Back in January, I submitted a blog called Sex and the Fat Man that was about my forthcoming novel in which a large hero has a lot of quality sex and fesenjoon — the dish over which he and the lady with whom he has all that great sex fall in love.
For the past four months, Sex and the Fat Man has remained in the top 10 most popular daily blogs. NOT, I’m sorry to say, because the world is so breathlessly awaiting my new novel that people are crawling the Web to find information. Nor because the eating public is rife with fesenjoon fanatics who were swooning over my description of the version served at Shiraz Fireroasted Cuisine.
No, the only reason my blog rates hundreds of hits a day is because it begins with the word "sex." So I want to be totally up front here: there is no sex in my story today. No allusions to sex. No hints of sex. Just fesenjoon.
I was lunching at Atlas Grill & Clubroom yesterday when Gholam-Abbas Shahbazi, the head chef whom everyone calls simply "Abbas," wandered through. I asked if Abbas would be willing to make me fesenjoon some time. And he said, "It’s on the menu! Only I call it pomegranate-walnut chicken; otherwise, no one would know what it was." It was Americanized, he admitted. But I know Abbas and whatever he makes tends to be good, so I decided to give it a try.
The meal that arrived was deconstructed fesenjoon. Typically, this dish is like stew made of chopped chicken, pomegranate juice, carmelized onions, crushed walnuts, and citron, served over rice. Here, however, the chicken was two boneless breasts topped with a thick gravy of pomegranate and walnuts. The rice (basmati, perfectly cooked) was mounded to the side and topped with citron. There were vegetables garnishing the plate.
And it was fabulous.
Meaty, sweet, plummy with pomegranate sauce and that brickle-ish hint from the salty nuts. Lighter than the standard typically served in the Middle East, the Atlas take on fesenjoon is ideal for lunch. And this was fortunate, because after my dining companion and I had finished, Abbas suddenly appeared with a dish of homemade ice cream.
I’m not an ice cream eater. First of all, it’s too cold (makes my teeth hurt) and sweet. For me, it’s all about salt, wine, and coffee. But in order to be polite, I took a spoonful and my mouth filled with a difficult but wonderful taste. This was rosewater, saffron, and pistachio — a triangle of red, yellow, and green. And it took full moments to wait out each flavor: the rose so strong it was like a fairytale (then the princess began to sing and rose petals streamed from her lips), the saffron delicate — vanilla with spice — and the pistachios whole and satisfyingly crunchy at the end.
It wasn’t as good as sex. I’ll give you that. But it was close.