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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ohhh the Adventures of Moving to the Land of Champagne

Ahhhh Reims.... oh my, where oh where to begin. I am going to deviate from my usual food blogs to focus on this little French city and my move for now. Reims is a quant somewhat charming city with a stunning, massive, ancient cathedral in the center which I have a little view of from my bar and 3 giants sky lights. Starts out good enough, right?... Yet, this little gem is pretty quant and doesn't have a lot going on. There also is construction EVERYWHERE b/c they are building a tram. Arriving here I went through the frustrating process of finding a furnished apartment and I then struggled with solving problems such as a half pit bull/rottweiler/lab dog in my building who met me at the door, fangs out, ready to pounce each day I came home (the first time with 7 bags of groceries in hand), no hot water, leaking shower, no internet, no tv, and no heat all in a language I studied for only 3 months. I also just might have wrote a letter to my landlord in french about the leaking pipes and not have known that the word "pipe" in french (despite the fact that my french dictionary says otherwise) means blowjob. Yes, I wrote an entire lengthy email about the frustration I was having with pipes... Wow. Amazing... Maybe I'll post that one later. I'm pretty sure that after this experience I could make it through a war or maybe live in a little bunker somewhere... Well no, let's be honest, I would never do well living in a bunker. Regardless, despite the fact that I might have shed enough tears to fill a little petite pond and developed a new fear of dogs with fangs, I'm glad I somehow pushed through the last few frustrating weeks and came out alive, breathing, and well enough to practice my french with my landlord and her 6 year old daughter each day (and be greeted by the 6 year old with a kiss every morning and night) and well enough to buy a baguette and little cube of amazing french cheese everyday :)

Due to the fact that I did not have internet at home for the first month or so I wrote this entry while at my home away from home, McDonald's. God, I never thought I would say that. So, essentially with each stroke my finger made on this keyboard I was constantly enhalling the entoxicating smell of french fries. Ahh...It was a real test of my self control. I mean 8 am and the smell of French fries is just kind of wrong. Somehow, who knows how, I resisted walking downstairs and buying a little box of fries. I could write a entire food blog on the differences between the US Mcdonald's and the French Mcdonalds but I don't think I can bring myself to stand in line, analyze the menu and take pictures of the food.
I'm not going to lie though it actually does look more appetizing than in the US . It's amazing to me that it is basically a little undercover computer lab on the 2nd floor up here. Nope, no Mcnuggets, burgers or malts on the 2nd floor of McDonalds in Reims just computers, earphones and a bunch of people scanning the room every so often hoping they don't get caught for not buying a single Mcdonalds product and just simply using it as a Skype haven! Pretty funny. I wish you could see it. Maybe I can sneak a picture of all of them..

Anyway, the city of Reims is in the Champagne Region of France and there are 11 houses in the center and hundreds in the km around the city. Veuve Clicqot, Don Perinon, Pommery, Launois Pere and Fils, Gonet Sulcova are all very close. It's fall here and all the leaves are changing and the champagne vineyards are all red. It's breathtaking.. I'm pretty sure that I could go on a drive along the Champagne road and stop into little cute Champagne house after champagne house and then stumble home tipsy with a few bottles in hand every single weekend. And so far, other than my 2 weekends I've spent in Paris, that is exactly what I have done! Ahhh I'm developing a drinking problem. Will I go into Champagne detox if I don't drink it for a day? I have yet to see.

Reims is 45 mins from Paris so it's not too far from big city life...Historically it's the place where the Kings of France were crowned and the Cathedral served the same purpose as Westminster Abbey in England. That's all for now. Hope you found some comedy in my life the last month and cross your fingers that my luck improves here with my apartment!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Mexican recipe....Chicken Tostadas with cumin scented Black beans and lime creme fraiche

So I could.. and definitely will write a few blogs about my adventures in moving to France (because the process has been comical, frustrating and filled with hiccups) but for now I just want to give you a recipe that I love and get back to writing about food b/c its calming in the chaos.

The MBA program I am in is 80% international students and as such we have been having weekly Intl food parties. Last week it was Mexico's turn and I decided to join because understandably California cuisine is very influenced by its neighbor, Mexico. I was a little worried about finding peppers in the land of butter, cream and leaks but luckily the huge "CORA" grocery store was using the perfect pepper that I needed for decoration and I was able to buy about 15 of them for 11 euro. I'm having horrible luck right now and chopped off a little piece of my index finger during the last step of my cooking and only ended up staying for 30 mins of the party because after 2 hours my poor little finger was still bleeding and I started to feel really sorry for myself :( At least my chicken tortilla soup and chicken tostadas attended and hopefully were consumed and enjoyed :)

Here is the recipe which is an adaption from Cindy Pawlcyn's :

Chile Paste-
4 Dried Guajillo Chiles (the big red ones), stemmed
2 or 3 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbls fresh oregano
1/2 tabls toasted cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper

2 to 4 tbls olive oil
2 rabbits or 6 to 8 pieces chicken thighs
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup of each diced celery, peeled diced carrot, chopped onion
Chicken stock (3 to 4 cups)

Lime Creme Fraiche
1 cup creme fraiche
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 Tbls freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of salt and pepper

1 or clove garlic- diced
pinch of salt
1 lemon-juiced
2 tbls red wine vinegar
2 tbls brown sugar
2 teasp cumin
pinch of chili flakes
3/4 cup olive oil
Cumin-scented black beans
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup arugula or other spicy green
1/3 bunch cilantro
3/4 cup cotija cheese
1 or 2 limes

For the Chili paste: Toast the chilies in a pretty hot pan until they start to give off a sweet and spicy scent, then put them into a pot with enough water to cover. Soak the chilies 1 hr until they are really soft (if they are too hard then the sauce won't work), drain them and save some of the soaking liquid for later. Puree the chilies in a blender along with the garlic, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Slowly add more and more of he soaking liquid as needed to get the mixture going. The consistency when done should be a little more runny than warm peanut butter. Strain this and reserve.

For the Rabbit or
Heat some olive oil over medium heat. You might need to brown the chicken thighs in batches b/c if you put too much in the pan they won't brown! Season with salt and pepper on all
sides and then transfer the rabbit/chicken to a platter. Add the celery, carrot, onion to the pan with all the juices of the meat and cook until browned and soft. Now mix in the chili paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the chicken
back to the pan and make sure all the meat is coated in sauce. Pour in enough stock to cover and bring to a boil then reduce to low and let it simmer slowly for 30-45 mins. After 30 mins test a little piece of the meat. It should be really tender and almost fall off the bone. Pull out the meat and once it is cool take two forks and shred it into pieces. Watch out for any small bones! Strain the broth to remove all the veggies and then simmer it and reduce it by half so that it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Chill until ready to serve.

Creme Fraiche: Combine all ingredients. Don't forget the lime b/c this is the best part! Cover and chill in the fridge until needed

Vinaigrette: Whisk together the garlic, salt, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, cumin and chili flakes. Whisk continuously while you slowly pour in the olive oil.

Cumin Black Bean: Rinse a can of black beans with water. Add cumin and a little salt and pepper. Mash the beans up to form a thick paste. Reserve

Tortillas: Either buy tostadas (already fried little tortillas) or crisp regular corn tortillas (cut into smaller disks) in oil for a few minutes per side. After each tortilla is crisp dry on paper towels to get rid of some of the grease.

To finish: Add the meat to the sauce and stir everything to combine and heat thoroughly. Reheat the beans. Combine the cabbage, arugula, cilantro in a bowl and dress with the vinaigrette. Smear each tortilla with some cumin scented black beans, then top with some braised meat, sauce, greens and crumbled cheese. Drizzle with creme fraiche and garnish with lime wedges! Ahhh writing this just made me hungry

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