We’re going to set things on fire today. Twenty five years ago I met a gorgeous young woman named Nicole. And now she is my wife, and mother to my two beautiful kids. And it all started with Bananas Flambé – the dessert I made for our first date. I can’t be sure that bananas flambé was entirely responsible for everything that followed in my life, but it sure didn’t hurt my chances.
This is Nicole’s account of that date –
It was our first date. I had met Tony several months earlier and he said he wanted to cook for me. I drove to his apartment. He lived in a fancy high-rise on the intracoastal in Miami, 20-something floor. When I got there he had an aromatic tomato sauce cooking on the stove. He served a small first course of penne pomodoro, followed by a delicious chicken dish (I don’t quite remember what it was). We ate on a makeshift table which was a very big box his TV had come in. He covered the box with a crisp, white table cloth. We had plans to go to the movies across the way, but first he had a special dessert planned. He made a big show of melting the sugar, adding orange juice and peel to the pan, and sautéed halved bananas then sprinkled in some grand marnier and lit it on fire. We ate it topped with vanilla ice cream. What a perfect match, for a perfect evening now etched in my memory.
Well… I guess it worked. And now, you can follow the recipe here and find the love of your life too. Let’s light up some bananas now.
To serve 2, we will need:
- 2 ripe bananas (but not over ripe or soft)
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- slivered almonds for topping
- 2 tablespoons of Orange Liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of Brandy, Cognac, or Rum (for the pyrotechnics)
To prep, toast your almond slivers, juice enough oranges to have about 3/4 cup of orange juice (or just use juice from a carton), cut some large pieces of rind from your orange and lemon, and cut your bananas lengthwise.
Start by pouring your sugar into a saucepan on low heat. When the sugar starts to melt, add your butter and start mixing it all together. Be careful not to burn it. As it begins to caramelize, you can add your orange juice. The mix may start to clump but be patient, as the juice warms up the sugar will melt again. Add your rinds and use a fork to push them around to help deglaze the pan and make your mixture uniform again. Squeeze your lemon and orange into the pan, through a strainer to catch the seeds. Continue deglazing and mixing until it is uniform.
Now you can add your bananas. Prick the bananas up and down with a fork so that the bananas can soak up some of the mixture. Add your Grand Marnier or orange liqueur, and mix it into the sauce. Use a spoon to baste your bananas with the flavor of the sauce. You want to continue cooking until your bananas are soft and tender but not so soft that it will fall apart when you try to pick it up.
When you have reached that point, it’s time to set things ablaze. Turn up your heat to high, and add your cognac, brandy, or rum. The heat has to be high enough to reach the alcohol’s flash point, or it will not light. Ignite with a stove lighter or long match… and boom. You’ve got a show. The fireworks will die down soon. You can shut down your stove now and get ready to plate.
Arrange each pair of bananas like a close pair of parentheses, and drop a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream between the two. Drizzle your sauce over this, and decorate with your toasted almonds.
Listen to your date sigh with satisfaction, and enjoy.