Burlington recently had a visit from a very special person, Christel Van Malsen.  Christel lives in Lourmarin in the South of France, and has been a tour guide to many groups from Burlington, including myself and two of my daughters this past spring.  She has a business in France, where she manages very special rental properties.  She also is a tour guide extraordinaire and does the most divine cooking classes you can imagine.  While visiting Burlington, Christel did one of her very special cooking classes at the home of Anne Powell.  It was of course sold out and much anticipated by those of us fortunate enough to be able to attend!  I wanted to share some of the pictures and most importantly, the recipes with you.  The blue cheese sauce is the most delicious sauce I have ever eaten and I cannot wait to make it!

Christel is in the middle with the sprig of herbs!  She has such a bubbly personality and so many life experiences to share.


All of the participants in the cooking class had jobs to help with the preparation of the meal.


This was a bruschetta with fresh tomatoes.  It was divine!


We also had a smoked salmon appetizer with cream cheese and fresh chives.


We prepped plenty of artichokes!



And potatoes!


There was also time for socializing and sipping wine!



We had an olive oil tasting that featured olive oils from three different places, Spain, Italy and California.  We tasted the olive oil in these Limoges olive oil tasting dishes that were designed by Christel's friend in France.  The olive oil is poured in the dish and the dish acts as a spoon so you get every drop!


Christel in action! 


Filet Mignon cooking.


The Haricots Verts with Panchetta


Artichokes or Artichauts a la Barigoule!  It's amazing how little of the artichoke actually gets eaten!


The Gratin Dauphinois


The sliced (rare) filets!  I don't have a picture of the divine Roquefort Sauce.


After dinner and maybe one glass of wine too much, we danced!



The recipes for the food that we prepared at this cooking class follow in Christel's words!  I hope that you all get to meet Christel sometime, preferably in Provence!


6 Filet Mignon Steaks, 6 - 8 ounces (ask for nice cuts in case the packaged ones do not look fresh, every butcher loves to cut up new ones).  If you have men at the table or in case this is the only course you will eat, buy some more meat.

Cook the steaks on the stove (in a frying or grill pan), not in the oven, in the butter to your liking.  Turn off the fire when done and let the meat rest for a minute or two to enable the juices to stay in the meat.  Then slice the meat with a sharp knife.

While cooking the meat, start the sauce:


4 pieces of Roquefort Cheese

1 package of unsalted Kerry (Irish) butter ( I prefer to cook with this butter as it has more taste).

Melt the butter and the cheese in a frying pan on low and constantly stir until you see the butter mix with the cheese.

Either serve the sauce separately or divide it over the meat.  I like to serve the sauce separately.

Do not salt the dishes too much as the roquefort sauce is sufficiently salty.


2 packages of French green beans (they are a lot thinner and darker green than green beans)

1 large red onion

butter to glaze the onion

Wash the beans and drain them.  Put water in a pan and as soon as the water boils, either steam (takes a little longer) or boil them (in 2 inches of water) for 20 minutes on low.  Keep and eye on the water!

Chop up the onion (as fine as possible) and glaze them in a frying pan.  Add them to the haricots verts after you have drained them, and mix.

There is a funny story about "haricots verts":  In France we refer to very thin French women as "thin as a haricots verts".  If you like to loose weight, or your dog (I have a chocolate lab, Joy, at home who sometimes gets cooked haricots verts and she loves it.  Easy of course as labs are obsessed by food.  We are both Chefs?)


1 bag of potatoes that are suitable to roast (I did not particularly like the Yukon yellow potatoes)

2 cartons (small ones) of full organic cream

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of nutmet

1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

3 eggs

1 large bag of sharp grated cheddar

3 - 4 twigs of fresh rosemary

Peel the potatoes and slice them as thin as possible.  Put them in an oven casserole (one that looks nice and which you can use as a serving casserole) and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the garlic as fine as possible but do not press the cloves.  Mix the cream, the eggs, the nutmeg, the pepper and the garlic.  Pour the mixture over the potatoes and cover it with the grated cheese.  Cover the casserole with aluminum foil (less shiny side up as that way the casserole will absorb the heat better and the cheese will melt but not brown (yet).  Cook in the oven for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.  You have to keep a look at the dish and the temperature as ovens are like people:  different.  Then take off the aluminum foil and add the twigs of fresh rosemary.  Cook for another 10 minutes until the cheese has a slightly brown color.


6 artichokes

2 - 3 packages of panchetta

1/3 bottle of white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc as it is drier than most Chardonnay)

1 cup of sparkling water

1 cup of water

1 pinch of sea salt

1 baguette

Take the leaves off the artichokes (you COULD keep them and boil them later in 15 minutes and use the soft part as a spoon to eat a dip.  (Easy dip:  3 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard and 2 tablesppons of extra virgin olive oil.  Add some pepper, no salt, and mix until you get a nice sauce.)  You will arrive at "the beard".

Use a spoon to carefully remove the beard.  What is left is called the heart of the artichoke.  Cut off the brown part of the stem, not too much, you should still leave a visible stem.  cut the stem in the shape of a pencil with a sharp knife, but not too pointed.  Cut each artichoke in 4.

Boil water with the sparkling water (if you can find salted sparkling water even better, it boils any vegetable quicker, it is called "vichy" after the salted water that we use in France.  If you can't find salted sparkling water, add a pinch of sea salt to the water).  Do not add any salt as the panchetta is salty enough.

Put the quartered artichokes in the boiling water, let them boil on low for 10 minutes, take some water out, add the cut up panchetta (in small cubes or slices) and the white wine.  Let it boil for another 15 minutes on low.  There should be some juice but not too much.

When serving, do not forget to add the juice.  Delicious with some bread!  Any bitter tasting food is good for your liver.

I hope you will enjoy preparing these dishes.  Cooking should be fun and not stressful.  Prepare it with your heart, improvise when necessary and eat food that is recognizable and organic.  Check out the Slow Food concept!

No light foods, your body and more important your brain, needs fat, but choose as much as possible the right ones.  Eat a spoon of olive oil before you go out drinking, your body will be grateful.  Take time to eat, taste with your eyes shut, put aside mobile phones and talk to the people you share your meal with.  You will enjoy it!