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Fesenjan (Chicken in Pomegranate Walnut Sauce)

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds skinless chicken legs or breasts, rinsed and patted dry

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced

2 beets, peeled, quartered, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 1/2 cups walnuts, pulsed in a food processor until coarsely ground

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 cup unsweetened pomegranate syrup

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1) Heat a skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown lightly on both sides, working in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

2) Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned. Add the beets, walnuts, garlic, cinnamon, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the pomegranate syrup and stock and bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

3) The stew should be bubbling the whole time. Turn the chicken pieces over every 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add salt. The beets should be fork-tender, and the stew liquid should be thickened.

4) To serve, transfer chicken to a cutting board. For chicken legs, separate the thigh from the drumstick. For breasts, slice each into 2 or 3 pieces. Put a small mound of rice on each plate with a few pieces of chicken on top. Spoon the stew over the chicken. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves on top.

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