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~ Caramelized Bananas: A treat for any time of day! ~

IMG_2116Truthfully, I never ate caramelized bananas, fried bananas, or flambed bananas before I ate the famous Bananas Foster dessert at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans in 1982.  The dish, while simple to prepare, is quite a show stopper.  At tableside, a mixture of butter, sugar, cinnamon and banana liqueur are heated together in a skillet.  Banana halves are added and sauted until they begin to soften and caramelize (brown).  Rum is then added and ignited to produce a flame.  When the flames subside (which only takes a matter of seconds) the hot bananas and warm sauce are served over vanilla ice cream.  What's not to love about that!

IMG_2068A bit about bananas:  Bananas didn't appear in the USA until the beginning of the 20th century when refrigerated boats were first used to safely transport them from tropical regions. The banana becomes more starchy and sweet as it ripens and is extremely versatile. Besides eating them as is, they can be added to fruit salads, baked into breads or muffins, turned into pudding or ice cream, and, let's not forget about Elvis's famous peanut butter and banana sandwiches!

ImagesA bit about Brennan's Restaurant:  In the 1950's, New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America.  Owner Owen Edward Brennan challened his chef, Paul Blange, to come up with a culinary creation to promote the fruit.  In 1951, Chef Paul created Bananas Foster and named it after Richard Foster, a regular customer who served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission and was devoted to cleaning up the French Quarter.  Little did anyone realize that Bananas Foster would become an international favorite and the most requested item on their menu.  At Brennan's, thirty-five thousand pounds of bananas are flamed each year in the making of this famous dessert!

IMG_2068After returning from that trip to NOLA, it did not take me long to start experimenting with recipes for caramelized bananas.  I refer to them as caramelized bananas because that implies the use of a skillet to brown them.  I don't refer to them as fried bananas, because, that implies the use of a deep-fryer or a pot of hot oil, and, caramelized bananas should not be confused with deep-fried bananas (that's another recipe and another blog post).  While Brennan's Bananas Foster was definitely the inspiration for the recipe I am about to share, it's not "a la Brennan's" (in the style of Brennan's) for two reasons:  I substituted Grand Marnier for Banana liqueur & Rum (which are classic) to suit my taste, and, you won't see any flames shooting up from my recipe!

IMG_17296  large, firm, yellow bananas, not over-ripe (as pictured above), about 2 pounds prior to peeling

2  tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled (about 5 minutes)

2  tablespoons Grand Marnier (a sweet, orange-flavored liqueur)*

1/2  cup dark brown sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Note:  Feel free to substitute rum for Grand Marnier if you like, and, if you're serving this to children, skip the alcohol completely and use 4 tablespoons melted butter!

IMG_1737~ Step 1.  Melt and cool the butter as directed.  In a medium bowl place the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Add the Grand Marnier, followed by the melted butter.  

IMG_1746~ Step 2. Stir until the mixture is smooth and thick.  Set aside for 5-10 more minutes, to allow sugar to dissolve completely.  Stir again.

IMG_2077~ Step 3.  Peel and slice the bananas into 1/4"-thick coins, placing them in a measuring container as you work.  I recommend you use a measuring container because every bunch of six bananas varies in weight and size. You'll want about 3 1/2 cups of total coined bananas.

(Note:  Culinarily, the verb "coin" means to slice into little rounds that resemble coins.)

IMG_2087 IMG_2082~ Step 4. Place the sugar paste in a 12" skillet.

Over low heat, allow it to slowly melt.  Lift the pan off the heat occasionally and give it a tip and a turn, until the sugar is melted and has evenly coated the bottom of the pan.

IMG_2089~ Step 5.  Add bananas to skillet.

IMG_2094Using a large spoon, give them a few gentle tosses, to coat them in the sugar sauce.

Note:  Do not coin the bananas until just before you melt the sugar into the skillet or they will turn brown.

IMG_2102~ Step 6.  Increase heat to medium high.  Stirring/stir-frying almost constantly, cook just until the bananas soften, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

Do not cook any longer or the bananas will become mushy and fall apart.  

Remove from heat and set aside for 5-10 minutes before serving hot or warm atop:

A Grapefruit, Orange & Carmelized Banana Fruit Cup (for breakfast):

IMG_2122A Toasted Brioche, Peanut Butter & Caramelized Banana Sandwich (for lunch):

IMG_2148A Scoop of Butter Pecan Ice Cream w/Caramelized Bananas (for dessert):

IMG_2159Caramelized Bananas:  A treat for any time of day!:  Recipe yields 6 servings of caramelized bananas, allowing 1 banana per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-quart measuring container; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b016764d85990970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b0168e9d176bb970c-320wiCook's Note: Did your bananas get a bit over-ripe to suit your taste?  

Bananas can almost never be too ripe to make banana bread and the ones pictured above are perfect. My recipe for ~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~ can be found in Categories 5, 11 and 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


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