I guess it makes sense that I love fire.
People that know me well know that I love setting shit on fire. I should, for obvious reasons. But I think it started, not unlike why I started cooking, because my mother hated it. Okay, she didn’t hate fire, but rather she was afraid of it. Still is, almost clinically. Everytime I so much as left the toaster plugged in she’d go on a 20 minute rant about how the house was going to burn down and the dogs would be trapped inside. Nevermind that our house was built a good 50 years after the invention of the grounded outlet. Nevermind also that my father, the ever-vigilant handyman, had made absolutely certain that the entire house was fitted with said grounded outlets because, if anything else, he knew my mother wouldn’t so much as use a lamp without them.
Of course with this being the “forbidden fruit” of sorts, so cultivated my curiosity. Later, fascination.
I used to burn candles in my bedroom, which I kept lit by Christmas lights and a single red lightbulb I had purchased at the Ma and Pa hardward store around the corner. No, contrary to my more religious relatives’ concerns I wasn’t performing any “Satantic” gobbeldy-gook or some dumb crystal-gripping nonsense “rituals”. I just liked it. I liked my cave, full of teenage potsmoking ambiance and my desk by the window covered in flickering candles. At times when my mom was too busy in another futile attempt to get my spastic and dirty brother to bathe and my dad was immersed in computerized solitaire hiding from the chaos, I’d sometimes be sitting up in my bed, back against the headboard, lighting up a bowl and just watching the flames dance for me. It was relaxing.
Or maybe that was just the pot.
In any case, I think another allure of cooking for me was the fact that I could actually use my mom’s gas stove. Fire, right there, serving me in one of its intended purposes. My primal urges were satiated as I’d enjoy watching the blue flames shoot up as I turned the dial, and then watch it as it dutifully boiled, seared, or sauteed whatever was in the cookware above it.
And then..THEN…I made a glorious discovery.
You mean, I can set food on FIRE?! You mean that TWO of my key obsessions were combined into one fun-filled action-packed activity? You mean that if I just put booze in a pan and bring it almost to a boil I can light it on fire and pour it on stuff? Oh, I had to learn me some of THIS!
I thumbed through every recipe I could find that involved this astonishing activity before zeroing in on a recipe for crepes suzette. Admittedly, I only picked it because I recognized the name as mentioned in the theme song from “The Patty Duke Show”, which I used to watch in reruns on Nick at Night as a kid. Now, this was my first time ever with crepes. They looked like pancakes to me when I had had them in restaurants, so I figured this was going to be easy.
My first crepe disintegrated in the pan under the care of my untrained hands like wet toilet paper. I tried desperately to work through it, but the end result was basically a pile of sweetened, doughy scrambled eggs. I sighed, threw it on a side plate for later disposal, and tried again. Same thing happened. So I tried again. And again. And again, until I had used up all of the eggs. I was left with a quadrupled amount of the first plate’s disaster. I felt inept as a cook. I didn’t even get to the fun part!
After awhile of sulking, I shrugged off my disappointment, threw a scoop of the murdered crepe remains on a large dinner plate, then warmed the bourbon in the saucepan. I was not going to be cheated out of the big finale even if what I made didn’t deserve such celebration. Using a long grill lighter that one of my friends had left behind after a visit, I flipped the safety switch and pulled the trigger at the point I was supposed to. WHOOSH!! These beautiful blue flames appeared out of nowhere and seemed to disco dance in celebration on top of the booze. SWEET! Wanting to see if the party would continue on the plate, I poured the flames over the mess I had made just a few minutes ago. They obediently glided out of the saucepan and onto the plate, almost strutting to the tune of “Saturday Night Fever” (in my head, anyway – I have an obscure love for the 1970′s).
This was one of the most amazing, awesome moments in my culinary studies.
Later – much later – I would finally get crepes and perfect a rather simple recipe for Crepes Suzette.
Happy New Year! Enjoy.
Above: John’s Valentine’s Day gift to me last year – further evidence of just how well the man knows me.
1 cup flour
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk or half & half
1 tbsp bourbon
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean scrapings
1/2 clarified butter
1 tsp lemon zest
Whisk together the flour and salt. Then whisk in the eggs and sugar until pale, then two thirds of the milk, boubon, vanilla, and lemon zest until combined. If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining milk until a thinner consistency is achieved. Cover and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
Heat an 8-inch skillet over medium heat and cover the surface of the pan with the butter until it sizzles. Pour in a small soup-ladle’s worth of batter into the middle of the pan and swirl the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Only let it cook for about 50 seconds then flip over and cook the other side for 20 seconds.Repeat.
3 oranges, juiced
Zest of one of those oranges (I hate wasting food)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup bourbon
Pour the juice into a saucepan with the zest, butter and sugar. Bring to a boil, and turn heat down and let simmer for a another 10 to 12 minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Fold the crepes into quarters and then arrange them in a large pan. Pour the sauce over them Warm the bourbon in the same saucepan you used for the orange sauce. Heat the brandy until *almost* – ALMOST to a boil, when it’s just smoking and simmering. Immediately pull the trigger of your trusty torch (I use a torch because, as I said, I’m a pyro) and the mixture will sport those blue flames. Let them dance for about 30 seconds and then pour them CAREFULLY over the crepes. Serve immediately.