Voila!: a cooking column

Chicken Marsala and Mini Croque Monsieur with Cheese Platter and Fruits Cassis

As everyone probably knows, it is nearly sacrilegious to rush through a French dinner, either here or in France itself. A typical dinner will consist of a cocktail (l’aperitif), an appetizer (l’entree), the entree (le plat principal), cheese (le fromage) and a dessert (le dessert). All of these steps are often as difficult to prepare as they are impressive. However, with a little ingenuity and effort, you too can prepare an exquisite French menu for your next meal. This menu requires two special ingredients: creme de cassis (current liquor) and white burgandy wine. Some of the wine will be used to prepare the meal, but there should be more than enough left over to serve with dinner. Make sure to use real wine glasses if possible, and you will certainly impress anyone worth impressing.

L’apertif: Kir (Royale)

Pour an ounce of creme de cassis into a wine glass. Fill the rest of the glass with chilled white burgundy wine. Add champagne or sparkling wine to make the drink royale if you prefer.

L’entree: Mini Croque Monsieurs (Dressed up French Ham and Cheese Sandwiches)

8 slices bread, crusts removed

8 slices swiss cheese (gruyere is traditional but not necessary)

8 tablespoons butter

8 slices ham

Sandwich two slices of cheese and two slices of ham between two slices of bread. Spread the bread with butter and cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter or into circles with a glass to make tea-sandwiches. (Or just cut into triangles.) Grill on Foreman grill for about two minutes or until cheese melts.

Le Plat Principal: Chicken Marsala

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

4 chicken breasts

1 12-ounce can mushrooms

4 tablespoons butter, plus more to coat grill

1/4 cup marsala wine

1/4 cup cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Salt & pepper

Coat the chicken breasts in bread crumbs and coat the Foreman grill with butter. Grill each chicken breast for about six minutes depending on size. Combine the mushrooms, butter, cream and wine in a microwave-safe casserole dish. Microwave the dish, stirring every minute or so until thickened, which should take about five minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts and serve over rice or pasta.

Le Fromage: Cheese plate

Always choose cheeses in odd numbers. Three is plenty for a small party. Pick a soft cheese (e.g., brie, camembert), a bleu cheese (e.g., roquefort, stilton, gorganzola) and a semi-hard cheese (e.g., cheddar, compte, manchego). Serve with baguette slices or crackers.

Le dessert: Fruits Cassis

1 quart strawberries, quartered

½ honeydew mellon, balled

1 pint blueberries

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons creme de cassis

Whipped cream

Any combination of fruits will work, but my favorites are listed above. Combine fruit, sugar and creme de cassis. Allow to sit for an hour or more. Top with whipped cream. Serve immediately.