his Is the Summer of Fruit Flambé


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There’s a time and place for summer baking. It’s usually on a lazy, rainy afternoon, when you can lose yourself in the long stretch of making an excruciatingly delicious blueberry pie. On other summer nights, however, when time is tight and temperatures—and spirits—run high, dreams of homemade pie should defer to a desert that is unfailingly easy and deceptively extravagant. Cue the any-fruit Foster. 

This riff borrows a page from the fine-dining tableside flagship of bananas Foster, invented in the 1950s for Owen Brennan’s restaurant, Vieux Carré, then continued at Brennan’s in New Orleans. Bananas foster needs little introduction. It’s a classic that’s managed to stay current thanks to a no-frills ingredient list and straightforward prep. The end result has a consistently high wow factor: Caramelized fruit set ablaze and draped over a mound of good vanilla ice-cream will never go out of style. Here we keep the process and the main players—butter, booze, and brown sugar—but swap the bananas for other sun-kissed fruits. Here’s how it comes together. 

Pick a fruit

When it comes to some fruit, typically texture and taste go hand in hand; the softer and riper the fruit, the sweeter it tends to be. When making a Foster, you want to choose fruit that is not overly ripe and not too soft so it can withstand the direct flames and doesn’t overpower with sweetness. Plums, blueberries, and peaches with their floral sweetness and gentle tang are best suited to this task. Also those first euphorically crisp corn kernels of the season make a standout addition to the Foster game. 

Choose the booze

Here comes the fun: A general rule of thumb when considering what alcohol to ignite is that if you don’t like the taste of it, neat or in a cocktail, it’s likely you won’t care too much for it when setting the fruit ablaze. You also want to choose something with a high ABV content—keep it around 40 percent—so that the liquor does what it is supposed to do: compound its latent flavors, while scorching the fruit and offering the most exciting edible entertainment imaginable. 

Keep safe

A great dinner party can come to a catastrophic halt by not following some simple but essential safety protocols. When Fostering fruit, keep all liquor bottles and easily flammable materials, like kitchen towels, as far away from the stove as possible. It’s a good idea to keep a fire blanket or large, heavy pot lid nearby to extinguish unruly flames. Also a long-handled stick lighter goes the distance in saving your eyebrows and your ego. The burner should always be off before adding the booze. And this is probably the most important lesson: Never pour the alcohol directly from the bottle into the pan, as trace droplets of alcohol from the bottle can be ignited and travel up the bottle and cause the whole thing to explode. There’s no reason to fear—with the right precautions, flambéing fruit will be your new back-pocket party trick. 

Your Foster formula (serves two) 

In a skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter. Then add 3 Tbsp. brown sugar and cook for 30 seconds, until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture slightly bubbles. Then add a pinch of salt and a heaping handful of fresh fruit like sliced peaches or plums, or blueberries, or go vegetal with corn. Stir the fruit into the butter sugar mixture for another 30–60 seconds until fully coated. Turn off heat. Pour in ¼ cup liquor, like Grand Marnier, St. Germain, whiskey, or dark rum. Using a long stick lighter, light the corner of the skillet. The flames will burn for about 30 seconds, then stop on their own. Serve over ice cream. And graciously receive your well-deserved applause. 

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