(The Nosher via JTA) – I was initially an Instant Pot doubter. I love both my Dutch oven and my stock pot, and I love letting the kitchen slowly fill with warmth as things simmer and cook for hours while I putz around the house. Then I got married and an Instant Pot (real talk: Instapot) literally showed up on my doorstep. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I put it in the closet and forgot about it for at least six months.
And then I heard about making rice in the Instant Pot. My first pot of sushi rice instantly made me a convert. My first vegetable stock changed my feelings about how stock can best be made. My first batch of chickpeas led me to making hummus on a more regular basis. Rice, stock and beans are all great in the Instant Pot, but I still carried some skepticism about cooking other things. Chicken? What’s wrong with cooking it in the oven? Turns out, chicken in the pressure cooker is delicious! The chicken ends up deeply infused with any added aromatic or spice, it becomes fall-off-the-bone tender and requires much less attention than cooking it on the stove.
As documented by the queen of Jewish cooking, Joan Nathan, and by the Georgian food guru Carla Capalbo, the Georgian Jewish community traditionally makes chicken cooked in pomegranate juice for Rosh Hashanah. It’s a perfect recipe for the High Holidays: sweet, tart, flavorful and eye-catching. This recipe is an adaptation from multiple recipes for this dish, but in any variation the chicken is braised in a generously spiced, fruity pomegranate juice-based broth, and then topped with fresh red jewel-like pomegranate kernels.
The pomegranate juice adds expected sweetness, but there’s also an assertive and awakening tang that comes through, especially with the addition of tamarind and pomegranate molasses. The copious amounts of onion and garlic add deep levels of sweet savoriness to the dish. The coriander, hot pepper (not too hot), and thyme play off each other with their respective perfuminess, heat and mintyness. It is Rosh Hashanah, so a hint of honey makes its way into the pot to remind you of sweetness without being at the forefront of the show.
After 15 minutes at high pressure, the chicken barely clings to its bones, and the sauce becomes rich with and fortified by the golden schmaltz left over from browning the chicken. Take out the chicken and let that liquid simmer (still in the Instant Pot), and the mahogany-colored sauce will thicken and become silky and as decadent as a festive meal demands.
Once the chicken and sauce are plated, you shower them with the bright green fresh herbs and the glistening ruby red pomegranate seeds. Dark meat works best for this, but you can certainly make it with white meat, too. And like all great holiday dishes, you can make this several days in advance and it only gets better when reheated. It also freezes well; just leave off the fresh garnish until right before serving. And yes, if you really don’t want to cave to culinary social pressure, you can make this recipe the old-fashioned way.
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