7.04.2015

Culinary Pyromania

I mentioned Crêpes Suzette once, in a post about dishes named for famous - or not-so-famous - people.

The origins are disputed. One story tells of an assistant waiter at Le Maître at Monte Carlo de Paris. According to his account, he accidentally set the dish aflame, but the Prince liked it, and asked its name: "Crêpes Princesse," the waiter said. To which the Prince replied that it should be named for the young and beautiful French girl, Suzette, at his table.

The other version is that it is named for Suzanne Reichenberg, a French actress in the Comédie Francaise, who worked under the nom de théâtre Suzette. In a particular show, she had to make crêpes on stage, and Monsieur Joseph, owner of Restaurant Marivaux, provided the crêpes. He opted to flambé them to attract the attention of the audience. (Source: the actual Wikipedia, not Markipedia...)

But when did you first hear of this wonderful dish, always prepared table-side?

For me, it was the theme song from The Patty Duke Show. And it referred to her cousin, Cathy, who "adores a minuet, the Ballet Russe and Crêpes Suzette," while "Patty love to Rock n' Roll, a hot dog makes her lose control..."


I never had them in a restaurant - or at home - until Mark and I were at dinner for our 20th anniversary. We went to Le Rendezvous, a very traditional French restaurant here in Tucson. And I have to say, theirs were way too sweet for us, and way too buttery.

Yeah, it's hard to believe I ever uttered/typed those words, but there you have it.

As is often the case when I am disappointed in a restaurant dish, I take things into my own hands and kitchen.

Wikipedia tells us that the traditional cordials used for Crêpes Suzette are Grand Marnier or orange Curaçao. I went astray and opted to use cognac. And less sugar and less butter. 

I was not disappointed. I fact, I love this dessert now. And it pairs so well with an eau de vie - one of my favorites is from Domaines Ott: Vieux Marc Rosé. You can read about it HERE, and my review and pairing notes are also on the Provence WineZine.

A note about the pyrotechnics... Some alcohols flame more than others. Just like people. Be very careful. Cognac really flares up and actually hit our ceiling. Next time I might cook the alcohol off a bit more before flambéing.

By the way, the flambéing is important to caramelize the sugars properly, so don't skip it. Just be careful. I also suggest using a stick lighter or long match, rather than trying to catch a flame from your gas burner. For a novice, that is just a conflagration waiting to happen.

Happy torching!

~ David

Crêpes Suzette

3/4 cup flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 cup cold water
2 tablespoons light oil

1 teaspoon melted butter, for the pan
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 orange, juiced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup Cognac

Combine the flour, eggs, 1/4 cup of the milk, the tablespoon of melted butter, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Add the remaining milk, the cold water, and the oil. Stir well.

Heat a 7-inch nonstick skillet and butter it lightly (for the first crêpe only) with the teaspoon of butter. Pour about 3 tablespoons of the batter into one side of the skillet and immediately tilt the skillet, shaking it at the same time, to make it coat the entire bottom of the pan. Cook over medium high heat for about 30-45 seconds, until lightly browned. To flip, lift up an edge of the crêpe with your fingers or a fork, grab it between your thumb and forefinger and turn it over. Cook for about 15-30 seconds on the other side and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the crêpes golden side up (you should have 9). These may be made in advance.

For the sauce, place the butter, sugar, zest, and juice in a skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce begins to caramelize, about 4 minutes; the foaming will stop, and large, glossy bubbles will appear. Pour in the Cognac and carefully ignite with a long match. While the alcohol burns off, fold the crêpes into quarters, golden side out, to create a fan shape. Dip into the orange butter sauce and serve 3 per person, with a couple of spoonfuls of sauce. If there is too much sauce, resist the temptation use it up; smothering the crepes is not an improvement. Eat it later when no one is looking.

Serves 3. (Make more crêpes to serve more)

37 comments:

  1. A perfect dessert for Bastille Day...oh la la....

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    1. True, Jill - and ironic that it posted on the 4th of July instead of the 14th!!

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  2. I do love a bit of flame action now and again. I think I was an early teen when I first heard of crêpes suzette, and was taught how to make it in my first year of cooking college. I still remember a fellow student singed her eyebrows!

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  3. I love this post - the gorgeous plate you have served the crepes on and the way you have linked it in to Patty Duke!! really cool

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    1. Thanks, Paola! The elegance of the plate and link to Payy Duke are almost a contradiction, aren't they? But it was fun remember that is where I first heard of them!

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  4. Beautiful! I'm with you - there's no reason for this dish to be too sweet or greasy. yuck. But your look perfect!

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    1. Mimi - I am all for butter and sugar (they are two of the five major food groups, after all...) but this dish needs subtlety! Thanks for your kind comment!

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  5. David - Great food history lesson. Ed loves anything he can light on fire. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Have you gotten Ed a blow torch for his birthday yet, Nicole? Sounds like it coul deb beneficial to you, too!

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  6. An interesting post, David... I have not had these for years! xx

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    1. Maybe you need to create a good GF crêpe, Liz! That would be a great thing for everyone!

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  7. My mother called any kind of sweet Crêpes (flame or no) Crêpes Suzette and she'd be pleased with yours. GREG

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    1. Thanks, Greg! I would happily make them for your mother!

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  8. Mmmmm, love crepes! Can't do the suzettes because of the alcohol but I've had other non boozy ones. There's no reason for anything to be too sweet or too greasy, and I find many restaurants really over do it.
    On a different note, I was getting worried, hadn't heard from you last week or on FB. I figured you were travelling and/or busy. Hope you're well. xx

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    1. Hi Nazneen! This dish would be great without the alcohol! Just getting a good, not-too-sweet orange sauce is what it needs!

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  9. I can confirm that this recipe is delicious. Just a few days ago I ordered them in Lourmarin ( small village in Provence) and while they were very good, they were not as tasty aa yours at all! I love the pairing with the Domaine Ott Marc, too! Finally, loved the Patty Duke clip!

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    1. Susan - I hate to be immodest (but here goes...) . I like my version best, too! The Patty Duke clip brought back lots of memories!

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  10. perfect way to starting a day!!!
    lovin your photographs, very inspirational...

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    1. Thanks, Dedy! I'd use these to start or end my day! Even in the middle!

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  11. When i see your post come across my email and read the title I am always excited about what you are going to blog about next. Your never quite sure until you see the photos and start reading the text. Great writing. These look delicious!

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    1. Thanks, Cheri! I have a lot of fun with the titles - and hope they do entice (rather than turn away) readers! My highest readership from any post was, I think, due to the title: A French Tart... I have a feeling many people found me for all the wrong reasons! :)

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  12. A fitting post for 4th of July!

    I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have not tried Crepes Suzette - although I am a huge fan of crepes. You have made this look like a lot of fun. I with have to give this a whirl at some point - with a fire extinguisher nearby!

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    1. The fire extinguisher is definitely a good idea if you have low ceilings!

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  13. I remember the old Patty Duke show song! I first remember Crepes Suzette discussed in French classes, but despite eating crepes in many forms, don't think I've ever had them. Fun post!

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    1. Thanks, Inger! I'm glad someone else remembers the Patty Duke Show! You should try the Crêpes Suzette, especially if you are a crêpe fan!

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  14. I think I had these when I was a little girl in Scotland as my mother would make them, but haven't had them since! What a sin!

    OMG, I cannot believe the flames hit your ceiling! That must have been a scary moment! You've made me want these now, but I have so much to do, how can I justify kitchen pyrotechnics? ;)

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    1. You can always justify pyrotechnics, Christine!

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  15. It has been way to many years since I have had this lovely dessert. I agree with you that desserts at restaurants can definitely be way to sweet…yours sounds wonderful.

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    1. Thanks, Karen - I think restaurant desserts, in general, are too sweet! Hope all is going well with the house sale!

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  16. Dad makes amazing crepes suzette, but hasn't made any in years. I'm going to give him your recipe as a subtle suggestion.
    YUM!! xo

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    1. He definitely needs a hint, Colette! Hope you can convince him soon!

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  17. I have never had Crêpes Suzettes. They look and sound sublime.
    The flames actually hit the ceiling!?!! Yikes! Love all your photos as usual, especially the picture of the butter, sugar, and zest!

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    1. I should say that the ceiling over our stove is s bit lower than average but, yes, they hit the ceiling! You should try them, Cathleen! And thanks for the nice compliment on the photos!

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  18. I remember eating those when I was a child: French restaurants were all the rage in NY at the time; I also seem to remember my mother making them at home sometimes, although that seems unlikely somehow... must enquire. Haven't had them since, but I'm sure I would probably be much more excited about those flavors now then when I was a child! Yours are beautiful.

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    1. Thanks, Fiona. I hope you get to try them!

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  19. Your posts just get more and more gorgeous, David! The zest, the flame, it's all just so dramatic and stunning.

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    1. You are so sweet, Valentina! I am definitely having fun!

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