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Dish Deconstructed: Fesenjan

I first wrote about the Persian dish fensenjan in a review for the now defunct Darius Palace in Fort Lauderdale. The slow-stewed walnut and pomegranate dish that Darius served reminded me of a version I used to enjoy at a childhood friend's house. After an afternoon of playing Nintendo and listening to classic rock, my friend Frank and I would huddle up around the table and eat his Iranian mother's soulful food. I was exstatic every time she made fensenjan. The dish was the perfect combination of flavors: the sauce thick with crushed walnuts and tangy/sweet from the fruit, and the hen that simmered in it for hours was tender and perfumed with flavor. It remains one of my strongest food memories from growing up.

My friend's mother made the best fesenjan (even though hers is my barometer for greatness, I've yet to try a better one), and the other day I was able to experience it again. Our families are still friends, and so she had brought some leftover fenenjan she made around the holidays to my parents' house. My mom called me and let me know of its arrival. I rushed over there immediately to taste it. The fesenjan was just as good as I remembered.    


These days, you can get fesenjan at Kuluck Persian Restaurant & Lounge, who added the dish to their menu sometime after my review, and Caspian Persian Grill, another Persian restaurant in West Broward. But if you're feeling adventurous, you can try and make it yourself.

Fensenjan

2 small game hens, cut into eight pieces
1 medium white onion, grated
1.5 cups of pomegranate juice
1/2 pound of walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3 cups of water
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Add walnuts, pomegranate, onion, spices, and tomato paste to a stock pot, and add water until the mixture becomes smooth and thin. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns brownish in color. Add hen pieces and cover, cooking for another hour, or until the hen is fork tender. Serve over long grain rice.

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John Linn

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