This Valentine’s Day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go big. I was chefing a Valentine’s Day dinner/birthday and thought, no more snickering and bahumbugging hearts and chocolates and candies and flowers. Romantic love is such a small fraction of what love means.
So this year, Valentine’s Day was about appreciating my family, my friends, my clients and my work. I had the most fun last Friday making up an amazing Baked Alaska. With suggestions on assembly and structure from my very special best friend, chef Angela Pinkerton, I came up with my own version of this classic ice cream layer cake frosted with glossy peaks of Swiss meringue. If you’ve never had one, Baked Alaska can either get quickly baked, as the name suggests, to give it that toasty finish, or you can light the thing on fire. Guess which option I chose?
It was my first go at Baked Alaska and I thought, “These people are about to get their minds blown or I’ll light the house on fire and get fired.” So I went about layering passion fruit and chocolate, bright fuschia raspberry sorbet (because, alas, it was Valentine’s Day), and last but not least, a big, fluffy pink marshmallow blanket to cover it all up. All the while, I was hemming and hawing and getting nervous about how to light it on fire. After hours of making the darn thing, I didn’t want to go messing it up at the very end.
After four courses, the time had come. I stood in front of the guests with a pan of framboise in one hand and a lit match in the other. Strike, nothing. Strike, nothing. I tried lighting the pan on fire three times, but it didn’t catch. Shoot! It worked in the kitchen. I was on stage and everyone was videtaping on their iPhones, and no fire! Totally deflating. So I went into the kitchen where I’d been practicing earlier and tried it again. It worked! I walked into the living room, carefully carrying a flaming pan of alcohol (did I mention how klutzy I am?) and started ladling the flames over the Alaska.