I've been in love with the idea of the Persian fesenjan sauce ever since I first saw it in a cookbook. How could I not? Anyone who has ever visited this site before knows how much I adore pomegranate anything. The walnuts are an added bonus. The sauce itself is therefore quite healthy, but don't let that turn you off to it. Healthy doesn't have to taste like old gym socks, after all. Anyway, while preparing for a recent Sunday dinner, I found myself feeling a little uninspired by my cookbook collection. Hey, it happens. I happened to remember that Whole Foods had fresh duck in stock. We'd been talking about duck for a few days, and my husband had also mentioned a strong desire to use his Big Green Egg. I decided to go for it. While traditionally the duck would be stewed in the sauce, I thought it would be a little healthier to grill the duck and use the sauce both as a glaze and as a sauce at the table. I did a little research on the sauce, decided how I was going to proceed, and got down to business. Ultimately, I was pretty happy with the results. The sauce, despite being much simpler than most of the recipes I had, came out very well. The duck was very tasty, as duck usually is, but not as much of the fat rendered out as we would have liked. I think that increasing the cooking time, decreasing the temperature and changing the position of the duck on the grill would have helped with that. We served it with some Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms and a side salad.
This recipe is actually very, very easy. The only part that might seem a little difficult is the toasting of the ground walnuts, which does require a bit of attention (unless you were planning to remodel your kitchen anyway.) Other than that, there aren't that many ingredients, and most of the time is spent simmering the sauce. The pomegranate molasses not only adds intensity to the pomegranate juice, it deepens the color of the final sauce; if you really cannot find it and don't have time to order it from the Internet, you can leave it out but the final dish will suffer.
Grilled Duck with Pomegranate-Walnut Sauce (Serves 4, approx. $6.51/serving)
1 fresh duck, about 5.32 lb
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey (I used buckwheat, but just about any will do)
2 1/2 cups walnuts, finely ground
- Large skillet or frying pan
- Small pot or bowl
- Large pot
- Food processor or mini-prep
- Good knife
- Grill or barbeque
- Drip pan
- Rub the duck all over with salt and pepper.
- Prepare your grill. If you're using the Big Green Egg, you're going to want to cook this low and slow at about 280 - 300 degrees for about two hours. A regular gas grill would probably be the same, but you won't get the same wood smoke flavor. You will want to use a drip pan for this recipe; otherwise the rendered fat will cause flare-ups. While smoky is the flavor you're going for here, apparently smoke from burning fat tastes bad.
- When the grill is ready, put the duck on the grate and cook for about two hours. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
- In you food processor or mini-prep, grind the 2 1/2 cups walnuts.
- Heat the skillet, dry, over medium heat and add the walnuts. Toast them until they've darkened in color. You'll want to watch closely here, and manage your heat level carefully. Don't let them burn, or catch your house on fire. When they're done, remove them from the heat.
- In the large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion. The finer you chopped them, the easier this will be; this is why I specified the good knife.
- When the onion is soft, add the walnuts and mix well. You may need to reduce your heat.
- When the onion and walnuts are fragrant, add the chicken broth and pomegranate juice. Bring to a boil.
- Add the pomegranate molasses and the honey. If you can't find a pomegranate juice with no sugar added, you may wish to omit the honey.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until the duck is ready to be glazed (i.e.,, the end of the two hours.)
- Strain a small amount of the sauce into a small bowl and use it to glaze the duck. If you wish, this may be done ahead of time but use a small pot to keep it warm.
- Continue cooking the duck for 10 - 20 minutes, increasing the heat if necessary to crisp the skin.
- Strain the rest of the sauce into your serving vessel.
- Serve and eat!