It was inevitable. How could I not flambé something?
What’s more dramatic than strolling mock-casually into the dining room with a platter of something on fire? Flames catch guests’ attention better than anything, with the exception of Brad Pitt showing up at your party with no clothes on.
I caution you: flaming cocktails are dangerous, because you can broil your nose if you’re too eager, and a trip to the emergency room is no fun. Flaming drinks turn out to be dull as well, since most if not all of the alcohol burns away. You create a beautiful display but a drink with no kick. What’s the point?
This is as good a time as any to announce an expansion of Cocktail Chatter’s mission statement. I still vow to help the mixologically needy, those wretched souls who panic when tending bar, but I’ll be writing a bit more about entertainment in general for Season 3. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I’ll be more like Martha Stewart, only gay and male and without the money and the rap sheet.
We opened the beach house a few weeks ago, and last Saturday, Dan and I and our housemates decided we should get better acquainted with our new neighbors. Sure, they don’t even nod when they walk past us on the boardwalk. But they’re all right out of central casting’s flat-stomach-round-rump department. So I succumbed to my housemates’ entreaties (some of which were downright embarrassing – picture Craig on the floor licking my toes), and we invited them.
I prepared something I’d thought up out of the blue: a combination of ceviche, sashimi and seared salmon. It would be sashimi like in that it wouldn’t be cooked. It would resemble ceviche in that it would be preserved in a liquid for a day or two before being served, and the liquid would perform the “cooking” function; mine would soak for a day in vodka. And it would be lightly seared by its own dramatic presentation: I would set my masterpiece ablaze.
I don’t mean to be sexist here, but to employ a well-used folk myth to describe my decision to create this specially for the boys next door: It took balls to try this dish for company without doing a dry run first. Had the dish been anything less than a complete success, we could kiss our hot neighbors’ asses on their way out the door and be the subjects of ridicule for the rest of the summer. But it worked. Try it the next time you’re having some folks over for drinks and dinner. Either serve Drunken Flaming Salmon with the drinks (with toothpicks) or as a first course (with knives and forks).
Drunken Flaming Salmon
1 salmon filet (not a steak!)
Absolut Premium vodka
Fennel seeds – 1 TBS
Salt-packed capers, unrinsed – 1 TBS
A day before serving, place the salmon in a container just large enough to hold it, cover with vodka, add fennel and capers, and seal it. Just before serving, remove salmon from vodka, slice sharply on the bias (leaving skin), and place on a fireproof serving plate along with fennel and capers. Heat ¼ cup vodka in a small saucepan until warm. Bring the salmon into the living or dining room, turn off the lights, return to the kitchen for the warm vodka, ignite it in front of your guests, pour it over the salmon. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.