We all have those friends. You know the kind. The ones with impecible taste and the ability to pull off a gourmet meal and make it look easy. Micheal is my friend of over 20 years and he is one of those people. He has good taste and he’s a really good cook too. When we met, we were both spending the summer camping in travel trailers in Ogunquit, Maine. Ogunquit mean “beautiful place by the sea” and good taste is abundant in this town.
We spent many weekends experimenting with new recipes and enjoying meals with friends. The fact that we were cooking in dinky little camper kitchens never seemed to dampen our enthusiasm for emulating Julia Child. We had champagne taste on a beer budget and we had FUN making good food with good friends!
One weekend, Micheal decided to cook a meal for a nice young fellow he had met recently. Meaning to duly impress the lad, Micheal bought all of the ingredients for an exquisite traditional Maine meal. Lobster Flambe.
I was sitting on my deck quietly reading a book when I heard Michael call over to me. “Barbara, can you flambe lobster in a non-stick pan?” I pondered the question for a moment. Frankly, at the time, I couldn’t have afforded to flambe lobster in any pan, but I guess that was not the point. Putting aside all of the sarcastic quips that were running through my head, I responded simply, “Sure, I don’t know why not.”
“Okay, thanks”, Micheal responded, disappearing into the camper again. He was clearly on a mission to create a memorable meal. The object of his attention arrived shortly, waved and also disappeared inside. I sat on my deck envisioning the lovingly prepared delicacy that they would soon enjoy over a fine bottle of wine……….the opening to a nice evening.
Suddenly, the door of Micheal’s Love Shack flew open banging flat against the metal of the camper with a metallic bang that drew the attention of everyone around including those resting quietly in the cemetery next door. I looked up just in time to see Michael fly through the air in a pose from Swan Lake with the non-stick pan extended far in front of him. A firestorm rose from the pan high into the air, kissing the canvas of the camper’s awning. Michael’s feet never touched the steps, he just levitated through the air and landed at a dead run over to the fire pit. I watched in both wonder and horror as he threw about $100.00 worth of Flambeing (is that a word?) crustaceon into the dirt.
Evidently when Michael reached the actual step where alcohol meets sizzling pan, a giant wall of flame rose up like a David Copperfield magic trick. I think it is called tornado of fire and people pay big money for tickets to see this spectacle. Michael did it for free while we all watched that day! Fancy French waiters can pull off this culinary trick to impress you at fancy French restaurants, but it was never meant to be executed in the confines of a small camper.
When the vodka was added to the pan and the match lit things turned tragic, the alcohol had ignited in a flare that instantly reached Biblical proportions, ending all hope of a romantic evening. The good news is that the camper did not burn down in a inferno of gourmet spices and expensive lobster. The bad news is that Michael’s dear friends have never let him forget this story.
If you must try this at home, here is a link to a very good article from Bon Appetit magazine about another cook inspired to try his luck with lobster. It includes the recipe and instructions too! Good luck to you and, if you get stuck, don’t call Michael!