Bananas, as fruit goes, are not likely to inflame one's imagination. Most people are apt to slice them up for a bowl of cereal; or split one on top of ice cream dripping with chocolate syrup; or whip up a dense loaf of bread. As a child, one of my favorite desserts was banana crème pie, the custard sweet on my tongue. But that's a time consuming recipe and few people seem inclined to put that kind of effort into bananas anymore.
So, when my husband and I decided to invite our contractor and his girlfriend over for a New Year's eve dinner, bananas did not immediately come to mind when I tried to come up with an idea for an elegant dessert. I contemplated chocolate-dipped strawberries, but in January the strawberries at the market looked wilted and sad. I thought about making an apple pie or cherry cobbler, but the idea seemed trite. Pastry, I thought, had been done to death. And then, thumbing through my rumpled recipes torn from magazines, I found an intriguing dessert: Bananas Foster.
Bananas sautéed in butter and brown sugar and then torched in banana liquor and rum and served over rich vanilla ice cream. What better way to see 2007 in than to begin lighting food on fire in my new kitchen?
"What do you think?" I asked my husband.
He opened the cupboard beneath the sink and checked to see that the fire extinguisher still sat there. "Sure," he conceded, rearranging the extinguisher's hose and shutting the cupboard door.
I shopped the next day for the necessary ingredients: ripe bananas and alcohol. My local store had the bananas and dark rum, but the banana liquor had to be acquired at the liquor store. I never realized how many different types of banana-infused liquors there were and found myself standing baffled in front of a long line of gleaming bottles. As luck would have it, one of the stock boys knew just what I needed.
"I used to be a chef," he explained.
I raised my eyebrows.
"This will flambé." He handed me a bottle of 99 Bananas, which boasted an alcohol content of 49.5 per cent.
"You're sure this will light up?"
The dinner on New Year's Eve went off well. The filet mignon was grilled to perfection, thanks to my husband; and the asparagus was tender. My experiment with twice baked potatoes worked just fine. I found myself anxiously anticipating the flaming bananas. My contractor looked worried (perhaps he was thinking of all those man hours spent building our new space). Kip hauled out the fire extinguisher, revealing his lack of faith in my culinary expertise.
The chef turned stock boy turned out to be correct. When I held match to frying pan, there was a poof and flames shot a foot into the air. The bananas continued to burn for almost a full two minutes (perhaps I had been overly generous with the 99 Bananas). I am happy to report that no one was harmed in the making of the dessert and the fire extinguisher was unnecessary. Drizzled over excellent vanilla ice cream, the Bananas Foster turned out to be a sweet and decadent hit. I imagine I will make this one again -- after all, I have all that banana liquor to use up.
The Recipe (more or less):
- 4 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of 99 Bananas (or less if you fear fire)
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- Vanilla ice cream
Cut bananas in half crosswise and then cut each half in half lengthwise. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the brown sugar. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for about 2 minutes.
Add the bananas to the sugar and butter mixture and remove from the burner (this is VERY important, especially if you are cooking on a gas cook top!). Stir in the banana liquor and rum and carefully ignite the fumes with a long match. Allow the mixture to burn out before returned the skillet to the heat source. Cook 3 or 4 minutes longer until the bananas are soft and curling slightly.
Spoon bananas and sauce over vanilla ice cream and serve immediately.
Serves 4 people quite generously.