Friday, March 9, 2012

To Flambe, or not to Flambe?

The origins of the legendary dessert, "Crepes Suzette," is disputed. Historically, it is attributed to Henri Charpentier, who in 1895 was a 14-year old assistant waiter at Maitre at Monte Carlo's Cafe de Paris. The story goes that while preparing dessert for the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII of England), Henri accidentally lit the cordials on fire. The Prince, along with his daughter, Princess Suzanne instantly fell in love with the dish, thus the name. This is rejected by Larouse Gastronomique: The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine, and Cookery, because Henri would have been too young to be serving the Prince, rather it would have been the head waiter. Another story attributes it to Monsieur Joseph, of Restaurant Marivaux, who in 1897 provided flaming crepes on stage (for theatrical effect) for French actress Suzanne Reichenberg, known as "Suzette." However, in 1896, the recipe appeared in print, as "Pancakes, Casino Style," (but without the flambe) in The Cookbook by "Oscar" of the Waldorf, by Oscar Tschirky. 

While the origins of the dessert will always be disputed, so is the necessity to flambe it. Some insist it is essential to achieve the correct flavor. Some insist it is not. However, when given the opportunity to have a dramatic presentation, I choose flambe! There are a plethora of recipes for Crepes Suzette, but this is the simplest recipe I could find, by Nigella Lawson, for novice Crepes Suzette makers. It's easy and fun! You can serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with the sauce, if you wish.

 Crepes Suzette

8-12 crepes, 4-6 servings


2 oranges, juiced
1 orange, zested
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
8-12 crepes (Nigella recommends store-bought, but I like homemade. Click here for my favorite recipe. That is what I used here.)
1/3 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec)


Pour the orange juice into a saucepan, and add the zest, butter, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, cooking for another 10-15 minutes, until the sauce becomes syrupy.

Fold the crepes into quarters and then arrange in a large pan, or any oven-proof dish, slightly overlapping in a circular pattern.

Pour over the warm syrup and then gently heat the crepes through for about 3 minutes over low heat.

Warm the orange liqueur of your choice in the emptied but still syrupy saucepan. When the crepes are hot in the orange sauce, pour over the liqueur and quickly light it with a long match or long lighter to flambe them. (If you don't light it right away, it might dilute and not flame.) Serve immediately, spooning crepes and sauce onto each plate.

*Note: I find that people either really love this or they really don't. If you don't like orange desserts, don't make this. If you do, you'll love it!

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