Culinary Cruising: French Reverie

Marisol, the author of The Lady, the Chef and the Courtesan, a sensual, romantic novel that comes complete with recipes, last month left landlocked Denver for a stint as a celebrity chef. She sent Westword regular missives from her temporary home: a cruise ship. But not everything went according to plan, as readers of those dispatches now know. As a final parting gift for those who've joined her literary voyage, we're sharing the recipes for the three, ninety-minute cooking classes Marisol would have presented, had everything gone according to plan:

French Reverie: Class 3 with Chef Marisol Music: Madeleine Peyroux’s Careless Love CD

FRENCH KISS/Chambord et Champagne Makes 4 servings

Ingredients 1 bottle chilled Champagne* (may use any sparkling wine) 2 ounces Chambord raspberry liqueur 4 black cherries (for garnish) 4 Champagne flutes

Preparation 1) Place a cherry at the bottom of each flute. 2) Pour ½ ounce of Chambord into each flute. 3) Slowly pour chilled Champagne into each flute (about 6 ounces).

*True Champagne is made only in France, using the traditional méthode champenoise technique and it is traditionally limited to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes. Other sparkling wines use different varietals native to their respective regions. Try Chateau d’Orschwihr Cremant d’Alsace Brut, France ($17) as an alternative to Champagne.

PEPPER STEAK/Steak Au Poivre Makes 4 servings

Ingredients 4 tenderloin steaks (¾ -inch thick, about 6 oz. each) 1 tbs. kosher salt 3 tbs. crushed black peppercorns 1 tbs. vegetable oil 2 tbs. butter 3 shallots (finely chopped) ¾ cup Cognac ¾ cup heavy cream

Preparation 1) Preheat oven to 400 F 2) Pat steaks dry with a paper towel and season with kosher salt. 3) Coarsely crush peppercorns in a sealed plastic bag with bottom of a heavy skillet, then press evenly on both sides of steaks. 4) Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderate high heat, add oil and swirl the skillet to coat. 5) Sauté steaks in two batches, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean skillet and continue cooking in the oven for another 8 minutes for medium-rare, while you make the sauce. 6) Pour off fat from first skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté shallots for 3-5 minutes. 7) Add Cognac and carefully ignite with a kitchen lighter. Step back as you swirl the skillet to even the flame and liquid is reduced to a glaze (2-3 minutes). 8) Add cream and simmer until reduced by half (5 minutes). Strain the sauce. 9) Place one steak on each plate. Spoon some sauce over each steak.

CAULIFLOWER AU GRATIN/Gratin de Chou-Fleur Makes 4 servings

Ingredients 6 quarts water 2 tbs. salt 1 medium cauliflower (whole, leaves removed) 1 tbs. white vinegar 5 tbs. unsalted butter 4 tbs. all-purpose flour 4 cups of milk (warmed) 2 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. curry powder ¼ tsp. nutmeg ground white pepper to taste 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Preparation 1) In a large kettle, bring the water, salt and white vinegar to a boil. Boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool while you make the Béchamel sauce. 2) To make the Béchamel, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and whisk briskly to prevent it from sticking to the pan. 3) Add the warm milk, one cup at a time and continue to whisk on low heat. 4) When the sauce comes to a soft boil, season with salt, white pepper, curry powder and nutmeg. Stir in ¾ cups of the Gruyère cheese and remove from the heat. 5) Place cauliflower in a buttered 8-inch, oven-proof dish or casserole. Pour the Béchamel over it and sprinkle with remaining cheese. 6) Bake in a preheated 400 F oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

-- Au revoir from Chef Marisol!