Let me disclaim: I am an American self-taught home cook (not an old Persian lady) and this is my quick version of a tasty khoresh.
What is Khoresh, you ask? Khoresh is the Persian equivalent to a French braise. Persian cooking is complex, typically with a lot of exotic ingredients, but I’ve found Khoresh Karafs to be manageable and a good place to begin if you are first timer to cooking Persian cuisine. Khoresh Karafs is basically a celery and mint braised chicken stew. I know, the ingredients sounded really strange to this midwesterner’s ears too, (celery + mint + chicken?), but I swear, it’s really good! Tender chicken spiced with turmeric that ends with a slight lime punch. I’ve made this dish many times for my husband from Persian descent and feel with his compliments and suggestions, I’ve finally gotten the recipe good enough to post. Because I only have the pleasure of getting Persian meals cooked for me a few times a year when I visit the in-laws, it’s hard to know what these khoreshes should taste and look like but I’m finding that once you’ve mastered it, you can add to it what you like. You know how something like coq au vin (red wine braised chicken), you start out with a mirepoix; finely diced carrots, celery, and onions. In Italian this same holy trinity is called soffritto; again, all finely diced. My husband has helped to inform me that with Persian food, the veg is usually center stage and left in large pieces to emphasize it’s flavor. This was helpful as the first few times I made Khoresh Karafs I diced the celery so finely it was lost in the stew. So, first rule of Khoresh Karafs, chop that celery in large pieces, cuz the name of this recipe ain’t chicken stew, it’s CELERY stew.
Also, save those celery leaves an chop them up with the fresh mint. I actually used them in place of the called-for parsley (gasp!) because I like how they further boosted the celery flavor. Save a couple leaves for a garnish at the end, too.
To begin, throughly wash your celery and chop off the ends. Peel the strings away from the celery stalks with a veg peeler and rough chop into 1-1 1/2″ sized pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven, add the celery and sauté for 10 minutes, until barely browned.
Add the chopped mint and celery leaves and sauté for 5 minutes more. Remove celery from dutch oven and set aside in a bowl. I chopped my raw mushrooms into quarters and added the cooked celery to the same bowl containing the raw mushrooms.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven and add the onion. To chop the onion, cut it in half, then half again, then slice so you get half moons of onions, if that makes any sense… you are looking for long onion slivers about 1/4″ thick. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add zested garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add the cooked celery, raw mushrooms and bell pepper, along with the lime juice, chicken stock and water.
It’s time to add salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and ground cardamom to the pot. The cinnamon may seem like a strange ingredient, and it is actually not called for in the original book recipe I loosely am basing mine from, but my MIL uses it in lots of Persian food and it works here too.
Give the khoresh a good stir so the spices dissolve and add the chopped raw chicken thighs. Yep, raw. You can choose to brown the chicken pieces separatly as an additional step but I’ve found it doesn’t make a difference in the taste and browning adds 30 minutes to your cook time. Bring the khoresh to a boil then reduce heat to a low simmer and let simmer for 40 minutes. (Now is the time to make your rice!) Taste and adjust salt of the khoresh if necessary. This is the part where I go completely rogue and add a little help to the pot to tighten up the sauce. Remove the lid and add 1 tablespoon (or more if needed) of Wondra quick mixing flour to the pot. My mom taught me Wondra is an amazing product that will quickly tighten up any stew, sauce, or chili in a matter of moments. I add it to the Khoresh sauce to thicken it from a soup consistency to a stew consistency. Finally, finish with a tablespoon of butter. This is more French-y than Persian-y but I find it lends a silky finishing touch to a stew. Serve over basmati rice with a cucumber tomato feta salad and yogurt mixed with dried dill.
My bonus tip: if you want to fit in with the Persians and eat khoresh like a TRUE Persian, grab your spoon (yes spoon) and fork. Hold your spoon in whatever hand you typically eat with then use your fork to push the Khoresh into your spoon. The fork is used only for pushing (not eating) food onto the spoon, then shovel that spoonful into your mouth as quickly as you can! Good Luck!
Khoresh-e karafs (inspired by “A Taste Of Persia” -Najmieh K. Batmanglij)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Feeds: 4-6 people
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 5 stalks cleaned celery cut into 1 1/2″ even pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (or 2 tablespoons dried mint)
- 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 baby bella mushrooms, de-stemmed and cut into quarters
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, rough chopped
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 1″ sized pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and zested
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamum
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon of Wondra
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven, add the chopped celery and sauté for 10 minutes, until barely browned.
- Add the chopped mint and celery leaves and sauté for 5 minutes more. Remove celery from dutch oven and set aside in a bowl.
- Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven and sauté the onion for 5 minutes or until translucent.
- Add zested garlic and cook for one minute longer.
- Add the cooked celery and raw mushrooms and bell pepper to the onions and garlic, along with the lime juice, chicken stock and water.
- Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and ground cardamom and stir well until dissolved.
- Add the chopped raw chicken thighs and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer for 40 minutes.
- Dissolve 1 tablespoon Wondra flour mix into khoresh (or as much as needed to tighten up the khoresh to a desired stew consistency.
- Finish khoresh with 1 tablespoon butter.
- Serve over basmati rice with a dollop of Greek yogurt.