CRÊPES SUZETTEIn 1827 the first Mardi Gras celebration was held in New Orleans and still continues lavishly to this day. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday and signifies the day before Ash Wednesday in the Christian Church. Although we see it as the beginning of Lent it was never really a church festival but instead it related to the pagan celebration of the dawn of spring and burial of winter. As such, it was the opportunity for wild celebrations similar to those we see in New Orleans.
In the Russian Orthodox church it is known as 'Maslenitsa" from the word butter and for the week prior to Ash Wednesday the foods prepared were rich in butter and dairy foods all of which were forbidden for the entire period of Lent.
In England it is known as 'Shrove Tuesday' or Pancake Day when we use up the eggs and butter by making our pancakes, which are thin like French crêpes not thick and fluffy American pancakes. Most mothers are found standing at the stove making a steady supply of pancakes which are served with fresh lemon juice and sugar and they are unable to keep up with the demand. This might be why Pancake Day is the only time these pancakes are made. Throughout England there are televised pancake races where Adults can be found, many in fancy dress, running a 100 yard dash with a pancake pan containing a pancake to see who can finish the race without losing the pancake. Competition is fierce to see who can toss the pancake from the pan and catch it the right side up without dropping it. Many are the kitchens whose ceilings have been decorated by a very enthusiastically tossed pancake.
Crêpes Suzette are said to have been created in the 1890's in Monte Carlo for the Prince of Wales who was lunching with friends, all gentlemen except for one little girl called Suzette. The crêpes were named for Suzette.
The original recipe would have a very rich batter of eggs and flour that needs to rest for about 2 hours. This batter can be used immediately. The filling used to be made by rubbing cubes of sugar over the orange to absorb the orange oil. It would also include a far greater quantity of liqueur both in the batter, the filling and the liqueur for flaming. Personally, I find it too much. This dish can be made a day in advance for a party and reheated. The taste is phenomenal.
If orange is not your thing, then try sliced bananas or fresh pineapple fried in butter and brown sugar and flamed with rum or coconut liqueur. Or raspberry liqueur or kirsch with fresh raspberries. One student recommended Absolut Citron Vodka instead of orange. Whatever you fancy does you good.
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Method1. In a blender, place all ingredients for batter and blend for 10 seconds.
2. Heat a non stick omelet pan or frying pan (approx 7" wide across flat bottom) over a medium heat until drops of water splashed onto pan 'dance' or 'skitter' around.
3. Brush pan with a little butter and pour in about 2-3 tbsp of batter. Rotate the pan so that the batter evenly and thinly covers just the base of the pan and try not to get batter on sides of pan. Fill in any holes with more batter. Use either a ladle or a small measuring cup that contains just enough batter for your pan. Don't worry if the first one or two pancakes look messy, you'll get better with practice and they still taste good. Known as the chefs perks in England to have the first pancakes from the pan.
4. Cook until the edges start browning and the pancake is looking drier. (30 seconds- 1minute depending on size of crepe) Lift the outside edge and check to see if the pancake is golden brown. Flip the pancake and let cook for another 10 seconds when this side will have a 'spotty' appearance. Flip the pancake out onto a plate. Continue cooking pancakes with rest of batter.
5. Cream softened butter with orange rind and sugar and slowly add orange juice and orange liqueur.
6. Divide filling between cooked pancakes, fold in half with best side outside, and half again to make a fan shape.
7. Heat more of orange butter in non stick pan used for making pancakes, add pancakes and gently fry to reheat.
8. Once hot, pour brandy and orange liqueur into pan and flambé. Allow flames to die down and serve with syrup divided amongst pancakes.
9. Option: Arrange pancakes in a single layer in an attractive oven proof dish, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Place in a preheated 350* oven for 15 minutes until sauce is visibly bubbling from pancakes.
10. Pour on warmed liqueurs and ignite in front of guests.
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Oonagh Williams, proprietor of Royal Temptations, has a Culinary Arts degree, offers catering from 6-60 people, teaches a variety of classes in International Cooking, and makes regular appearances on WMUR ABC Channel 9's Cooks' Corner. You can contact Oonagh at 603-424-6412.