The Flambé Technique And 10 Popular Dishes That Use It
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The word flambé means "flaming" or "flamed" in French. The food item meant to be flambéd is topped with liquor—usually rum, brandy or cognac—and ignited. The vapour of the alcohol burns with a blue flame, giving the dish a light flavour of the liquor being used. The technique is used by chefs to get rid of the raw, lingering flavour of alcohol and also for theatrics at the table.

Ideally, liquor with a high alcohol content should be used to flame food; those with a higher proof will catch fire more readily. Beer and wine is not used for this purpose. 80-proof is considered the ideal choice for flambé. Alcohol above 120-proof is highly flammable and can be dangerous. The best alcoholic beverages for flambéing include dark rum, brandy, bourbon, amaretto, cointreau and triple sec. 

Ten popular dishes that use the flambé technique are:

Crêpes suzette 

A French dessert, the sauce for which is made with butter, caramelised sugar, orange juice and orange liqueur, crêpes suzette have a toasty flavour. 

Bananas foster 

Bananas foster uses bananas and vanilla ice cream. The bananas are sautéed in a sauce made with sugar, rum, banana liqueur and cinnamon. 

Christmas pudding 

A traditional British dessert that uses dried fruits, nuts, and spices, Christmas pudding may also use a flambéd topping of rum, brandy or whiskey.

Coq au vin 

Coq au vin is made by braising chicken with wine, lardons, and mushrooms. It can be flambéd with cognac for dramatic flair. 

Chicken suprême

Chef Gordon Ramsay’s version of chicken suprême includes a moist chicken breast, finished off with a brandy flambé.

Lobster l'américaine 

Lobster is simmered in a tomato sauce , and then flamed in cognac to create this lavish dish that is popular in Paris.

Bombe Alaska

Also called baked Alaska, this is a dessert made with ice cream and cake, topped with meringue that has been flambéd. 

Cherries jubilee 

A dessert sauce from the late 1800s, cherries jubilee is made with cherries and liqueur that has been flambéd. It is usually served over vanilla ice cream.

Fish flambé 

For this dish, a whole fish is roasted with fennel and then flambéd with a Pernod beverage to give it an anise flavour.

Steak Diane 

A dish made with pan-fried beefsteak, steak Diane is served with a sauce made with seasoned juices from the pan. Brand or sherry are used to flambé it.