A classic French dessert, Crepes Suzette is one of the most famous pastry dishes in the world. Culinary arts program students are often graded on their ability to get the famous flambe just right. While many know the dish by name, few are familiar with the legend of its invention.
In 1895, 14-year-old Henri Charpentier was an assistant waiter at Cafe de Paris in the sunny resort town of Monte Carlo. The small city on the Mediterranean coast has a reputation for being a popular destination for foreign dignitaries and world leaders. At the time Charpentier was working at Cafe de Paris, the Prince of Wales made a visit to the restaurant with a host of attendants. The Prince would go on to become King Edward VII of England, but it was Charpentier who would go on to leave a lasting impression on French cuisine.
While preparing crepes for the young royal, Charpentier began building a sauce made of butter, sugar, orange zest and various liqueurs. As he began to heat the sauce in a chafing dish, the concoction spontaneously erupted into flame. This accident lead to one of the greatest culinary discoveries in the world of French pastries. The fire had actually melded the flavors of the sauce together perfectly, and thus, Charpentier decided to serve the crepes to the Prince. The dish was so popular that the Prince claimed it should be named after a young girl in his entourage, Suzette. Accounts vary on who exactly this Suzette was, with theories ranging from a daughter of the Prince’s host to one of the royal’s paramours. Whoever she was, her name is now attached to what may be the most famous crepe dish in the world.
Making your own Crepes Suzette requires careful attention. You will need to add the minced rind of two oranges to a mixture of 16 tablespoons of butter and 10 tablespoons of sugar. Add to this the juice of three oranges, two tablespoons of Cointreau, one tablespoon of kirsch and one tablespoon of orange flower water. Melt this mixture in a pan, add your crepes, and then remove from heat. Top off the pan with 5 tablespoons of cognac and 5 tablespoons of Cointreau. Ignite the liqueurs with a long handled match and then transfer to plates and serve immediately while still hot.