This recipe came to us via a male friend/SKC reader, Chris Duffy, who wanted to prove that he can successfully seduce women in the kitchen…and he has the recipe to prove it. After testing the recipe ourselves, it was clear that he was telling the truth. While making, we added a bit of sherry during the simmering process because we just couldn’t resist, plus a little chili powder and cayenne for heat. These are optional. Anyway, if you’ve always wanted a man’s perspective on that first date, pay attention!
There’s a lot of grey area in college relationships, isn’t there? It’s always seemed to me like there’s a prolonged period in any romantic interaction where you’re not quite sure what the proper term is. Are you just hooking up? Are you dating? Did you black out and somehow you’re now engaged but simultaneously just friends with benefits?
Well, I’ve found there’s no better way to nail down the details than over your first home-cooked meal together. The first time you cook for a girl is a big deal. Cooking a delicious meal shows that you care enough to spend time on her, that you can produce something, and that you can introduce her to new (and delicious) experiences.
My go-to first meal is an Iranian Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken stew, known as fesanjan. My roommate’s family emigrated from Iran to Vermont and the first time I visited them they made this incredible, hearty, sweet and tangy dish. I was hooked.
Fesanjan (pronounced “fess-in-joon”) is a perfect date dish because, first of all, it just sounds fascinating and delicious. I’ve never said the phrase “Iranian Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken” and not gotten an immediate “ooooooh” afterwards. Another strong point in its favor is that most of the work is done upfront, so that by the time your lady friend comes over, dinner is simmering in the pot and you can focus your attention on your date.
Fesanjan takes about an hour and a half to prepare and I’m confident just about anyone can make this dish. As far as the cooking goes, my roommate’s mom gave us a pretty idiot-proof recipe. Just make sure to read the whole thing through before you get started.
Two things to note: you probably won’t be able to find pomegranate molasses unless you happen to live next to a friendly Persian chef or Middle-Eastern grocery, but I actually prefer the taste with canned cranberry sauce (and I still call it pomegranate flavor, to sound fancy). As for the walnuts, I’ve never had a food processor, so I just double-bag the walnuts in zip-locks, squeeze out the air, and smash them with a boot until they’re in small pieces. Fun!
serves 4, or 2 with leftovers for the next day (if you’re optimistic…)
Original recipe courtesy of Ann Rangaviz
¼ cup butter or olive oil
2 medium onions, grated or thinly sliced
2 ½ cups walnuts, finely ground
pinch of salt
4-5 Tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup of pomegranate syrup/molasses*
¼ teaspoon of pepper
4-5 boneless chicken breasts
½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sherry (optional)
dash chili powder (optional)
dash cayenne (optional)
Add butter to pot and melt over medium heat. Add onions and lightly brown (5-8 minutes). Add all remaining ingredients (except chicken and cinnamon), plus 2.5 cups water, mix well and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Cut each chicken breast into several pieces and sprinkle with cinnamon. Add a couple tablespoons of butter (or use pam) in non-stick frying pan. Brown chicken over medium to low heat for 15-20 min (until no longer pink in the center). Add chicken to the sauce and cover, adding optional sherry and spice flavorings if you’re using them. Simmer for at least an hour (stir occasionally to prevent sticking). The longer you cook, the richer the sauce becomes and the more easily the chicken will shred.
Serve over basmati rice or polenta.
*if pomegranate syrup is not available, 1 can of jellied cranberry sauce can be substituted. Or, to make syrup: simmer 1 cup of pomegranate juice in a pot with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice over low heat until it thickens and store in a jar.
— Chris Duffy for Small Kitchen College