The basis of this recipe comes from the wonderful cookbook Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman. It includes recipes and stories from the Baltic coast as far east as Central Asia. It also has stories about the Russian Empire, and Soviet Russia.
The original recipe is for wild game, duck or quail. I make it with either chicken (dark meat is better) or turkey (dark meat is better). As a result, I’ve made a few modifications to the original dish, mostly reducing some quantities and skipping one of the cooking steps (roasting it in the oven to crisp the skin of the birds). It works very well, and looks and tastes fancier than it seems.
8 quail or 2 ducklings (eight pounds of meat) is the original. I use 2 pounds of chicken, cut into small pieces (stew-sized chunks.)
Oil for sauteing
two onions, coarsly chopped
3/4 t ground turmeric
1-1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 3/4 C ground walnuts (or very finely chopped)
2 C pomegranate juice
1 T lemon juice
three pinches of sugar*
1 1″ cinnamon stick
1/4 T ground cardamon (I use more)
3/4 C pomegranate seeds ( I use the seeds of one pomegranate)
Heat oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven. Cook the chicken or turkey over medium-high heat until mostly done**. Add the onions and stir for 5 min. Add turmeric and cook until onions soften and turn golden, about 10-12 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook for 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure you get all the good bits loosened. Add walnuts and pomegranate juice. Heat until it is simmering lightly, then reduce heat. Cook covered for 10 min. Remove lid, add lemon juice, sugar (if using) cinnamon stick and cardamom. Simmer, covered, for 30 min. You might stir occasionally, and add a little water if things are getting too thick.
Serve over rice or with something else to catch the sauce. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. It serves 4-6, depending on what sides you use. Yes, the sauce is a brown color, not red. That’s the walnuts. It is very rich and filling.
*I consider the sugar, like any salt, purely optional. If you use the original recipe with game, it might be needed.
** If using left-over turkey, or pre-cooked meat, cook until heated through, then proceed.