The tableside flambé is a dying art, much like professional service at restaurants. Diners seem to prefer a de-constructed take on Bananas Foster or a slab of herb butter on an unadorned steak, instead of the pomp and circumstance of the flambé cart being wheeled tableside and the server finishing off the Bananas Foster or Steak Diane preparations.
Bananas Foster was created at Brennan’s in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where you can start the day right with a three course power breakfast, complete with a Bananas Foster flambé finale. You can also get an outstanding Bananas Foster flambé at Commander’s Palace, also owned by the legendary Brennan family.
Before going to New Orleans, I used my family’s old Bananas Foster recipe to prepare a version, then figured I could learn a thing or two over dinner at Commander’s Palace.
For two people, our recipe shockingly calls for 1/2 a stick of butter. The only other version I could find that does such a rich version would be…not shockingly, Paula Deen’s recipe. Our server at the restaurant didn’t know how much butter is used since the kitchen preps the ingredients ahead of time. We both deemed it to be about 1/4 stick for two plates. Yes, too much butter can be a bad thing, drowning out the brown sugar and rum that give the sauce its vibrant taste.
Begin by melting the butter in a sauce pan, with 1/3 cup of brown sugar until the mixture resembles a light caramel. Don’t overcook it! Next is the fun part: 1/4 cup of rum to simmer with the caramel mixture. Light a match and hover it over the pan cautiously, until the mixture catches fire. Do this 2-3 times so the mixture becomes a handsome tan, bubbling sauce, being careful not to burn yourself (thanks, Mom).
But wait pyro-chefs, there’s more to the fire. Slice 2 bananas into medallions and toss them in then. Then add 1/4 cup crème de banane (Bols makes the hands down best version), and again flambé in the same style 1-3 times.
Meanwhile, be certain that the bowls are chilled. Put them in the freezer if necessary. Pour the sauce and bananas into the bowls, THEN scoop the ice cream after plating. Do not dare put the sauce on the ice cream, a mistake we made, and that Commander’s Palace quickly said is indeed a big faux pas.
It is a simple, dramatic dessert, that needs quick attention for three moments: the two flambés and the plating. With a few flames and rum soaked bananas, you’ll be back on a patio in the French Quarter in no time. A Sazerac would be a great companion, just don’t use it in the flambé.