Recipe Contest: Fesenjann (Shabbat Pomegranate Chicken Stew)

fesenjannEach day this week we’ve posted a new recipe from one of our First Annual Recipe Contest finalists. On Sunday at CrossRiver Kosherfest, we’ll announce the contest winner. Today, enjoy the final recipe from our finalists: Hannah Riederer’s Fesenjann. The judges loved the all the flavor of the dish, and especially liked the addition of pomegranates on top. Some small complaints about the presentation, but the dish otherwise received high marks. One judge said: “Delicious!”

Title of recipe
Fesenjann (Shabbat Pomegranate Chicken Stew)

Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 40 minute
Cook Time: 1+ hours (you may use a slow cooker and let it simmer all day)

List of ingredients:

2.5 cups walnut pieces
2 med onions
.25 cup butter or olive oil
4-5 lbs of chicken pieces on the bone, or use 2-3 lbs if using boneless breasts or thighs
.5 tsp cinnamon
.25 tsp pepper
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 small can tomato paste
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2.5 cups water
.25 cup pomegranate molasses (pick it up at Holy Land)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Pulse walnut pieces in food processor until they have the texture of coarse corn meal. Move ground walnuts to a dry frying pan on medium heat. Brown for about 3 minutes, then transfer to large pot
  2. Pulse peeled onions in food processor until finely chopped. Brown onions in olive oil, and transfer to large pot
  3. Brown the chicken pieces in the oil remaining from the onions.
  4. Place the remaining ingredients in the large pot. Bring to slow boil and reduce to a simmer.
  5. Brown the chicken in the oil left over from onions. Transfer chicken to the large pot and simmer for 1+ hours (or crock pot on low all day)
  6. Serve over Basmati rice


“For college, I made a fateful journey from my home in Saint Paul to Eau Claire, Wisconsin – only 85 miles on a map, but a world away culturally. I received a high quality education. However, this land of Tombstone pizza and ranch dressing was a Jewish culinary abyss. It took me a while to acculturate. Initially the campus seemed strictly divided between the bible banger and binge drinker crowds. I struggled to make friends beyond my dorm overflow roommates. I would think I was making inroads, only to find my new “friend” was aggressively recruiting me to attend one of the born again Christian testify and sing-along meetings. The members had quotas to meet. 

The Eau Claire community was not as diverse as I was used to. However, they do support a lovely, eclectic synagogue with a Star of David posted over the former church’s bell tower. There were a number of university faculty, but not many people under 30. Where were all the Jewish students? Many were in hiding. It got annoying to hear over and over, “I’ve never met a Jew before”  sometimes followed by “do you really not accept Jesus as your Savior?” and “Why not?”. I didn’t give up, and by my Junior year, a pushy (or ‘very assertive’) Israeli exchange student and a sassy Persian Chicago Jewess pulled us all out of hiding for the most flavorful, delicious Shabbat meals that Western Wisconsin had ever experienced. Oh the flavor! The spices! The texture! Everything was decadent and fabulous.

This recipe is for a Pomegranate Chicken Stew called Fesenjann, a Persian Shabbat favorite. In the land of bland, it was an oasis of flavor at our Friday night dinners. It is also perfect for the modern working Jew, as you can make it in the Crock Pot and come home to a fabulous, tender stew to serve over rice and enjoy Friday night. It allows you to start Sabbath as it was intended: relaxed and with family.  Don’t want to cook on Saturday? No problem. The flavor gets better with time. Best of all, the sweet flavor from the pomegranate assures that it’s kid friendly, while still quite impressive at any Friday night dinner party your throw.”