Flambe – Some Random Personal Notes

Last nights Flambe failed to ignite. The pan sauce still worked nicely. But I missed out the spectacular that gives me that brief, satisfying moment of pretence that I am a three star genius.

My first recollection of the flambe was as a boy in Kendal. My parents would take me to collect my younger brother from boarding school at the end of term. They would then take us to a particular resturant where my brother would always order the banana fritter. In due course, the waiter would wheel around a trolley light up a spirit stove and cook the dish in front of us. The highlight, for me as an eight year old, was watching the gentle blue flame caressing the banana. It was really magical.

I’m not so subtle. I’m more Floydesque in my approach. If there isn’t a rocket like column of flame hitting the ceiling then it’s no good. I want people diving for cover. I want people donning sunglasses. Better still, safety glasses. I want people standing by with fire extinguishers. This is showtime!

In my experience any 40% spirit works. Beyond that pretty much anything goes. Like any kind of fire, I guess the fire triangle applies. In other words, you need three things. Fuel, oxygen and a heat/ignition source. This time I was using my iron grill pan. I have not flambed with this before. I had it much hotter than normal to sear in the grill marks. I think this may be the source of the problem. Firstly, I suspect the alcohol may have evaporated very rapidly (no fuel). Secondly I may have had the lighter to close in to the evaporation (no oxygen). Whatever, we live and learn.

When doing this, I’m very unimaginative in sauces. Cream, butter plus maybe, beer or cider or wine or, even, champagne. The secret is, after reducing the sauce, to add back in a teeny tiny amount of the booze to revive the flavour.

I really must experiment more with flambe sauces. I wonder, something along the lines of chilli and tequilla maybe?

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4 thoughts on “Flambe – Some Random Personal Notes

  1. Hm… brandy usually ignites with no problems whatsoever. I wouldn’t recommend trying to flambe with beer, champagne, wine or cider… I’d certainly think about adding them into the sauce but not to flame. Have you tried using a fire stick instead of a match? In my experience, it’s certainly not as sexy as tipping the pan into the flame, but it gets the job done with your hand very far away from the flame. A match can get dangerous if held too close to the pan…
    Keep blogging! I’m interested in reading more!

    • Hi Terri. That’s exactly what I meant about beer, wine etc it is for the sauce not the flame. I’ve never had a failure before. Hence I thought it might be worth a blog. The next day I tried again. Firing up my cigarette lighter over the steak nothing, but slightly to the side no problem.

      Thanks for the encouragement! There is plenty more in the pipeline.

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