Monday, April 4, 2011

The Maximilian Affair.

The Tricolore - blue, white and red tacos. © Ryan Schierling

When I asked a friend – one who happens to be an awesomely talented creative-type currently living in Paris, France – to write me a story about her fair city in exchange for a story from Austin about tacos, I suppose I shouldn't have been so floored to receive a tale so lovely 


Ok, you wanted a Paris story in exchange for a scintillating tale of tacos. Ahem… 

Emerging from the Metro, bright orange lipstick matching my new napalm red/orange heels, I hold the hand of my lover – his cap askew at a roguish angle. Within steps from the gaping Metro's mouth, we feel on our light t-shirts a few drop of rain. Our mission will not be thwarted by a few small pips of precipitation! Ha! We laugh at the Parisians unfurling their umbrellas; no self-respecting Seattleite would bother with such a hindrance! 

Now we start for our destination, down a cobblestone road in the direction of our hearts desire. With rare rapidity the drops gain size and number. Soon a true deluge is upon us, and by upon us I mean down the backs of our shirts, dampening our pants till each leg weighs ten pounds. My hair, which started off in luminous bouncing curls has flashed back in time and is actually wetter than when I stepped forth from the shower earlier that same day. 

We will not be stopped. 

Jay, with a heroic gait, whisks me into an alcove while he runs hither and yon to find the correct boulevard we must traverse. In moments he comes back, soaked from hat to high-tops but with a grin that says, "I am a MAN! I will rescue this situation!" 

Now he leads me, in a slippery stride – no, more a puddle-leaping gallop down streets hell-bent on finding what it is we set out for. We know that once we locate this Paris gem, rain, cold, and wrecked heels will no longer matter. 

Finally we come to the street, the block. It should be there...where is it? And then, like a brave beacon, a signal flare of rescue, a glimmer of good fortune we see her. Ah yes. The Taqueria. 

No sign, save the small writing on the door, tells us despite all the worst the weather had to throw at us, true taco lovers will always prevail. As we stand dripping on the welcome mat, the sparse few patrons turn and gaze at what must look like the two most miserable souls on this earth. 

Except for our hope-filled gaze. 

Is that a Dos Equis we see someone drinking? Truly can that be Valentina sauce on the small wooden table? And does that chalkboard daily menu really say they are serving al pastor and rajas con queso? 

Paris - the city of light, romance and mystery. A city where if you can sweep your ruined curls up in a braid and reapply your lipstick, just to wink and smile at the man who brought you here, will reward you with one of Paris's most treasured landmarks only 10 days after it has opened... the Candelaria Taqueria. 


Leaving us speechless... there was only one thing we could do. Cook. Blue corn tacos with roasted garlic refried white beans, chicken carnitas in a lime beurre blanc, white asparagus two ways and topped with red jalapeño slices. 

White asparagus, lime, asparagus, butter. © Ryan Schierling
Le taco Parisien

12 blue corn tortillas
2 chicken breasts, brined
1 can white kidney beans
1/2 head of roasted garlic

1 teaspoon cumin
1 bunch white asparagus
1 red jalapeño pepper
dry white wine
fresh squeezed lime juice
unsalted butter
Kosher salt & white pepper, to taste

The beans: Open the can of cannellini beans, but do not drain. Empty the can, with liquid, into a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, a bit of fat (bacon grease/lard/olive oil) and a pinch of salt. Squeeze out the half-head of roasted garlic into the beans. Let simmer until the liquid has reduced, turn to low heat and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans and garlic. 

The chicken: We brined the chicken in 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons sugar with a little more than two cups of water, for four hours. They were patted dry, salted and white-peppered, then cooked with a bit of oil in a heavy skillet until an internal temperature of 155-degrees was reached. Then they were tented – placed on a plate and covered with aluminum foil – for 10 minutes. The chicken is then pulled into bite-size or smaller pieces, and when the tacos are ready to be assembled, the shredded chicken is dragged through the beurre blanc. 

The beurre blanc = whatever your favorite way is to make beurre blanc. We used Sauvignon Blanc, went a little heavy on the lime juice, thus requiring us to use a brick of butter to cut through the acidity. Crazy rich, stupid heavy, and decadently ridiculous. 

The white asparagus: Oh, what fun this was. The bottoms of the asparagus must be cut off, and then a vegetable peeler is used to remove the tough, bitter outer skin from the tip down. We poached most of our bunch of asparagus in a liquid of equal parts milk and water until they were al dente, then drained, rinsed and plunged them into an ice bath until we were ready to use them. They heated up nicely on the stovetop just prior to use. 

About a third of the asparagus spears (sans tips) were reserved for another treatment. What looks like strings of white cheese in the photo is actually shaved ribbons of white asparagus that were quick-pickled in white vinegar, a splash of tarragon wine vinegar, salt, sugar and water. This condiment preparation gives them a tangy radish-like flavor that complements the rest of the taco-filling flavors very nicely. 

The red jalapeños: They are thinly-sliced red jalapeños. You can also use red Fresno peppers.

The earthy heartiness of the blue corn tortillas, the sweet creaminess of the white refritos, the tangy richness of the tender chicken drenched in beurre blanc, and the textures and flavors of the white asparagus two ways... over the top? Absolument

Dawn, we hope you've enjoyed our little story about tacos that just happens to include a little story about Paris. 
This is for you, and for dedicated adventurers everywhere who are, right now, craving a little taste of home.


  1. what is wrong with me?!?!?! I keep meaning to comment on this-seeing as I read it about once a DAY-just wanted to say 1.tacos! YAY!, white and blue Parisian tacos, double yay! 3. quick pickled asparagus shredded instead of cheese? Oh how I respect and adore you two!!!!! brilliant. tres bonne!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration, Dawn. We would never have thought to take this tangent if it wasn't for your delicious story-telling!!


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