It’s not a common ingredient, and to be perfectly honest, anything with the word molasses makes me just a little bit hesitant. My mind jumps to baking and Southern cooking, neither of which are strengths.
Combine my aversion to molasses with pomegranate molasses packaging, which is often entirely in Arabic, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
I’d bought a jar years ago when I’d seen it used in recipes from my Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cookbooks. Paul Wolfert, Yotam Ottolenghi, Claudia Roden, all repeat offenders.
But I’d hidden it in the back of my cupboard, along with the Vietnamese rice papers, and there it remained until last year. When for obvious reasons, I pitched the dust-covered bottle into the trash, horrified by its 2010 expiration date.
But I do love sweet & sour flavors. It’s a perfect marriage; Chinese restaurants have made a fortune singing its praises.
A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for sticky Moroccan chicken, and there it was – pomegranate molasses – in all of its glory, with the promise of a gooey, slick, finger-licking sauce.
Seeing that I’d already pitched the bottle of pomegranate molasses, I figured I’d pass on the recipe. But when I peeked into the fridge that morning, I was happy to see a full, unopened container of pomegranate juice. Hmmm…perhaps all was not lost. The wheels began to turn.
One thing I’ve learned in the kitchen is that when you don’t have the right ingredient, improvise. Lime instead of lemon, brown sugar instead of white, and most important, homemade when you don’t have a packaged version. You won’t get the exact same result, but you’ll get something similar. Which unless you’re trading baking powder for baking soda, will still be pretty delicious. Sometimes even more so.
Before long, I was nose deep on a pomegranate DIY mission, surfing through online recipes and getting excited about the prospect of making some at home.
I found what I needed, cracked open the pomegranate juice, added some lemon juice and a hint of sugar, and I was off to the races.
I don’t know why I was so nervous about pomegranate molasses. It’s one of those simple, flavorful ingredients that every cook should have in his or her arsenal.
Bobby Flay will flay you for not keeping it on hand. (Cue the laugh track, I needed it there). But seriously, he’s crazy about this stuff. Here’s proof. It tastes good on everything. Including straight off the spoon.
Check out some of my favorite ways to eat it, starting with the chicken of course…
And if you read this postabout my love for kitchen alchemy, you’ll know that the pomegranate molasses has made its way into quite a few cocktails…
Here it is paired with Chambord, key lime and blood orange juice with a hint of soda…
Drizzle it into dressings (paired here with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds):
And like any sauce with a hint of sweetness, it goes well with ice cream, vanilla of course, but feel free to improvise like I did here, with a Bourbon ice cream & rhubarb compote sundae.
So buy yourself some pomegranate juice, simmer, and store. In the fridge that is, it’ll keep for a month, maybe more. And start impressing your friends because one of the easiest ways to wow people is with an exotic ingredient.
PS, if you ever have a hankering for that Moroccan chicken, here’s my tweaked version of the one I found on The Kichn:
- 2 bone-in chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 3/4 tablespoon kosher salt
- For the sauce
- 1/2 cup sour orange juice
- 1/2 cup blood orange juice
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Place a heatproof bakers’ cooling rack on a 9x12” sheet pan, and top with the chicken breasts.
- Rub each breast with the spice mixture.
- Place the chicken into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, flipping once during the cooking process.
- Combine all ingredients (except butter) in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add butter and stir to combine.
- When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, remove from the oven, and glaze each breast with the sauce.
- Return the chicken to the oven for another 5 minutes until the glaze has thickened slightly and the chicken is starting to look charred.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes, allowing the glaze to set and the juices to redistribute.