1997 was the year of way-too-heavy liquid eyeliner. In my world at least. I wore swoops of black liquid eyeliner that would have 60s-era Bridget Bardot cringing at my lack of restraint. No matter where I was or what I was doing, I wore these oversized cat eye lines that looked like I had taken one of those chisel-tip Sharpies to my eyelids. Ballet performance? Trig class? Friday night at the movie theaters? Eyeliner, eyeliner, eyeliner. Along with an all-black wardrobe and as much gold jewelry as I could find.
And I spent almost all my time with my Persian friends. Not to say that they talked me into that look, but to say I was a super cheesy, late 90s version of a Shahs of Sunset episode would not be a lie.Fashion issues aside what I did do a lot of in 1997 was dance at said Persian friends' phenomenal parties.
Which, if you haven't been to a such a party, might require a bit of explaining. Imagine a house filled shoulder-to-shoulder with people, a huge spread of food, and everyone dancing to lively guitar music while some amazing 80-year old grandma belts in a way that would put Taylor Swift to shame.
My main workout of this time period was dancing at these parties and then promptly eating as much as I could handle. Pause and repeat until the wee hours. Any of these parties worth their weight would have phenomenal food, like amazing Saffron Kebabs, tons of kumquats, and lots and lots of Khoresh-e Fesenjān aka Fesenjān aka Pomegranate-Walnut Braised Chicken. This recipe has been in my life for years, but I've never bothered to bring it back and make it myself until these past few months.
There are as many versions of fesanjan as there are Persian grandmothers but the right proportion of pomegranate to walnut makes all the flavor difference. Too much of one and it's too tart, the other and it's too earthy - you get the idea. Though I am approximately no parts Iranian heritage, I would like to stake my claim to fesanjan fame with this recipe. In fact, I'd be willing to head to one of my friend's parties and have them taste it for themselves. Just don't ask me to put that Sharpie-like black eyeliner back on — that's something that we're all better off without.
finely chopped (about 3 cups)
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast until golden and toasted smelling, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven until cool enough to handle then pulse in a food processor until ground into a fine meal.
Meanwhile, use a paper towel to pull off any skin and any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Mix together the coriander, cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper and rub into the chicken thighs.
Combine the pomegranate juice and brown sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let cook until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. When the juice is reduced, remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, begin cooking the chicken. Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, add chicken to the pan, working in batches, so its in a single layer and not crowded. Cook chicken until its golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side, or until golden and seared. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Remove and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture from the pan. Add onions to the pan, reduce heat to medium, season with remaining 1 teaspoon of the salt, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the reduced pomegranate juice mixture, ground toasted walnuts, and chicken. Cook on low heat for 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent the walnuts from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Check to make sure the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked through and knife tender.
Remove from heat and adjust sugar and salt to taste. Serve over grains and garnish with walnuts, pomegranate arils, and parsley.