Saturday, October 24, 2009

How To Flambé

By the time my parents were entertaining in the 1970’s flambé desserts were passé. To the horror of my mother and the delight of us kids my dad would insist on doing his Cherries Jubilee. We would excitedly gather as the suspense built and the flames would fly and we would all giggle! In the food world everything old is new and as far as trends go the art of flambé is hot once again.

The Term Flambé (Flahm-BAY) is a French word meaning to pour liquor over food and light it in order to burn off the alcohol and impart the flavor of the liquor to the food. It is done with dramatic effect richly flavoring the food. Traditionally it is Crepes Suzette, Cherries Jubilee and Bananas Foster. Chefs have been playing with the concept of setting fire to liquor to include sauces for meats and vegetables as well.

You must use extreme caution here, you will be dealing with a liquid that is on fire; do not carry the dish while flaming, this is best done on a side board away from your guests or sometimes for less formal events I will invite them in the kitchen to watch me play with fire.

In selecting a liqueur to use for a flambé, choose a liqueur that is at least 80 proof so the flames will last long enough to flavor the food. While any 80 proof liqueur may be used, you will need to pick one that the flavor will be adding something to the dish that you are flambéing.

To start you must heat the liquor. It must be heated until just warm, and is done when you see billows rise from the liquid. Do not overheat your liqueur, or the alcohol will evaporate, and it will not catch the flame. To warm your liqueur, place the amount needed for your recipe in a tiny saucepan. Now place the saucepan on the stove under low heat. Once you can see the billows rising from the liqueur, ignite the billows in the saucepan. Ignite with a long fireplace type of match or lighter. They will only ignite if the alcohol is warm enough or the alcohol has not evaporated. Now carefully pour it over the hot food. I will once again stress the importance of extreme caution. Watch out for hair clothes. I know from experience that watches and bracelets can heat up causing the skin to burn. It can be fun to share with the kids, but keep at a safe distance never near or touching the flame. Play with my Grand Marnier crepes (loosely based on traditional crepes Suzette) you can add so many fruit flavors and I have even added mini chocolate chips to the crepes and replaced the grand Marnier for a hazelnut or raspberry liqueur. I have included a popular pasta dish that is spicy and rich and always a crowd pleaser. First my dad’s cherries jubilee that should serve eight (yeah, right!) It can easily be doubled, but once again be careful. Enjoy the drama and intense flavor of Flambé. Next week the lost art of Fondue!

Jack’s Cherries Jubilee

1 pound Bing or other dark, sweet cherries, rinsed and pitted (or use frozen pitted cherries)

1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1 cup orange juice

1 cup brandy, divided

1 teaspoon almond extract

1-quart premium vanilla ice cream

Bring cherries orange juice and zest to simmer in a 12-inch skillet. Add 1/2 cup of the brandy; simmer to blend and concentrate flavors, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in almond extract; pour in remaining brandy. Carefully ignite to burn off alcohol. In each of eight bowls, put 1/2-cup scoop of ice cream and spoon sauce over ice cream.

Grand Marnier Crepes

4 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons milk

1 pinch of salt

1- teaspoon vanilla

1-tablespoon water

2 tablespoons butter

Beat the eggs, flour, milk salt, vanilla and water to the consistency of heavy cream. Heat in a frying pan or crepe pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Move the pan to spread the batter thinly, and keep it moving. After one minute, turn the pancake upside down, and then turn it again, until it is golden brown. Fold the crepe in half, and fold again to form a triangle. Proceed to make the remaining crepes, adding butter to the pan only if the crepes begin to stick.

Grand Marnier Sauce

8 ounces Grand Marnier

1/4 pound butter

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large frying pan. When it begins to bubble, pour in 6 ounces of Grand Marnier. When the mixture is warm, carefully flame the liqueur. Then plunge the folded crepes/pancakes into the warm sauce. Turn them, and add the remaining 2 ounces of blended liqueurs. When the fire dies down again, they are ready to serve. Garnish with thin strips of orange zest.

Red Hot Pasta Flambé

1/2-cup vodka

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

2 cups Marinara Sauce

1/2 stick butter

3/4 cup half and half

Fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Fresh ground pepper

12 oz pasta of your choice

Parmesan Cheese

Soak the crushed pepper in the vodka for 1 hour. In a large pot bring salted water to a boil add pasta and cook until andante about 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat vodka mixture a large skillet over low heat. When hot light it with a match. Be very careful it will really flame. Add the butter, half and half and marinara sauce. Bring to a light boil. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce and coat well Sprinkle with basil, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve at once.

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