Honey-Glazed Pomegranate Chicken | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Honey-Glazed Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranates, or rimonim in Hebrew, are one of the most recognizable and highly symbolic fruits in Jewish culture.
Honey-Glazed Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate and honey-glazed chicken. Courtesy of Liz Rueven via The Nosher

4 servings

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(The Nosher/JTA) – Pomegranates, or rimonim in Hebrew, are among the most recognizable and highly symbolic fruits in Jewish culture. Originating in Persia, these reddish, thick-skinned fruits (technically a berry) begin to appear in markets at the end of summer and are readily available for holiday cooking by Rosh Hashanah.

According to Gil Marks in "The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food," the abundance of seeds, nestled into a white membrane and encased in a protective and leathery skin, is associated with the 613 commandments in the Torah. They serve as symbols of righteousness and fruitfulness,  as expressed in the Rosh Hashanah expression, “May we be full of merits like the pomegranate (is full of seeds).”

This ancient fruit, prized for its juice and seeds (called arils), is mentioned in the Bible as one  of the seven most bountiful agriculture products of ancient Israel. It is associated with fertility and sensuality, and is mentioned six times in the Song of Songs. (More on that here.)

In biblical times, pomegranates were used to add tart flavors to ancient dishes before lemons and tomatoes were discovered. Since then, pomegranates have been used to add unique and complex dimensions to Sephardic and central Asian soups, stews, sauces, chutneys and desserts. They may be juiced, dried, reduced, ground or pressed into pomegranate oil.

Holiday chicken is potent with pomegranates goodness as this symbolic fruit is used in three ways: juice, molasses and arils (seeds). The flavors are bold, tangy and  slightly sweet — a Middle Eastern-influenced sweet and sour.

By combining the tart flavors of pomegranates with honey here, the sweetness balances the tang and positive energy is imbued in this main course for Rosh Hashanah.

Note: The simmer sauce may be prepared two to three days ahead and refrigerated until ready to prepare the chicken.

Pomegranates, or rimonim in Hebrew, are one of the most recognizable and highly symbolic fruits in Jewish culture. Courtesy of Liz Rueven via The Nosher

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1 4-pound chicken cut in eighths (breasts cut in half if large)
4 tablespoons canola oil (separated: 2 tablespoons for simmer sauce and 2 tablespoons for browning the chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup sweetened pomegranate juice
1/2 cup honey
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

For the garnish:
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons pomegranate arils (seeds)


Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large pan (you’ll need a lid for later).

Sauté chopped onion until soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes (do not brown).

Add pomegranate molasses, juice, honey, broth and spices.

Stir and bring to boil. Reduce to an active simmer, and cook uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced by about half the volume and slightly thickened.

Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Too tart? Add 1 to 2 tablespoons honey. Want more kick? Crack more black pepper.

Remove sauce from heat and pour into bowl. Set aside.

Wash pan.

Rinse chicken parts, pat dry, season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in pan and place chicken parts skin side down. Brown on one side and flip to second side. Do not crowd chicken in the pan, as this causes chicken to steam rather than brown.

Lower heat, pour prepared simmer sauce over the chicken. Cover pan and simmer on low for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from pan and platter, garnishing with chopped parsley and pomegranate arils.

(Liz Rueven's blog, Kosher Like Me, features restaurant and product reviews, tips on events where like-minded eaters like her can actually eat, and news about folks in the food world.)

The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.