Whenever a server brings a flambé out in a restaurant, it’s sure to capture every diner’s attention. To flambé a dish just mans to make it flame using liquor or liqueur. Drama is certainly one reason to make a flambé dish, but the technique also adds richer flavor to the dish.
It’s possible to flambé at home; Gourmandia offers some delicious flambé recipes on video. But the greatest caution must be taken since you will literally be dealing with fire.
- Have everything you need for your flambé handy before you ever light the dish.
- Before you ignite the dish, have a metal lid on hand. In an emergency, place the lid over the dish to extinguish the fire.
- Never carry a flaming dish.
- Place the dish on a table that’s fireproof (for example, a stainless steel serving table).
- Make absolutely sure there are no tablecloths, napkins, curtains, or any other flammable items near the table. Check the floor, every side of the table, and above the table.
- Make sure everyone steps back from the table, and that they know you’re going to be handling fire.
- Only then should you ignite the dish.
- Never pour liquor near a flambé dish. It may ignite.
Liquors and Liqueurs
For flambing, use 80-proof liquor or 40 percent alcohol by volume. Never use a liquor 120-proof or higher because it will be too flammable to control well. Liqueurs may not ignite unless you use the 80-proof variety.
When choosing the liquor or liqueur, choose something that compliments the dish. For example, cognac is a nice choice for meat, while fruit brandy is a better choice for dessert.
How to Flambé
- Cold food should not be flambéd, so make sure the dish is warm.
- Cold liquor or liqueur will not ignite, so heat it first in a saucepan until it just begins to bubble. Don’t actually allow it to boil.
- Place the dish in a flambé pan.
- Place the flambé pan on a safe table, follow the safety procedures mentioned above, and let guests know you’re about to ignite the dish.
- Pour warmed liquor over the dish. (Never add the liquor to the dish while it’s still on or near a heat source.)
- Ignite right away, using a long-handled match (like a long fireplace match or long barbecue lighter); make absolutely sure to touch the fire at the edge of the pan. Don’t lean over the dish as you light it and don’t place the fire on the liquor itself.
- If the dish doesn’t ignite, it’s probably because it’s not hot enough.
- Allow the flambé to go out of its own, or, to keep more of the alcohol flavor, cover the flaming dish with a metal lid to extinguish the fire. Use extreme caution when covering the dish, or your sleeves may catch fire, or you may burn your skin.
- As soon as the fire goes out, serve the dish.
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