Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken

Autumn has finally fallen upon us here in the southwest of France. We are quite lucky this year as the sun continues to shine with a slight temperature drop. I must say it is a perfect way to ease into the fall season. Last weekend we snuck away for two days to the region of Provence in the south-east. We went to the lively student city of Aix-en Provence and a wonderful small village in the countryside called Greoux-les Bains surrounded by olive and apple trees.

Aix-en Provence

Autumn is the harvest season and has become my favorite season. Two weeks ago, some family stopped by for lunch on their way through town and they brought us a huge bag of walnuts that had fallen from a walnut tree. I was giddy with excitement thinking about what I would do with all these freshly fallen walnuts. The possibilities were endless; bread, cake, nut milk, etc. Finally I decided to go the savoury route and make one of my favorite Persian dishes, khoresht fesenjan خورشت فسنجان  also called walnut stew. I first tried this delicious dish in a fabulous Lebanese restaurant in Long Island, New York and love it for its mix of sweet fruity flavor and creaminess that the walnuts add and goes perfect with duck or chicken.

Not only is this dish warm and yummy, but FULL of nutritional goodness. Walnuts are like the golden nut containing vitamin E, antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids which are those anti-inflammatory ‘heart healthy fats’. Pomegranate fruits and juices has gained quite a bit of exposure the past few years for their health benefits and high level of antioxidants, potassium and tannins. The tangy-tart sweetness of this fruit make a perfect match with meat dishes. Much to my delight last weekend in Provence we stopped at a local farmers market and found locally produced pomegranates.

There are so many different ways to make this exotic dish, but here is the one that I use and is quite easy.

Ingredients (serves four):

  • 2 large chicken breasts (or filets of duck)
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 yellow onion (thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tbs sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cane sugar
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Begin by soaking your walnuts in cold water 4-8 hours before cooking. Rinse your walnuts in fresh water and place in a blender or food processor with the pomegranate juice and blend until semi-smooth. Place your meat and oil in a pan and cook on medium heat until brown on both sides (careful not to overcook). Set meat aside. Add your onions to pan and cook until translucent. Stir in your walnut-pomegranate sauce, broth, and browned meat. Bring to a boil and add cardamom and sugar then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should be browner and have thickened after cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.
Finally time to eat. Serve with basmati rice and decorate with fresh pomegranate on top and a sprig of rosemary.

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