In the 21st century, there’s an endless number of ways to prepare food. You can bake, fry, sauté, steam, boil, roast, toast, and flambé. Regardless of the possibilities, there’s still nothing quite like the taste of food cooked over a pure, scorching hot flame. Cooking food directly over a fire is as primitive as it gets, yet it’s easy to see why the well-known, and reliable cooking technique has survived for centuries. In fact, there are some dishes that are best served before the flame is even extinguished. So, to celebrate cooking in its purest form, here’s a look at some of the best foods that are best served en fuego!
This is dish is the perfect example of the flambé technique in action. By igniting a small amount of alcohol that is poured into a mixture of sliced bananas, vanilla creme, butter cinnamon dark rum, and banana liqueur, a giant fireball is created instantaneously. Not only does the combustion provide for a table-side performance, but it also caramelizes the fruit. There’s also a unique history behind this flaming dish; it originated in New Orleans at Brennan’s Restaurant in 1951. Bananas Foster was named after Robert Foster, the chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission and a friend of the restaurant owner. So if you think about it, Bananas Fosters should really be called Flaming Bananas and Foster’s Sauce!
This fireside favorite is just as simple as it is delicious. There’s nothing quite like a perfectly roasted, light brown marshmallow with a crispy outside and a warm, melted center. The best part about roasting your marshmallow over a campfire is watching the fire become one with the marshmallow as you pull it back. It’s an indescribable feeling to watch a small flame cling to a fluffy, white, sticky marshmallow as it begins to blacken and char; the shades of orange and blue spiral and wave for a split second before a sharp exhale quickly douses the flame. Followed by a puff of smoke and a lick of the fingers, the marshmallow is then delicately placed on top of graham crackers, cookies, or whatever you decide — just make sure to add a piece of chocolate to complete the melty goodness. You really can’t ever have enough s’mores.
The Italian liqueur Sambuca comes in a variety of colors and flavors. It can be served in shot form or on the rocks, when mixed with water. The Flaming Sambuca shot is like a real-life representation of the infamous “Flamin’ Moe” drink from The Simpsons, where Homer finds himself using Krusty’s Cough Syrup to make an alcoholic concoction. His bartender pal Moe steals the recipe, transforming Moe’s hole-in-the-wall bar into a scene from Cocktail overnight. Needless to say, there’s a special novelty about ordering and drinking a flaming beverage, as there will always be a story to tell.
Also known as “Baked Alaska,” this dessert rose to popularity in the mid 1860s at the famous Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York. Believe it or not, this delectable icon of sweetness was created to acknowledge the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867. Chef Charles Ranhofer called this concoction of ice cream, sponge cake, and meringue “Alaska, Florida,” due to it’s warm, whipped exterior and cool, creamy interior. Traditionally, Bombe Alaska is baked in an extremely hot oven, just long enough for the meringue to caramelize. Dark rum is then splashed over the top, then lit to create the table-side flambé experience.
This sweet favorite is one of the most recognized dishes that utilizes the flambé technique and is made with kirschwasser, a clear fruit-based brandy. Chef Auguste Escoffier created this special dish to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Typically, Cherries Jubilee is served with vanilla ice cream.
Flaming Cheese Saganaki
This small Greek appetizer is often forgotten on the list of flaming dishes. Saganaki refers to the Turkish term copper dish. It is usually made with a sheep’s milk or feta cheese, and is essentially a version of fried cheese. Usually it’s paired with a flambé performance once it arrives at the table and is then splashed with fresh squeezed lemon juice to subdue the erupting flames.
This rich and decadent dessert is traditionally served as a crêpe with beurre Suzette, caramelized sugar, butter sauce, tangerine or orange juice, zest, and Grand Marnier. What some people don’t know is, this French delicacy is allegedly a product of a royal disaster! Apparently, the man who invented Crêpe Suzette was just a teenager when he accidentally created this flaming dish. Chef Henri Charpentier — who actually became a personal chef for John D. Rockerfeller — was 14 when he accidentally set fire to a dish being served to the Prince of Wales.
The origin of this special, rum-based dessert is shrouded in secrecy, yet it’s probably one of the most famous Hungarian dessert recipes. More like a crêpe, Hungarian chef Karoly Gundel made his pancake with ground nuts, raisins and rum filling; flambeed and served with dark chocolate sauce. The original recipe to the Gundel Palacsinta is kept secret. The internationally well-known Gundel Restaurant in Budapest remains the only establishment that serves the original recipe of Gundel Palacsinta around the world.