Pomegranate Walnut Chicken & Jeweled Rice

Happy Persian New Year – Nowruz!

Yesterday was the start of the Persian New Year. Like all good foodies I hear they celebrate for the next 13 days. This seems like a great time to celebrate to me too. I am not Persian and I don’t have any Persians in my family (yet, who knows, I do have 4 daughters that could marry one) but since it was the first day of Spring yesterday it seems so fitting to celebrate and learn about other cultures and cook some exotic food instead of the same ol’ boring meals.

I’ve learned that the Persian New Year is called Nowruz or No-Rooz, translated into “New Day”

Here are some No-Rooz Greetings: No-Rooz Mobarak (Happy No-Rooz, Happy New Year); Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak (Happy New Year to you); No-Rooz Pirooz (Wishing you a Prosperous New Year); Sad Saal be in Saal-ha (Wishing you 100 more Happy New Years).

I decided to make jeweled rice and Persian Pomegranate, Chicken, and Walnut Stew for our dinner celebration tonight. I followed the recipes I found online and have hyperlinked them, although I will go through the recipes with the pictures I’ve taken as well. I am terrible at following recipes exactly, so I do add more herbs and spices than called for in almost everything I make since I love to indulge in the rich flavors.

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One thing that I noticed as we were eating dinner last night is that we really could have used bread and yogurt to tame the tangy-ness. Although both dishes were delicious on their own, there needed to be some mild flavored side dishes to counterbalance all of the tangy-ness from the pomegranate molasses and the different berries. I had decided against the bread originally since I didn’t have the time or patience to do something gluten free.

Jeweled Rice

Serves 6-8

3 cups basmati rice

Cook the basmati rice first. I used a rice cooker, but you could do the traditional on the stove method. Since we have to cook gluten free, I didn’t do the pita bread like in the original recipe so I didn’t get the tahdig at the bottom, which is supposed to be special and decadent.

1 TB dehydrated minced onions

2 generous pinches of saffron

½ cup boiling hot water

½ tsp sugar

The peels from one orange, white pith removed, sliced thinly

1/3 cup sugar

½ cup barberries

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup chopped or slivered almonds

1/8 cup slivered or chopped pistachios

2 TB orange blossom water

2 TB olive oil

3 TB butter

3 TB sugar

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Pulverize the saffron with ½ tsp of sugar and then pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over the bowl of saffron and add minced onion and set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes.

Pick through the barberries for stems or leaves. Rinse well and soak in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Do the same for the raisins in a separate bowl.

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Basically, you are going to fillet the oranges getting all of the bitter, white pith off of the skin of the orange. Slice thinly and boil in water for a couple minutes, drain, rinse and repeat twice to remove bitterness from the peels. When finished, put the peels back in the pot and add a cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar. Cook over medium heat until the peels are translucent and the syrup has thickened. Remove orange peels from syrup and set aside. Add 2 TB orange blossom water to syrup and soak the nuts in the liquid.

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Chop your nuts if you didn’t buy presliced or chopped. I buy most of my nuts at Costco, so I just did it myself. The pistachios had the skin on them even though they were shelled, so I had to soak them in water to loosen the skin and then chop them.

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Put a cup and a half in a separate bowl and pour the onion, saffron water on top and stir. Melt 3 TB butter in a pan and add the drained berries, raisins, and orange peels with 3 TB sugar. Heat through and simmer 2 minutes. Set aside. I tried to crisp up the saffron rice a bit on the stove to make up for the lack of pita bread creating the tahdig, but it didn’t really work.

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Pour remaining rice onto a platter and top with ¾ of the nuts, berries, raisins and orange peels, while drizzling remaining orange blossom water and orange peel syrup over the rice. Scoop out saffron soaked rice on top of rice mound that is on the platter and put the remaining goodies on top of the rice. Enjoy!

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Pomegranate walnut chicken

Serves 4-6

2 cups shelled walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup pomegranate molasses

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 6-8 thighs or a mixture of the two kinds of chicken

1 large onion, peeled, finely chopped

¼ tsp turmeric

Dash of cinnamon

4 TB olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Water

¼ cup sugar

Put walnuts into food processor to finely chop. Just pulse a few times, you don’t want it to become a paste. Heat olive oil in pan and saute walnuts for a minute or two, stirring frequently.

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Add pomegranate molasses and 2 cups of water. Mix well, cover the pan with lid slightly ajar and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.

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In a large heavy pot, saute onions in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until golden brown. Add turmeric and stir well.

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Cut chicken into small pieces. Place chicken pieces into the pot. Add salt, pepper and a small dash of cinnamon. Cook until golden on all sides.

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Pour the pomegranate walnut mixture into the pot, mix well, and add more water if needed. Chicken pieces should be covered in liquid. Return to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for two hours. The dish will be rich and creamy.

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Add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time. Mix it well without shredding the chicken. Taste and add more sugar if you like it sweeter. It should be well-balanced between sweet and sour.

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