Flambé Catastrophe

I was told recently by someone that I don’t write very succinctly.  I’m not one that writes briefly or compactly, by any stretch.  So much appreciative to those who take the time to read through all my ramblings.
Here’s my attempt to be more succinct.
Working for a trail riding outfit south of Calgary, on the edge of the mountains I was preparing a meal for a number of guest who had just finished a week long wagon trip along the Great Divide.  I was barbecuing steak and trying to get a number of other food items ready while all the guests and staff loitered in the dining room and living room of the big ranch house.
Yukon Jack WhiskeyOne of the extras I liked to have for Steak Dinners was a mushroom and onion flambéed with whiskey—Yukon Jack if I remember correctly.  The first batch I whipped up in a big 16″ cast iron skillet, neatly sautéing the onions and mushrooms until translucent and then I poured some whiskey in and quickly tilted the heavy pan so that the flame from the burner of the gas stove would catch the alcohol on fire and voila!  A Flambé!
One of the guests was apparently watching the whole procedure from the dining room with interest and approached me as I prepared to do another batch.
She asked if I could teach her to do that–how to make flames of blue light dance all over the food.
I welcomed the chance to pass on some of my cooking knowledge and agreed to let her try her hand at flambé.
So she sautéed the mushrooms and onions while I coached her, and then she carefully poured the whiskey in and tried to tilt the pan to the flame.  Well I guess a summer’s worth of handling cast iron pans and throwing saddles on horses and packing wagons  and raising tents and hauling water in 5 gallon pails from streams and chopping wood for my cook stoves had given me much stronger forearms than she, for she couldn’t even budge the pan and the alcohol cooked off too quickly to catch fire.
So she asked me for help.

I said I would pour in the whiskey while she used to hands to tilt the pan to the flame.  I started pouring just as she pulled the pan off the burner.  The stream of golden whiskey hit the burner and it was like a gun shot off inside that room!

A light went out.
The flame of the burner vanished.
Every one of the 30 some odd people loitering about in the adjoining rooms, stopped dead still.  All chattering ceased.
“I think you better take over.”  My guest helper said from beside me, her face white, as she tried to disappear behind me.
“Dinner’s served!”  I smiled brightly, and waved to all the concerned faces that I had everything under control.  Everyone resumed their chatter as if it were an everyday occurrence to have a gunshot-like sound go off in that house. (which it pretty much nearly was, if I think about it.)  I shut the burner off the stove before the whole room filled with gas and neatly ushered my helper out so I could finish supper without blowing up the whole place.
I was a little nervous, because somehow that shot of whiskey exploded high up towards the ceiling and took out a light bulb.  I never did find it that night–or the rest of the season– even with my assistant cook helping me look for it.  I was praying it didn’t end up in someone’s food–though I checked everything before serving it.
You can say I was a little bit more wary about letting guests “help” me flambé after that.

I did end up finding that light bulb the following season when I was cleaning above the high cupboards in the kitchen. It was almost wholly intake, with only a small hole in it.

That Yukon Jack sure packs a wallop!

Okay I think I failed at being succinct.  It’s only a few words because it’s just a short story this time.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Cooking and Wrangling along the Great Divide in the Alberta Rockies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Flambé Catastrophe

  1. Beth Majak says:

    I love your stories, succinct or not! I probably would’ve wet my pants if that had happened to me! No wait, on second thought, that would never have happened to me because I would never think of trying anything like that!

    • Jake says:

      It was a pretty spectacular fireball of light and sound that’s for sure. You should try flambe sometime, though, it’s super easy and lots of fun, or better yet, get one of your adventurous boys to do it.

  2. Karen says:

    Great story! got a good chuckle, maybe even a guffaw, picturing the scene

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