Sunday, 17 November 2013

'Victims Of Their Own Success' #4 (in a series): Crepes Suzette

No self-respecting restaurant in 1970's London would dare send out the dessert trolley without a Bunsen burner. Atop the flickering blue/yellow flame would be a pan with a mustachioed waiter in black suit and a white apron tending to the contents.

In most cases those contents would comprise of a couple of folded pancakes nestled in a sickly sweet lemon and sugar syrup, which would then be flambeed with a healthy dose of Grand Marnier or Cointreau. With a hearty 'Voila!', the dish would be presented to the diner, suitably impressed and silently grateful that he still possesses eyebrows.

What has become of tableside culinary theatre, at one time a staple of fine dining establishments, and now consigned to the waste bin of bourgeois restaurant life, along with finger bowls and After Eight mints?

I blame Benihana, and carvery-style pubs, and the 'Mongolian barbecue' - all of them a triumph of staff pissing-about with your food, when all you really want is to be served in a non-interactive, silent and efficient manner. But with the Crepes Suzette, there really is no other way to serve it than in full view of the customer. How else are you going to insist that the dish is anything more than warm pancakes in marmalade?

I'm only joking, this 1970's classic is nothing less than delicious. I made it this weekend at Mrs Ribeye Sr.'s house (me old mum, of course) and the results were spectacular. Soft pancakes in a sharp yet sweet syrup, with backnotes of liqueur and the added bonus of a light show as it is prepared. Who can resist its not-so-subtle charms?

I say 'Bring back the Suzette!'. Of course, this will mean bringing back dessert trollies and immaculate waiters (no bad thing), but it also may mean the return of the waiters' fake French accent and Freddie Mercury moustache (a very bad thing).

Cost wise, these pancakes would probably have set you back a shilling or two in the old days. Or even 'a farthing and sixpence, two guineas and a crown', or something like that. Today, £1 per serving in new money is all.

Serves 2


100g caster sugar
50ml lemon juice
4 pre-made crepe-style pancakes (you can make your own, but for this dish it makes no difference, so why bother?)
50ml Grand Marnier or Cointreau

In a medium-hot pan, melt the sugar and lemon juice until you have a smooth syrup. Fold the pancakes into quarters and turn the packages in the syrup until well-coated. Add the liqueur and flambee either with a match or by dropping the edge of the pan so that the contents are exposed to the hob flame. Let the flames subside, and serve the dish straight away, by spooning the syrup over the pancakes.

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