My dear readers, I can’t believe, with my love of cooking and Downton Abbey, that it didn’t occur to me until now to put the two together. As we all settle down for another episode, it’s nice to have something to snack on, and let’s face it—regular old popcorn simply won’t do (what would Violet say?!) Instead, perhaps we should turn to this classic, elegant dessert, which also happens to be one of the few dishes actually referred to by name on the show: the Crêpe Suzette that Ethel so wanted to try.
Since this is also a bit of a history blog, here’s some background on this particular dish: it was allegedly created accidentally in 1895 by a fourteen-year-old assistant waiter named Henri Charpentier, who was preparing a dessert for the future King Edward VII and his companion. According to Charpentier himself (who is not a reliable narrator), the cordials near the chafing dish caught fire while he was preparing dessert, and he served it anyway. Edward loved it and even sent Charpentier gifts of a ring, panama hat, and cane as thanks. Other sources dispute the story (for one thing, it’s incredibly unlikely that such a young lad would be tasked with serving a VIP like the Prince.) and claim that Crêpe Suzette was named in honor of French actress Suzanne Reichenberg, who served crêpes on stage in one of her roles. The owner of Restaurant Marivaux, Monsieur Joseph, provided the crêpes and chose to flambe them in order to attract the audience’s attention and keep the food warm. The recipe was first published in 1896 by Oscar Tschirky, who only left out the flambeeing part.
So, there you are. A little history, and now, a little dessert (no Ethels allowed!)
(Recipe by Bobby Flay)
1 ½ c flour
½ c sugar
2 c milk
1T orange liqueur (Grand Marnier is traditional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 T orange zest
½ c clarified butter
1 ½ c freshly squeezed orange juice
2 T sugar
2 tsp grated orange zest
2 T orange liqueur
3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
Vanilla ice cream
Whisk flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, orange liqueur, vanilla, orange zest and flour until combined. If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining milk until a thin consistency is achieved. Cover and refrigerate batter for 30 minutes.
Heat an 8-inch crêpe pan or skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Cover the surface of the pan with clarified butter until it gets sizzling hot. Ladle some batter onto the middle of the crêpe pan and immediately start swirling the pan to distribute the batter over the surface. Cook for 45 to 60 seconds or until lightly golden brown. Flip over and cook the other side for 20 seconds. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.
In a large skillet over high heat, bring the orange juice to a boil. Add the sugar and zest, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the sugar has melted and the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the orange liqueur and orange sections. Set aside.
Working in batches, gently place a crêpe into the pan holding the orange juice and orange sections. Leave for 1 minute to absorb some juice. Using a narrow spatula, remove the crêpe to a warm serving plate. Repeat with remaining crêpes. Roll the crêpes into a cylinder. Spoon on some of the orange sections. Serve 2 crêpes per person. Top with vanilla ice cream and serve immediately