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Burn Baby Burn
by Bob Blumer
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 4.2


Nothing demonstrates your prowess in the kitchen and ignites a passionate end to a romantic homemade dinner like a controlled four-alarm blaze.

It's always impressive to see flames leap out of a pan and lick the ceiling of a restaurant kitchen. But for some reason, most of us aren't keen on willfully setting fires on our own stoves. Too bad. The pyrotechnics aren't just for show. Burning alcohol intensifies the inherent flavors of whatever's in the pan. Each individual spirit imparts its own characteristics to food when set alight -- which is why some natural pairings have become classics. More importantly, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, nothing demonstrates your prowess in the kitchen and ignites a passionate end to a romantic homemade dinner like a controlled four-alarm blaze. If you want to hedge your bet, borrow a full set of fireman's regalia. No warm-blooded Homo sapiens can resist the temptation of a man (or woman) in a uniform -- especially one who's confidently handling a sizzling pan of succulent caramelized fruit.

Flambeing with confidence is easier than it looks. Read the following fire regulations, then pour one to two ounces of your chosen hooch into a pan of food, let it heat up for about five seconds, then torch it. The flames should jump about two feet, then burn out after about 10 seconds (along with most of the alcohol content). There are many traditional flambeed dishes, but none is as simple as dessert. Here are two of my favorites that're more than just a flash in the pan.

fire regulations

clear the decks To keep the flames from burning down the joint, clear the area of any flammable objects, and move your fire extinguisher within easy reach.

cap it If you have big rock-star hair, wear a hat.

reduce it Too much liquid in the pan will dilute the alcohol and prevent it from igniting. Simmer contents until no more than two to three tablespoons remain before adding alcohol.

keep your distance If you have a gas stove, beware that spattering particles may cause the alcohol to ignite prematurely.

put a lid on it Keep a lid within easy reach. If the flames burn too high, or for more than 10 seconds, slap on a lid.

R E C I P E S

mango-go
(serves 2)

Mangos are the love child of the fruit kingdom. Their fragrant orange flesh is juicy and exotically sweet. This one's guaranteed to get the mojo going.

2 ripe mangos. Use ripe mangos. (The smell test is the most reliable way of measuring ripeness.)
2 T butter
3 T granulated sugar
2 oz. Grand Marnier
1 pint vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

One Peel and pit mangos. Cut flesh into 1/2 inch cubes.

Two Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add mango and stir occasionally for four minutes.

Three Add one tablespoon of sugar and stir for one minute, or until it's dissolved. Repeat process one tablespoon at a time with remaining sugar.

Four Pour in Grand Marnier. Let it heat five seconds. Then ignite.

Five After flames burn out, serve immediately over individual scoops of ice cream.

blazing bananas
(serves 2)

The USDA recommends two to four servings of fresh fruit a day. How you eat it is your business.

3 T granulated sugar
2 T butter
2 ripe (but not overripe and mushy) bananas, peeled and sliced (as if slicing into a bowl of cereal)
2 oz. dark rum
1 pint vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

One Add sugar to a dry saute pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally for five minutes, or until sugar has melted and turned into a smooth golden liquid.

Two Remove from heat. Stir in butter until it's melted and blended with the sugar.

Three Return pan to heat. Add bananas to the liquid and stir five minutes, or until they're soft and lightly browned.

Four Pour in rum. Let it heat five seconds. Then ignite.

Five After flames burn out, serve immediately over individual scoops of ice cream.

the fine print If you play with fire (literally or figuratively) there's always the possibility of burning the joint down. All of the preceding methods have worked for me. But remember: I'm a professional culinary adventurist. Proceed at your own risk. Take proper precautions. And be forewarned: I have no liability insurance.
Music To Flambe By

The Flaming Lips -- Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. Noise-pop paradise.

The Flamin' Groovies -- Teenage Head. Teen angst from the legendary San Francisco band.

Combustible Edison -- I, Swinger. The first record from the Cocktail Nation's Commanders in Chief.

Talking Heads -- Speaking In Tongues. Featuring "Burning Down The House."

Sylvester -- 12x12: The Sylvester Collection. A disco inferno.

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