Doing a little cognac flaming tonight.. in the making of a sauce.
It is divine. A rich, cool weather favourite that give that little something extra to steak and potatoes and whatever your veg of choice may be.. as follows:
In a little butter and olive oil, sauté shallots with a few crushed green peppercorns until soft. Turn off flame (if using a gas burner) and add some cognac.. only a tablespoon or two. Working quickly, and at arms length, ignite with a long match or barbeque lighter. When flame burns itself out, add some stock and cream or butter and stir to combine. Let the mixture bubble slightly and thicken, but not too much and season to taste. A nice pan sauce for grilled steak. I also added some sautéed wild mushrooms. You can do this in the pan you've seared the steaks in or on its own.
The flavours of flambéed liquors can add a new dimension to food. It's no secret, Julia knew what she was doing.. be it cognac, sambuca, rum, or brandy.. in sauces, Crepes Suzette, pan deglazing or a showstopping flaming Baked Alaska. Just remember: You are not on the cooking channel and no one will know that you didn't attempt the deft tilt of wrist to ignite it off the gas burner. They will, however, remember, the moron in Flat X that was the reason for their interrupted evening due to an activated fire alarm, evacuation and or/incineration of the building. On that note..
5 Things to do when flaming cognac (or other liquors) and how not to burn down the kitchen:
5) Only do so if you are equipped with the following: preferably an extractor fan (or range hood) but definitely a fire estinguisher AND the knowledge to use the latter should things go totally pear-shaped.. A pan lid or baking soda will suffice to smother minor incidents. Should a little flame manage to get on the stove-top or other non-flammable surface, don't go overboard, it will burn itself out in only a moment.
4) Have an uncluttered workspace. All the less to catch fire.
3) Pour a small amount of cognac from bottle to another container, measuring cup or similar before adding to pan. Cognac is highly flammable, limit the source.
2) I wasn't going to mention this.. hoping I didn't have to, but in light of the (real or not) Stella awards.. here goes. Keep the pan at arms length. Do not place your face or hand anywhere near the pan interior to 'make sure' it catches fire. Cognac is about 40% alcohol/volume. There will be no doubt.
1) Buy a good cognac. Not so nice that you need to take a month to pay for it but decent enough that you would drink it on its own. Remember it is just like cooking with wine, the flavours are concentrated by this process so use something you would definitely drink.
Take care and enjoy!