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)

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