While likely far from traditional, this recipe is a version of the Persian dish, Fesenjan. It features chicken cooked in a pomegranate sauce thickened with ground toasted walnuts. The pomegranate, walnuts, saffron, and cinnamon provide DOMS reducing polyphenols.
The chicken provides several amino acids shown to relieve delayed onset muscle soreness. These include taurine, the important branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine)and cysteine, which is used to make taurine in the liver. For an added bonus, the walnuts provide omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
The saffron in this recipe is optional, because it can sometimes be hard to find and is rather expensive. If you have some on hand, go ahead and use it, but if you don’t, skipping it won’t dramatically change the dish. You could add a pinch of turmeric (which has numerous health benefits) in its place if you’d like.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free if you use gluten-free chicken broth. To make it grain free, serve it over cauliflower rice or skip the rice altogether. Have some steamed broccoli on the side for additional inflammation-reducing polyphenols. Enjoy!
Pomegranate Chicken Recipe (Fesenjan)
Serves 4| Recipe by Lauren Larson, MS, RDNI Modified from MyRecipes.com
½ cup walnuts
1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes
½ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoons honey
Pinch saffron threads, crushed (optional)
½ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Toast walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate until cool. Once cool, place walnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside.
2. Cook rice according to package instructions. Keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, season chicken with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and tenderize with a fork. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown; 6-8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
4. Return pan to heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft; about 3 minutes. Add remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add ground walnuts, broth, pomegranate juice, tomato paste, honey, saffron, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened; about 10 minutes.
5. Return chicken to pan. Simmer until chicken is cooked through; about 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
6. Serve over hot cooked rice garnished with pomegranate seeds and cilantro (if desired).