The talent behind the Back Burner is going to be sharing recipes made with pomegranates this week. Once I read that we were going to be working with this ingredient, I decided to learn more about it. Honestly, all I honestly knew was how delicious it is.
Pomegranates originated in Persia (modern day Iran) and have been cultivated in Iraq, Pakistan, India, Russia and Mediterranean regions. They prefer to grow in dry areas and are drought tolerant. Wetter areas will promote root decay and diseases. The fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B5, potassium and vitamin C.
The outside of the fruit is a semi-hard shell, once broken open, there are hundreds of red (and juicy) seeds. The entire seed is consumed. The taste can be very sweet or sour, depending on the variety as well as the ripeness. The juice of the pomegranate is hugely popular in Persian and Indian cuisine and is truly delicious, especially when squeezed fresh. As well grenadine syrup, which is widely used in cocktails, is made with pomegranate juice. Before tomatoes arrived in the Middle East, grenadine would be used in traditional Iranian recipes.
Pomegranates can be intimidating when it comes down to breaking it open and removing the seeds. They are afraid that they will stain the house or that it will take too long. Some people like to break apart the fruit under running water; I feel that wastes the juices that are slightly extracted during the process. The process I use is fairly straightforward with minimal (if any staining). After putting an apron on, I take the fruit and cut it into quarters. Use a cutting board that you do not mind getting a little stained. Do not cut it on your gorgeous marble counters! Then I place a mixing bowl on the counter or in the sink, and I gently break apart the flesh from the seeds over the bowl. As I drop the seeds into the bowl, the juices from the flesh also run into the same bowl. The entire process takes less than 8 minutes and if you wash your hands right away, there will not be any staining.
The recipe I made involves braising chicken thighs that are flavored with pomegranates, chilies and garlic. Moist. Flavorful. Delicious.
Recipe: Pomegranate Chicken
- 2 slices bacon, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced finely
- ½ fresno chili, minced finely
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 chicken thighs
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 pomegranate, seeds removed
- italian parsley, garnish
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300. Lightly pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Then season with salt and pepper; set aside.
- In a large dutch oven over medium heat, slightly cook the bacon until soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add the onion, garlic and chili. Stir and cook for one minute.
- Remove from the dutch oven and set aside. Add the olive oil to the same pan. Brown the chicken thighs; about 3 – 5 minutes per side.
- Add the onion mixture to the browned chicken. Pour the stock and molasses over the top of the chicken. Lightly stir. Cover with the lid. Slide into the oven.
- Cook for one (1) hour. After 1 hour of cooking, lightly stir and add a little stock, if needed.
- Cook for another hour and a half (1 1/2)
- Remove from the oven. The meat will be very tender.
- Lightly stir in the pomegranate seeds. Gently place on a serving platter.
- Place the dutch oven onto a stove-top burner and reduce the liquid mixture by half.
- Drizzle over the top of the chicken.
- Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley.