Saturday, October 8, 2011

Would you like a baguette with that? "Oui!"

We are home from France- land of the cheese, bread, and most things delicious. One of my favorite things about traveling (ok, my most favorite thing) is the food. I'm thankful my husband shares this enthusuiasm with me, because it doubles the fun! We have an appreciation for history and art, but don't feel like we missed out if we don't get to see every museum, landmark or tourist attraction. We do however feel a responsibility to try as many different foods as we can- and then come home and attempt to re-create them! Before each trip we create a Muñoz Family Bucket List, which includes our "must-do" activities. I won't lie- 75% of them include food. A few from France were: eat Ratatoullie (check), eat chocolate mousse (check), eat a crepe or quiche everyday (Chris' item; and check), daily visit to the neighborhood Starbucks (check), and eat beef bourguignon (check). This time we tended to add more items as we went along because the restaurant menus looked so good!

First stop, finding a crepe for Chris. We had a neighborhood crepe shop right by our hotel! It was fun to watch them make these "French burritos" and my, were they tasty. Here's our favorite Crepe Man: 

1st start with the thin pancake-like batter

Fill it up with your favorite fillings-
Nutella (hazelnut butter & sugar) is popular here

Make friends with the Crepe Man so he'll hook you
up when you come back!
Did I mention that crepes were just snacks? Thank goodness we did so much walking! I wore my pedometer one day and we were close to 6 miles, even with taking the Metro many places. I was also pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to eat healthy. I was afraid (and naive) in my thinking that it would be impossible to avoid cream and cheese at every meal. But meals weren't over-sized, and I actually felt like I couldn't get enough of their salads since it's not something I order often in Italy (every time I try it's mostly meat and cheese with a few leaves of arugala, so I've quit..)
Roasted Duck and French Green Bean Salad

Fresh quiche, salads, sweets, paninis- hard to resist!
We had beef fondue one night. It was a fun experience
and forced to eat slowly!

But my favorite food experience was definitely the market we visited in Versailles before our picnic on the Grand Canal. Not only did they have fresh produce, but wine, cheese, meats, seafood, olives, tapanades and spreads, fresh flowers- and even a crepe stand.


Bread has never been my go-to comfort food, but my appreciation for it increased after this trip- especially when you watch someone pull it out of a brick oven piping hot. The smell is irresistable. But in the words of Ratatoullie (great cartoon movie about French food, for all ages!), it's not about the smell or the feel, but the "sound!" CRUNCH.

As if we didn't get enough in France, I came home determined to make beef bourguignon, and found a delightful Slow Cooker recipe, which I adapted as below: 

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

3 Tablespoons Flour
2-3 lbs beef chuck, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
8oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
4-6 strips cooked bacon, cut into 1-2 inch pieces (I used 4 slices thick-cut)
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth
1 cup red wine
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
 2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf

1. Coat beef chunks in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Sear beef in a skillet on stovetop in 1 Tbs canola or vegetable oil until browned on the outside but not cooked through. (The searing is optional, but I think it brings out a wonderful flavor!)

2. Place meat in slow cooker and add remaining ingredients

3. Cover, and cook on LOW for 8 hours, or until meat and potatoes are both tender. (Mine only took about 6-7 hrs)

*Note: my 5 quart crockpot was filled to the brim! Everything turned out fine, but I ended up adding a little more water so they vegetables would stew and not roast.

**Note: My chef friend informed me that 1 cup of wine isn't enough..I just followed the recipe, but feel free to add more!