Flambé (eɪ/, French: [flɑ̃be]; also spelled flambe) is a cooking procedure in which alcohol is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames. The word means 'flamed' in French.
Flambéing is often associated with tableside presentation of certain liqueur-drenched dishes set aflame, such as Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee, when the alcohol is ignited and results in a flare of blue-tinged flame. However, flambéing is also a step in making coq au vin, and other dishes and sauces, using spirits, before they are brought to the table. By partially burning off the volatile alcohol, flambéing reduces the alcoholic content of the dish while keeping the flavors of the liquor.
Modern flambéing became popular in the 19th century. The English Christmas pudding was served flaming in a Dickens novel of 1843: "the pudding... blazing in half of half-a-quarter of ignited brandy". The most common flambé dish appears to have been sweet omelette with rum or kirsch. For example, Alexis Soyer's 1846 cookbook gives a recipe for "Omelette au Rhum": "...the moment of going to table pour three glasses of rum round and set it on fire". An 1880 book mentions both rum and kirsch; another recipe appears in an English cookbook of 1882: "Make a sweet omelet, and heat a tablespoonful of kirsch, by holding a light under the spoon. As soon as the spirit catches fire pour it round the omelet, and serve flaming." Perhaps the most famous flambé dish, Crêpe Suzette, was supposedly invented in 1895 as an accident.