While everything about this dish appears striking and eye-catching, it is a relatively easy and simple Persian stew. This Khoresh is consumed primarily in the summer season when fresh peaches are abundant in Iran.
The chicken first simmers slowly in a saffron broth, along with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a touch of sweetness. Then, fresh but not overly ripe peaches are lightly caramelized with a touch of oil and placed on top of the chicken for the last few minutes of cooking. Each cook choreographs the dance of sour and sweet flavors to suit their family’s taste preferences.
While the peaches are the focal point of this stew, a fair amount of good quality saffron makes this dish shine and come to life!
Long before Hulu (“peach” in Farsi) was a streaming service, the ancient Persian empire was an advanced agricultural region, with fertile soils and a favorable climate. Many of the familiar fruits we enjoy globally today originated in Iran; pomegranates, figs, muskmelons, walnuts, apricots, and citron to name a few.
Iranians’ love of fruits, nuts, and seeds is no secret, and it is no surprise that Iran ranks as a top 10 producer of various agricultural products. The country’s agricultural diversity has consequently shaped Persian flavors, palates, and culinary preferences. These products include pistachios, almonds, dates, raisins, limes, apples, oranges, apricots, cherries, plums, and of course, peaches!
While it has been decades since I have had a Persian peach, my never-ending love affair with the state of Colorado has brought peaches back into my life. My first exposure to Colorado peaches was at the farmers’ market in Boulder, Colorado while attending cooking school in the late 90s. I had never had such aromatic and intoxicating peaches in my life before. When the entire kitchen turns into a peach perfume shop, you know you are in love!
Though many varieties exist even in Colorado, Palisade peaches from the town of Palisade tops the chart. Each summer they show up at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and grocery stores. I agree with most Coloradans that Palisade peaches are the best in the world. They are ripe, sweet, flavorful, and as the slogan says “loaded with chin-dripping juice.”
The high elevation and mineral-rich soil, combined with cool dry nights and long warm days, ultimately make these peaches so flavorful and superior. So each year on my annual visit to Colorado’s mountains, I stop at the town of Palisade and make enough space in my backpack to bring some elements of “home” back with me.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 4 pieces chicken breasts and thighs, skin and bone on
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1 fresh lime, juiced, adjust to your taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar, adjust to your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
- 2 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish
- 4 peaches, stoned but not peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Less ripe peaches preferred
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- Saute the onions in 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot for 15 minutes over medium flame. Add the turmeric and saute for an additional 2 minutes until the onions have turned golden in color. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the chicken pieces over medium-high heat until lightly colored, about 6-8 minutes total. Be sure to flip the chicken once.
- Add the sauted onions back to the pot along with one cup of hot water. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 60 minutes.
- In the meantime, saute the sliced peaches in oil or ghee for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they have become gently caramelized. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- After the chicken has cooked for 60 minutes, add the remaining of the stew ingredients, cover, and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Adjust the liquid as necessary, keeping in mind the stew should not be too watery at the end.
- Gently place the peaches on top of the stew, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Place the stew in a serving bowl. Take extra care to not disturb the peach pieces and decoratively arrange them on top of the chicken pieces. Garnish with mint.
- Serve with Persian steamed basmati rice.