As most of you know by now, cooking has always been a passion of mine. There was a point in my career when I wanted to learn as much as I could about as many different styles of cuisine. My adventures included working for many small independently owned family restaurants.
Of all the different styles of cuisine that I tried my hand at, I’d say that Persian food has always been one of my favorites to cook and eat. The first place I worked was a thirty-five seat casual dining restaurant specializing in Persian BBQ. Waking up at 5am to start the wood fired oven/grill and get the dough made for the flat bread, served to every guest, is one of the defining moments in my life. I enjoyed the calm quiet of the early morning while the fire crackled and hissed. I then butchered leg of lamb and prepared my mise en place for the day.
For those of you who have never had this type of food I can tell you that it is delicious, mostly consisting of large skewers of lamb, chicken, and vegetables. Many of the items on the menu were fairly Americanized and simple, while these items were still wonderful and delicious, the authentic dishes were my favorite to cook and eat. Khoresht Fesenjaan, a puréed chicken and walnut stew is my favorite, hands down. This rich, savory-sweet sauce with chunks of chicken and onion served over fluffy rice seemed a physical impossibility to duplicate using standard methods. After much research I was able to learn how to make not only the Khoresht Fesenjaan but also the rice that came along with it!
Persian style rice is an art form. Its importance in the cuisine and culture of the region is very dear to the hearts of those who have ever eaten it. When left to cook slightly longer than intended, a crust of golden brown rice called ta-dig forms on the bottom of the pot, this is considered a treat.
Here are the recipes for Khoresht Fesenjaan and Polow (Persian style rice) that I have been using to impress friends and employers for years. Enjoy!
2 lbs chicken pieces (boneless breast in one inch cubes)
1 lbs ground walnuts (you can grind your own in some stores)
3-4 onions thinly sliced
6 cups pomegranate juice (or 4-5 tablespoons of pomegranate paste)
6-8 cups of hot water (more if needed)
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup of cooking oil
In a large pot over medium heat cook the sliced onions in oil until slightly golden. Wash chicken pieces and add to the onions until the chicken is white on the outside (you do not want it cooked through yet). Add hot water to cover and bring to boil. Turn heat down and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes adding more hot water if needed.
Add salt, ground walnuts and pomegranate juice or paste (if using pomegranate paste), add hot water and bring the mixture back up to a simmer. If pomegranate juice or paste is sour, add some sugar to the khoresht.
Cook on low for a minimum of one hour stirring frequently and adding water if needed. Care should be taken to ensure that the Khoresht does not scorch. Allow it to cook long enough for the oils to release from the walnuts and become very thick before serving. Khoresht Fesenjaan should be served with Polow (white rice).
*Pomegranate juice can be found in most stores. You can grind your own walnuts in a food processor ahead of time and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Polow (Persian style rice)
3 cups basmati or long-grain rice
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil
Wash rice twice and soak in salted warm water for 3-4 hours, then drain the water. Fill a large non-stick pot half-full of water and bring it to a boil. Add rice and a teaspoon of salt and continue boiling until rice slightly softens. Pour rice into a mesh strainer and wash it with slightly warm water.
Add one tablespoon of cooking oil into the pan and roll it around to coat the bottom, add rice. Pour the second tablespoon of oil over rice. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about half an hour. If cooking time is increased, a delicious crispy layer of rice (called ta-dig) will form at the bottom of the pan.
Here are some great Foodie events! Tickets for these great events are available for purchase on Brown Paper Tickets!
Tours available seven days a week until the end of September I Public Market Tours @ Pike Place Market – Seattle, Washington
Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until Friday, November 2 I Memphis BBQ Food Tour – Memphis, Tennessee
Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16 – Sea Marks – Barnard, Vermont
Sunday, September 30 plus additional weekly dates until Friday, December 28 I Chinatown Discovered Food Tour-Fall/Winter 2012 – New York, New York
Monday, October 22 – Foodportunity – Seattle, Washington