It's almost Valentine's Day, and I'm pulling a little round table into our library and positioning it in front of the fireplace. We will celebrate as always, at home in front of a cozy fire, enjoying a dinnerof a couple of steaks with all the trimmings. For dessert, our favorite is cherries jubilee.
Cherries jubilee reminds me of a simmering romance. The melting of a cold heart was sparked by a set of copper pots hanging in a miniature kitchen owned by the man I would marry. One of the pots was specially designed for this French dessert classic.
My husband has never been a cook. He can toast in a toaster, boil water for brewing tea, put cereal in a bowl, cut up bananas and strawberries and heat soup if he's hungry while I'm away from home.
Imagine my shock and awe the first time I visited his home in Enid and saw a set of copper pans in a kitchen so tiny you couldn't open the refrigerator and the oven door at the same time. That lovely set of copper pans just didn't fit. I had dated several men who were pretty good cooks, but none had such a fine set of pans. So with my curiosity aroused, our relationship grew.
Those copper pans were never used except for a small saucepan he warmed soup in. I've added to the pan collection over the years and kept them all polished. Now they hang ready to use in our much larger kitchen.
They serve as a reminder for us that romance needs to be tended, you might even say “polished,” in order to shine through the years. Not every night can be cherries jubilee, so it's a good idea to enjoy it when you can.
These days I still make cherries jubilee as I did the first time — shortcut fashion using canned cherry pie filling mixed with cherry brandy. Occasionally I've used homemade ice cream, but busy times afford a decadent excuse to buy some Haagen-Dazs vanilla. You can dip it up ahead so those rich little scoops of very vanilla ice cream are ready to take on the flaming hot brandy infusion of cherries. Do not try any flaming dish without careful consideration to surroundings. Though I would love to finish this dish in grand style from a tableside food cart, I do it in the kitchen and ask for assistance. The flaming cherries do require caution by clearing the cooking area. Don't wear big floppy sleeves and make sure guests keep their distance. Keep a little pie filling portion separate from the brandied one.
Makes 4-6 servings
1 pint premium vanilla ice cream (Braum's or Haagen-Dazs)
1 can (20 or 30 ounces) cherry pie filling (Lucky Leaf Lite or Wilderness Country Cherry)
1 can (21 ounces) dark sweet cherry pie filling or topping (Lucky Leaf)
½ cup cherry brandy OR 1 tablespoon almond extract
Scoop ice cream into bowls (heat- and freezer-proof is good). Place bowls in freezer to get ice cream frozen solid again.
Place pie fillings in large skillet on top of stove. Keep a large metal spoon, preferably one with a long handle, 8 inches or longer, nearby.
Simply stir in almond extract or ¼ cup of the brandy. Heat and spoon hot cherry mixture over ice cream and serve.
Stir and heat pie fillings until bubbing. Reduce heat to low medium under cherries, keeping them simmering hot. In a small skillet or sauce pan, heat brandy over medium heat until warm (about 45 to 60 seconds). Pour gently on top of hot cherries. Place bowls of ice cream near hot cherries. (If this pan of brandy ignites on its own, simply pour over the cherry mixture — think of this little surprise as a shortcut to jubilee status.)
Pour about 2 tablespoons additional brandy in the metal spoon. Hold spoon about 1 foot away from the pan of cherries and light the brandy in the spoon, move it down next to the cherries and pour to ignite the brandy on top.
Stir slightly, letting blue flames dance around and begin spooning liquid over ice cream. Working quickly, you can actually have flaming cherries pour over the ice cream, but that needs practice as there is a bit of adrenaline rush while the flames are dancing around.
Flaming notes: As a precaution, have a large lid that will cover the skillet or pan used to heat cherries. This will allow you to smother the flames if the process gets out of hand. Alcohol is consumed by the flame very quickly, but use extra caution when igniting so as not to spill any of the liquid. Do not even think of answering the phone or kissing your sweetheart while flaming the cherry mixture!
Cooking notes: It is a good idea to work with a partner to make this dish. Go over every step before lighting the brandy. The cherry mixture can be frozen and brought out again, so don't worry about having some leftovers if it is just you and your Valentine. You can celebrate again as long as there's ice cream and a yearning for a little romance.
Source: Sherrel Jones