Thursday, January 27, 2005

Lightly Toasted

Light infuses my kitchen. Many windows invite billions and billions, well, OK, zillions of photons to stream through every second, except at night although a few rogue photons manage to find their way having traveled all the way from Alpha Centauri, or wherever.

But I digress.

Most of the light comes from my fantastic four-tube flourescent light fixture centered smack dab over my gas range. The tubes are 48" long, encased in a box built into the ceiling and protected by a thin, white, plastic diffuser which sends light streaming into every nook and cranny of the kitchen. (All these details are important, so pay attention.) A large kitchen with high ceilings provides a great environment, condusive to preparing grand and adventurous meals.

Did I mention I like fire? That, too.

Given the chance I'll flame anything, but mostly I like flaming beef, chicken, pork and occasionally shrimp. No, I don't flame armadillos; I prefer them boiled.

Brandy is my faviorite fuel for flaming. It delivers a clean taste, just a little sweet, but doesn't overpower the food like whiskey or kerosene. I've tried other libations like vodka, rum, gin and saki with mixed results. I wasn't keen on the aftertaste of vodka. Rum succeeds with fruit, like bananas, peaches and apples, and leaves a memorable taste. Gin was pretty nasty and saki just sat there and bubbled. I didn't really think that saki would ignite because the alcohol content is so low; about the same result as vermouth.

With all this experimentation and experience you'd think that I'd have a handle on this flambe business. You would be wrong. Occasionally I get one of these "Hey, y'all watch this!" notions and things usually go south from there.

Such was the case when I toasted the light.

It started as beef stroganoff and in retrospect the stroganoff turned out to be one of my better efforts. At one point during it's preparation I didn't think I was going to have enough to feed all the firemen, but since disaster was averted I never had to find out for sure.

I sauted the beef for my stroganoff in butter in my large, 12" saute pan that has two-inch sides. Some water cooked out of the beef and I waited for that to boil off before I added too much brandy. The operative words in that last sentence are "too much." How much is too much? Well, that's hard to say because I generally don't measure things when I cook. I approximate. Sometimes I 'proximate a little bloop and sometimes I 'proximate a couple of glugs.

This time I 'proximated two glugs and a glerk.

Mistake two was probably letting it sit on the stove a tad too long. What is a tad too long? Normally after a bloop or a glug I wait about two seconds for the brandy to start to boil, then I tip the pan so the gas flame ignites the vapors. There's a little foom noise and a flame shoots up about two feet to the Oh's and Ah's of any bystanders.

This time I waited the customary two seconds, then said "Hey, y'all watch this!" That added another two seconds. Now, it's a well known fact that here in Texas the final, resting words of most people who die, usually in a horrible way, are "Hey, y'all watch this!"

By the time my audience had turned around the brandy had created a huge, invisible vapor cloud which, when I tipped the pan, ignited with a terrific FOOOOMMMM, flames leaping eight feet vertically into the air, then several feet horizontally as they blasted across my 4-tube flourscent light fixture.

Instead of the Oh's and Ah's I usually hear, the crowd was shouting "Holy shit" and running for the front door. Cowards.

The flames died down in a few seconds. The smell of the brandy flambed meat filled the kitchen and completely masked the odor of burned hair. The light, on the other hand, was lightly toasted.

I'll tell you what happened to that later.

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