History-rich image courtesy of the NYPL online collection
Call it a tour of technique. Herein, three cookbooks... three authors... three ways to describe the mystical, mezmerizing mastery of controlled kitchen flames.
Flambéing ("French Farmhouse Cookbook" by Susan Hermann Loomis)
When flambéing—that is, sprinkling a dish with brandy or other alcohol, then igniting it with a match to burn the alcohol off—follow these safety precautions:How to Flambé ("Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook" by Ruth Van Waerebeek)
• Tie back your hair
• Work off the heat and away from obstructions
• Stand back from the pan and avert your face
• Use a long kitchen match
1. Heat the alcohol in a small saucepan over high heat.Flambeing ("The New Basics" by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins)
2. When it is hot, remove the pan from the burner, and standing back, carefully ignite it with a long kitchen match.
3. Pour the flaming alcohol slowly over the dish that is being flambéed.
• Make sure the hood fan on your range is turned off.
• Make sure there is nothing close by that can catch fire, including overhead shelves and paper products. Also make sure your clothing doesn't interfere or get in the way of the flames.
• Keep a large lid at the ready to cover the flames if they should get out of hand.
• Use good-quality alcohol and pour it from the bottle at the last minute so it does not evaporate.
Flaming a dish with brandy or liqueur must be done very carefully. Use long kitchen matches (they work best), be sure not to lean over the dish while you're igniting it, and always remove it from the heat source first.
In order to flame, the brandy must be warmed first. Warm it in a small, heavy saucepan, remove it from the heat, then ignite it and pour it over the prepared dish, which is also off the heat. Or skim the accumulated fat from the cooking liquid, add the brandy to the skillet, allow it to warm, then remove it from the heat, and ignite. The flame will die out quickly.