Bananas Foster Helped My Bank Account
Back in college I worked as a bartender in a very upscale restaurant next door to the state capitol building. The Governor was a regular – that sort of place. It was a very coveted job because the tips were the best in town.
Confession time: We had a lot of tip scams, but one that was sure fire regarded the ladies. In all the time I worked there, we were never checked out by the liquor license people, so under age patrons were no big concern. Did I mention this was the Governor’s number one hangout?
If a young lady was on a date, we never checked her ID, but we’d often get a group of solo ladies from the capitol that’d come in after work for an impromptu girls’ night out. If we got a group in their late 20’s up to 40, we’d card everyone of them. (We’d never card anyone that was under 21 – and if you work a bar, you know absolutely who’s underage.)
With a straight face, “Ma’am, may I see some identification? I don’t believe it’s possible that you are over 21.”
If she were nearing 40, you check the date, then compare the photo to her face, then nod, “OK.” Then confidentially add as you hand back the card with a sly wink, “Tell your mom I said she was a very pretty lady.” And so on.
Presentation Is Everything
The bar staff also did all the table side flaming desserts. Bananas Foster was a house specialty. You learn quickly, the bigger the fireball, the bigger the tip. We were supposed to use 90 proof rum, but 151 worked a LOT better for tip hustling. We tried it with Everclear, but that was like a nuclear explosion and management quickly shot that idea down.
When you want to impress someone, bananas foster is a winner and it’s quick and easy to do! The recipe below is for four people – two couples typically. Cut it in half for two. You can make it for 6 in one skillet, but for more than that you’re best with multiple batches. If we had a big gathering, we’d roll out a couple of carts. We used chafing dishes and Sterno, but the stove works fine on low to medium heat.
For 2 couples, four servings
4 ripe medium bananas – firmer the better as they are easier to manipulate in the skillet
1/2 stick sweet butter – unsalted – if you’ve only got salted, that’ll work, too – don’t use margarine
1 cup brown sugar – I like the light, but the dark will work also
1/4 cup 90 proof rum – cheaper the better, it’s all gonna burn up (don’t do 151 until you’ve got some experience!)
1/4 cup banana liqueur
Lots of cinnamon
4 big scoops of vanilla ice cream in four bowls – Blue Bells’ Homemade Vanilla is best if it’s in your market area
Big serving spoon – bigger the better – and NO holes – ideally, it will hold the 1/4 cup of rum
10 inch skillet – best to not use one with the Teflon coating as it might discolor – use smaller if making for 2 people
Fireplace matches or fireplace lighter
Time To Cook Bananas Foster!
Scoop the ice cream into the bowls first or recruit an assistant. You won’t have time when you start cooking. Similarly, peel the bananas and split then lengthwise, then halve them crossways to make four pieces so they are ready to go. With some practice, you can peel them out with a spoon and never touch them. Still need the knife to split them up.
Melt the butter in the skillet, then add in the brown sugar. Cook on medium heat until it’s all liquid and bubbling gently – a couple of minutes. You are basically making caramel sauce (without the cream and corn syrup.) Add the bananas and banana liqueur. Ladle the sauce over the bananas. Sprinkle them with lots of cinnamon. After a minute or two, flip them over, ladle the sauce on them, and sprinkle more cinnamon. You want the bananas to be thoroughly cooked, but not falling apart. For your first time making bananas foster, better to let them fall apart rather than be undercooked.
Pour the rum into your serving spoon. If you’ve got extra, just add it to the skillet. Rest the spoon so the bottom is in the sauce to heat up the rum. Give it a minute, then dim the lights, lift the spoon up out of the sauce, light the rum with the fireplace matches or fireplace lighter. Lift up the spoon of burning rum and let the fire cascade down into the skillet. E CAREFUL – you’ll loose impression points if you set yourself on fire. It’ll still be burning in the skillet, scoop it up and pour again.
When the fire goes out – 15 to 20 seconds – use the serving spoon to lift out the bananas and curl 4 pieces around each scoop of ice cream. Then carefully pour the HOT sauce over the ice cream and bananas. DON’T splash it on yourself – it’ll stick and burn like hell.
Eat immediately. The soft bananas, the hot sauce, and the cold ice cream combo is a true mouth watering mix.
A Few Other Home Runs
You can use sliced apples, peaches, or any firm fruit instead of bananas, about a cup of slices for each portion or mix them together. Try it topped with toasted coconut or whipped cream. Or try it with a little orange, lemon, citron, or lime zests. You can also add pecans, walnuts, etc. You might try it topped with chilled berries, pineapple, etc. Nutmeg is also a popular seasoning.
For a breakfast treat, make bananas foster with French toast instead of ice cream. Use it as a topping for a bowl of hot oatmeal.
You can make it at the table with a hot plate, or if you’ve got a small office, take the hot plate to work for a real treat for the office staff. If you’ve grilled dinner, you can set the skillet on the grill and cook there after the grill has cooled a little. Don’t get it too hot and watch out for plastic skillet handles that might melt.
All of the alcohol in the rum and liqueur burns up, so it’s safe for kids and teetotalers.
This is about as rich of dessert as you will find. Translation: eat until you hurt!!