Beans beans, they’re good for your heart.
Beans, beans, they make you DART—around Paris looking for the black bean or refried variety.
France, it seems, just doesn’t do Mexican.
Restaurants that serve anything beyond guac and burritos are in short supply, and while many supermarkets have a section devoted to El Paso—that’s it. No Green Mountain salsa or a shredded Mexican blend to sprinkle and melt over Garden of Eaten’ white corn tortilla chips. Just finding plain ‘old cheddar itself is an ordeal. This has thrown a wrench into what’s always been my go-to anytime snack: quesadillas.
But back to the beans.
After two Americans I met through my friend Adeline invited me to their “Tres de Mayo” party—honoring Cinco de Mayo, but held on the third because the 5th lands on a Tuesday this year—I knew what I’d bring: the epic 7-layer dip. You know the one of which I speak: The one if you’re lucky enough to be close to when it’s placed on the table, with unlimited chips at your disposal, you will inevitably devour bite after bite, dip after dip.
Problem was, the base of this dip calls for refried beans and “taco seasoning.” After several unsuccessful visits to secure both from various bean aisles and El Paso sections at supermarkets citywide, I realized I’d have to make some amendments if I was going to give this a go.
Rather than actually cook, drain and fry Pinto beans in lard to make my own refried concoction, I managed to find some canned chili-esque mixture with corn that I drained and mashed up.
For the creamy layer that calls for taco seasoning, I mixed crème fraîche (aka sour cream) with “guacamole seasoning,” which they did have, and, as it turns out, is more or less the same thing as taco seasoning, which was nowhere to be found. (Yes, I’m well aware I could’ve just bought all the spices separately and made my own, but whoa la la. That seemed intense and unnecessary.)
The only cheddar I found, as opposed to, say, the 15 different versions of Emmental or Chevre, was Britain’s “extra-mature” white, so I shredded that and sprinkled it on top as the third layer.
Finally, I chopped up some yellow and green peppers, along with some tomatoes and voila! An amended version of the 7-layer (or in this case, 7 ingredient) dip.
As luck would have it on what was a rainy Sunday, this fête-fiesta was just blocks from my own apartment in Montmartre. Still, why make it easy on myself? In addition to carrying the dip and my umbrella, I decided to pick up a six-pack of Corona on the way. Because what’s a Mexican showdown without Corona?
Upon entering the party a complete mess—after shlepping all that in the rain and then attempting to press in the door code with my hands so full—I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who felt a fête-fiesta without “La Cervaza Mas Fina” wasn’t a fête-fiesta at all. My six-pack would have to wait to cool down until what was in the fridge had been consumed.
Despite it being an intimate group of 9 and a half (there was a toddler in the house!), I had faith in this crew, which included a linguist, a lawyer, a teacher, two journalists (including me) and a few artists. Along with the Coronas, Pacificos were making the rounds, as was a bottle of Mezcal and two bottles of Patron from which the co-host, Taylor, would later make Palomas, a drink consisting of tequila, cointreau, grapefruit juice and lime.
But really, we all came to gorge on all things corn (tortillas! chips!), beans (black! molé!) and pepper (jalapeno! red!). And gorge we did.
Taylor outdid himself in the taco department, cooking up two different types: carnitas, from braised pork shoulder that had been marinating in orange juice, cumin and cinnamon for hours; and shrimp, that had been rubbed in tequila and spices, then topped with pickled onion and a chipotle mayo.
Another guest brought homemade sweet potato molé enchiladas, while someone else made veggie quesadillas.
Of course, there was sour cream, or rather crème fraîche, plenty of limes, cilantro, mushy Mexican rice (the best kind) and salsa for stuffing and dipping.
While chowing down, there was much discussion over how far and wide everyone had to go to find the ingredients. There was a lot of nodding and grunting with full mouths; eyes widening in astonishment as we each learned new trips, tips and tricks from which to discover how one can properly do Mexican in Paris.
Just when we thought we couldn’t quite possibly fit another bite in, there was dessert. Since the only French guests (Adeline and her boyfriend Said) were responsible for dessert, churros, trés leches or flan we did not get. No, rather in true French form we got a delicious raspberry tarte—actually, four of them. There was such an abundance of sugar, even the two-year-old got to dig into a few slices with her fingers.
Funnily enough, contrary to what many people think Cinco de Mayo stands for (Mexico’s Independence Day), it’s actually meant to honor their freedom from…wait for it…the French.