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TIP OF THE DAY: Bananas Foster Topping & Garnish

As a lover of both chocolate cake and Bananas Foster, we were inspired by the creative use of Bananas Foster at Davio’s Italian Steakhouse in Boston (see photo). It’s traditionally used to top ice cream.

It’s a most delicious addition. At Davio’s, a slice of flourless chocolate cake is topped with a slice of caramelized banana. But you can adapt the idea to almost any dessert. A chocolate base (or other dark color) is best to contrast the beige banana; but it will be delectable on anything. (It was a hit at THE NIBBLE on top of homemade chocolate pudding.)

Before we are forthcoming with the recipe, here’s a bit of culinary history.

BANANAS FOSTER HISTORY

Bananas Foster is a more elaborate version of caramelized bananas. Sliced bananas are sautéed in butter with brown sugar, banana liqueur and Grand Marnier (orange-infused brandy) or rum. It is then flambéed at the table for a dramatic effect, and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

For the flame-averse: While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.

   

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Two great desserts in one: Bananas Foster atop chocolate cake. Photo courtesy Davio’s |
Boston.

 
The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900-1977), the executive chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan, Sr.

It is one of the flambé desserts that also include Crêpes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee. Savory dishes are also flamed at the table, from Steak Diane to Veal Marsala. Here’s a list of flambé recipes. Note, though, that the technique has long gone out of style.

But how did it come into style?
 

THE MODERN HISTORY OF FLAMBÉ FOOD

Flambé (it means flamed in French), is a cooking procedure in which alcohol is warmed and then added to a hot pan, where it is lit to create a burst of flames. The alcohol burns off shortly and the flames die out.

While the practice of igniting food for dramatic flair can be traced to 14th century Moors, modern flambéing became popular only in the late 19th century, and by accident.

According to his memoir, in 1895 at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, 14-year-old Henri Charpentier (1880-1961), an assistant waiter, accidentally set fire to the liqueur in the pan of crêpes he was preparing. At the time, many foods were prepared tableside. The guests happened to be Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and some friends. According to the memoir:

“It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had every tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste.

The dish was served, and the Prince liked it.

“He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”

SOURCE: Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, by Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes, The Modern Library, New York, 2001 Paperback Edition. Originally published in 1934 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Thanks to What’s Cooking America for the reference.

 

Banana with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and hazelnuts

Brennans-Bananas-Foster-brennans-230

TOP PHOTO: Bananas Foster served
banana-split style. Photo | Fotolia. BOTTOM
PHOTO: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s. Photo
courtesy NewOrleansRestaurants.com. We
prefer to slice our bananas in chunks.

 

RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER TOPPING & GARNISH

While the Davio’s recipe cuts the banana into a stylish oblong and the photo at right halves the fruit banana-split style. At Brennan’s the long slices are cut in half. We prefer chunks perhaps 3/4-inch thick—easier to spoon over ice cream…and French toast, pancakes and waffles.

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange
    zest
  •  
    Plus

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, or
  • Cake or whatever else you want with your Bananas Foster
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce.

     
    If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchene.

    4. LIFT lift the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.
      
    HOW TO FLAMBÉ

    Here’s a video on how to flambe from QVC chef David Venable. Tips:
     

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t try to ignite a higher proof; they are highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to about 130°F before adding to the pan. (Keep it well below the boiling point. Boiling will burn off the alcohol, and it will not ignite.) This is generally done by holding the liquor, in a spoon, over a candle or other flame.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but if you’re just learning, keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames.
  •   




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