Saturday, March 22, 2014

Exotic travel with my chicken: Fesenjan Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce

By a winter-weary Victoria Abbott (aka Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini)

Fesenjan Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce:  or exotic travels with our chicken.  
We will follow them anywhere!

Okay, we don’t actually have our own chicken, let alone one that takes us to exotic locales.  But everyone probably knows we want to write the first chicken mystery series. That’s because chicken seems to be our best friend.  Surely it’s the most versatile protein. Do not even mention tofu in the same breath.  However, even as fond as we are of the clucksters, we do need a change. So when we started to come across recipes like this Persian chicken stew, they got our attention.   Maybe it was all those walnuts. Mmm. 

We tried a couple of variations and while it’s not the quickest recipe, it really delivers. Feel free to fall on the floor laughing at anyone who tells that there’s ten minutes prep to Fesenjan Stew. Like any travel, taking time to prep properly and allowing enough time (ahem) really pays off. 

And planning makes a difference.   

So first of all, we face the major hurdle of finding Pomegranate Molasses.  What the …?  But sure enough, we visited a local middle eastern shop and found a wall of it. It was a fun outing.  If you don’t have one of those exotic shops, it’s easy enough to make pomegranate molasses. There are lots of recipes about. But please refer again to our remark above about 10 minutes prep time. Nuff said.

This recipe is an amalgam of three or four that we explored. We think we took the best of each.

We loved it. It makes lots and it's twice as good the second day, plus it gave us a chance to use the braising pan that MJ got for her anniversary.  
Hope you have fun with this recipe too!


2 large onions, chopped (by hubby or other helper)
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp EVOO
1 – 1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted and chopped – you could do more
2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into small pieces, patted well to dry
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup (truth in advertising – we were out of honey and used maple syrup)
2 cups chicken stock
½ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (more or less to taste) 


Using one TBSP oil and one of butter, heat to foaming in a heavy pan and sauté  onions about twenty minutes on medium-low until carmelized, not fried.  Remove onions and keep aside.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350.  

Toast walnuts on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. Cool and pulse in food processor until finely ground.

Pat chicken dry again and salt nicely.

Heat half the butter and EVOO in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  When foamy, brown chicken on all sides,  in batches.  This is the part that takes longest!  Remove when brown, add next batch. Top up butter and EVOO as needed.  Use more if you have too.  Season with salt as you go.

The next time we make this we’ll cut smaller pieces of chicken. It should be falling about by the time you’re ready to eat it. 

When the chicken is all browned, add the carmelized onions and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer, for thirty minutes. 

At last you can add the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, honey/maple syrup and spices.

Cover and cook on low to very low heat for one hour, stirring every now and then.
Remove from heat and adjust seasonings.  


Garnish with chopped cilantro (MJ loved this!) or with pomegranate seeds if you were smart enough to get some (we weren’t, but will be the next time).

Here's a little bit more about Victoria Abbott, author of the book collector mysteries. 

Victoria is an artist and photographer and MJ is the author of 13 books in three other series, as Mary Jane Maffini.  They really really like dogs. They try not to fight when they're working on their books or recipes.

Deep down, they really love each other and they really really love their book collector mysteries and are happily waiting for The Wolfe Widow, third in the series, due September, 2014. 

    Pre-order it here!

They're very excited about the The Sayers Swindle which is out now!

The Sayers Swindle, the second in the book collector mysteries is now available.

You can click here to order The Sayers Swindle!

Or here for the Kindle version!

Or order through your favorite bookstore - in person or online.


The Christie Curse, the first book collector mystery, launched in March 2013 to great reviews.

The Christie Curse is also available in Large Print! Tell your local librarian!

 Walter, the pug in the series is a dead ringer for Peachy, Victoria's new best friend. 

 Come over and friend Victoria on Facebook

Tell  her  you love the pug!

and check out Mary Jane Maffini and Victoria Abbott


  1. I love your cheeky chicken tureen collection, MJ/Victoria, and if you ever write that "Chicken Mystery" series, I'll be first in line to read it! Your Persian chicken stew looks fragrant, delicious, and easy. What beautiful ingredients, too, esp. the pomegranate molasses. Thanks for sharing it with us today, and have a delicious weekend...

    ~ Cleo

    1. Thanks, Cleo! I'm at Left Coast Crime. Great eating in Monterey but no cooking. There is a seagull on our balcony, but he does nothing for me.



  2. I think you probably shouldn't acquire a chicken. If you do, you'll stop coming up with wonderful chicken recipes like this one. Pomegranate must bring a lovely flavor to this dish. Very clever!


  3. Love eating chicken and being pulled out of the "same-old-recipe" syndrome. Thanks. Must share with you the story of the baby chicken my son was given by his godfather who owned a hobby farm. It stayed with us in the cat crate for several months. So cute!!! and fun to watch when it was allowed to wander on the lawn. However, we will not go into the joys of moulting. The chicken was soon back on the farm!

  4. Chickens can drive you nuts too! Visited my girlfriends farm and the darn rooster wanted me gone. Chased me around the yard till I gave it a blood curling yell and it decided that I must actually be the alpha rooster!! Looks like a great checken recipe there. Pomegranates and chicken--who would have thunk it? My favorite chicken right now is chicken marinated in Saracha sauce and then grilled. Just enough crunch and spice to be yummy. Slice it for chicken sandwiches! BTW--really enjoyed your first two books! Love the " famous authors" themes. Looking forward to the next book. Please hold off on strangling each other until you can find an author to write your story afterwards--ha ha!!

    1. Thanks, Ronna. Glad you like the books! We'll stay alive. Want to try that Saracha sauce first.



  5. A marvelous twist on the "old" chicken.
    You say you'd cut the pieces smaller so they will cook more thoroughly? They weren't falling apart after all that cooking? I'm surprised.

    1. Honest, Libby. I think they're supposed to practically melt. Details after next experiment. Hugs,