Who is Crêpes Suzette, Anyway?
This lovely French dish is classy, sweet and sumptuous... but who is it named after?
"Crêpes" are the French version of "pancakes." They differ from what we generally recognize as pancakes in the States in that the batter is made without a raising agent, like baking soda or powder. This yields a thinner, flatter result; in fact, the French originally called them "galettes crêpes" or "flat cakes" before abbreviating the term. They can be served savory, with cheese, ham or vegetables, or sweet, with jams, fruit or chocolate. The Crêpes Suzette, (or Crêpe à l’Orange as we call the recipe on our menu!) is an example of the latter; it involves a decadent sauce made from sugar, butter, and the zest of an orange. Orange liqueur is commonly added to ignite a flambé, a flashy technique that sets a dish aflame as the alcohol burns off.
It's not clear where exactly this dish earned its name, or who inspired it. A more interesting tale comes from 1895 and involves Henri Charpentier, a young waiter at the Maitre at Monte Carlo's Café de Paris who, tasked with preparing dessert for the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom), caught the dish on fire. Rather than throw it out and start again, he tasted the dish and boldly presented it to the Prince, who enjoyed it down to the last drop. His lady companion, supposedly named Suzette, gave the delicious dish its name.
Whether or not this story holds any truth remains unclear, but the same dish began appearing on French restaurant menus and cookbook publications around the turn of the 19th century, like Escoffier's Guide Culinaire in 1903. In 1897, the French theatre Comédie-Française featured a young actress in the role of a maid serving crepes, which were provided by the chef-owner of Le Marivaux, who would flambé them to attract the attention of the audience. The young actress was Suzanne Reichenburg, who worked under the stage name Suzette.
No matter the origin story, it's plain as pancakes that Crêpes Suzette are delightfully rich, bright and satisfying. Whether you eat them for breakfast, brunch, or sometime after dinner is totally up to you; they're a fantastic treat no matter when you enjoy them!
What could make this dish sweeter? Getting everything you need to make Crêpe à l’Orange delivered right to you. Order yours by Sunday 1/20!