POM juice—maybe 2-3 cups? (if you can’t find 100% pomegranate juice, cran-grape is okay substitute)
Generous pinch of saffron threads, ground/crushed (in a bowl, sprinkle 1/4 t. salt or sugar, grind saffron with back of spoon in the granules—do this slowly to avoid precious saffron bits jumping out of the bowl)
Sugar to taste
1/2 t. allspice (or more)
1 t. salt, sprinkle of pepper
Heat big pot on medium. Add oil and heat. Add onion. Fry until cooked. Stir in everything except saffron and juice. Slowly stir in 3/4 of juice. Stir in saffron. Bring to boil. Stir in meat. Lower to simmer. Simmer with lid off or askew for 1-2 hours until consistency is desired, adding more juice as desired—color will change from reddish to brown. Stir now and then. Best if made 1 day before serving.