Flambé (also spelled flambe; pronEng|flɒmˈbeɪ) is a
cookingprocedure in which alcohol( ethanol) is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames. The word means "flamed" in French (thus, in French, "flambé" is a past participle; the verb is "flamber").
It is typically done to create an impressive visual presentation at a dramatic point in the preparation of a meal. The flames result from the
combustionof the flammable alcohol, which is quickly consumed, subsequently extinguishing the flames.
Although the practice of igniting food for show can be traced to the
Moorsin the 14th century, modern flambéing was discovered in Monte Carloin 1895, when Henri Carpentier, a waiter, accidentally set fire to a pan of crêpes he was preparing for the future Edward VII of the United Kingdom. He discovered that burning the sauce affected its flavor in a way that he could not have anticipated.
Simply lighting food on fire is not flambéing in and of itself. Igniting a sauce with alcohol in the pan changes the chemistry of the food. Because alcohol boils at 78 °C (172 °F), water boils at 100 °C (212 °F) and
sugarcaramelizes at 160 °C (320 °F), ignition of all these ingredients combined results in a complex chemical reaction, especially as the surface of the burning alcohol exceeds 240 °C (500 °F ). However, because taste is a very subjective sense, not everyone can discern a change in flavor as a result of flambéing. Some claim that because the flame is above the food and since hot gases rise, it cannot significantly affect the flavor, although in an informal taste testconducted by the " Los Angeles Times" of two batches of caramelized apples (one flambéed and one simmered), one tester declared the "flambéed dish was for adults, the other for kids."cite news |publisher=Los Angeles Times |date=2005-12-28 |author=Scattergood, Amy |title=Let the Sparks Fly]
Because of their high alcohol content, in the United States, many low end restaurants flambé with liquors such as Everclear or 151. However, these spirits are highly flammable and are considered much too dangerous by other restaurants.
Wines and beers have too little alcohol and will not flambé. Rum, cognac, or other flavorful liqueurs that are about 80 USA proof (40% alcohol) are considered ideal. Cinnamon, which is ground from tree bark, is sometimes added not only for flavor, but for show as the powder ignites when added.
For safety reasons, it is recommended that alcohol never be added to a pan on a burner, and that the cook use a long fireplace match.
An example of the process was seen on the first episode of the second season of Bravo's cooking-challenge reality series
Top Chef, when the chefs were challenged to create a flambe dish.
Another example was seen on the first episode of the fourth season of
FOX's reality series Hell's Kitchen, where some chefs served flambes tableside.
Examples of popular flambé dishes include:
* Bombe Alaska
* [http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/blflambe.htm List of Flambé recipes]
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