When I last left you, I had just placed approximately 4 1/2 pounds of chicken into a large zip-lock bag to marinade in some lovely pomegranate juice with a cinnamon stick….This marinating went on for 2 days (I kid you not). Each day I would turn the bag to make sure that the chicken pieces were evenly absorbing the wonderful pomegranate flavor. I took a couple of sniffs to make sure that the chicken still smelled fresh, which I assure you it did, in fact the only thing I smelled was the pomegranate juice infused with fragrant cinnamon (the trick is to make sure that the chicken is super fresh when you buy it – check that the expiration date is a long way off, but more importantly check that it doesn’t have that funky old chicken smell …)
On Friday morning I took the bag out of the fridge and placed the contents of the bag – chicken, marinade, and all into a baking pan. I covered the birds and placed them into my (newly sort of repaired) oven preheated to 350 degrees. The chicken baked in the oven for approximately 1 hour undisturbed. When I pulled the chicken out of the oven the meat was moist and plump.
I originally thought that I would reduce the cooking liquid for the sauce, but the pomegranate juice in the pan was very murky and unappetizing at that point so I poured it off and disposed of it, and made a nice sauce with the following ingredients:
2 onions, cut into small dice
2 cups toasted pistachios ground into a fine powder + 1/2 cup whole pistachios for garnish
2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste (it may have been 2 1/2 … not sure)
4 cups pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 – 1/2 cup roughly chopped mint
I sautéed the onions in olive oil until they were slightly caramelizedI then added the toasted ground pistachios and let them cook with the onions until they became fragrantI added the tomato paste and stirred to incorporate.
I then poured in the pomegranate juice and honey – and let it simmer a bit to thicken. (If the sauce is thin adding some additional tomato paste or more ground pistachios is a good option for thickening. If the sauce gets to thick you can add some water or stock)
I took this sauce mixture and poured a portion of it (about 3/4 – I think) over the chicken (I reserved the rest for the vegetarian seitan version).
I put the chicken back into the oven uncovered to brown a bit. You may want to put the chicken under the broiler to give it some additional color, just watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.
When I removed the dish from the over about 10 minutes later the chicken was nicely browned and the sauce was thick. I put the chicken on a platter and garnished it with whole pistachios and mint (for Rosh Hashanah I will add pomegranate seeds as well).
The outcome: a really moist, tender flavorful chicken – sweet and tangy. The mint was a nice addition. It brightened up the dish both in terms of color and flavor. My Shabbat guests said it reminded them of a slow cooked Moroccan tajin.I served it with golden herbed basmati rice (with onions, turmeric, parsley, and dill).
I also made a parallel vegetarian Pomegranate seitan dish:For the seitan – I took two packages of seitan (my preferred brand is Bridge). I cut the seitan into thin slices and patted them dry.
I coated each pieces with a flour corn meal spice mixture (I made a big batch a few months ago and keep it in my freezer so I don’t remember what I put in it – but any combination of dry herbs and spices you like, and a pinch of salt and pepper should work.
I pan fried the seitan pieces in a bit of oil flipping them so they were golden and a bit crispy on both sides. I then placed the seitan on a platter and right before serving
I poured the pomegranate sauce over the seitan and garnished with pistachios and mint (I waited until the last minute to pour the sauce on to keep the seitan from getting soggy). Some things I learned:
1) I used a whole chicken and some chicken pieces; I think my preference is using the chicken pieces.
2) I still have some experimenting to do, I may try next time to prepare the chicken dish on the stovetop or to remove the chicken from the marinade and roast it without the liquid.
3) Planning ahead makes all the difference. I think the long slow marinade was the key. It didn’t take much work at all, just some forethought, and it was well worth it.
4) I will try to marinade the seitan for 1-2 days and see if that makes a difference in terms of flavor.