Some things learned in high school you take with you to the grave. How to discreetly check your breath before talking to someone cute. How many syllables there are in haiku. Me? I learned what Sigmund Freud thought about fire: Fire, he says, taunts men at the core of their very nature — its flames laugh at us, being so much more potent phalluses than our pathetic, fleshy boyparts. (You really should go back and re-read “Civilization and Its Discontents.” That dude was totally awesome and totally nuts.)
So, according to Siggy, fire scares men, it humiliates us, and so we must break it and master it in order to legitimate our masculinity. I am man, fire! Hear me roar! And I am going to OWN you … the next time I make a rich brown-sugar rum sauce with bananas to go on top of ice cream!
Yes, because why can’t we all work out our psychosexual issues during dessert? (Note that “psychosexual” was one word; please don’t fill the comments with stories about your psycho sexual encounters after dinner.) And bananas flambé, or bananas Foster if you want to get into proper-name territory, is pretty much a perfect dessert. It’s already difficult to deny the pleasures of bananas, butter, sugar and a little booze over ice cream. But it becomes irresistible when you add a wicked live flame to it, a splash of showmanship.
Of course, that showmanship is predicated on an element of danger, so please careful when making this stuff. Don’t cook it on a stove with very flammable things nearby (isn’t it time to take the tapestries out of your kitchen?), and don’t overload on the booze and fireball yourself. Also note that emotionally well-adjusted men and women can also make this dish to great success.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 ripe but still firm (so they don’t fall apart) bananas, unpeeled
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- Pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce shot) crème de banana or other banana-flavored liqueur
- 1/3 cup dark rum
- Ice cream (for serving)
Special equipment: For maximum wow, do this at the table with a portable gas stove, but please, don’t use a camping stove that can tip over or release dangerous fumes indoors. If you’re cooking on an electric stove, I’d suggest using a long match.
- Gather everyone around, but make sure you have room to work. Make sure no one is heavily hairsprayed. (I grew up in Jersey in the ’80s. I’m sensitive to these things.)
- Melt butter in a heavy, large (10- or 12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Here’s your first chance for a little performance: peeling and cutting the banana without touching the flesh. Hold one of the bananas with the stem up. With a sharp knife, slice the skin not quite all the way through the fruit just under the stem. Tip the stem back, opening the cut, and slip the skin in between the tines of a fork. Twirl the fork downwards, so that it peels off a strip of skin. Now slice the banana into ½-inch chunks through the opening in the skin, and let them fall into the butter. Repeat with the other bananas, and listen for applause.
- Raise the flame to medium high and let the bananas brown slightly in the butter, about 2 minutes, and add the cinnamon, brown sugar and salt, stirring to dissolve.
- It’s showtime. Take the pan a few inches away from (not above) the flame and add the banana liqueur and rum. If it boils immediately and briskly, give it a very quick stir and bring the pan back toward the burner, tipping it slightly toward the flame to ignite the booze (don’t spill!). The flames can sometimes shoot pretty high, so be alert. Once it’s lit, keep cooking, and if you’re daring and have a long enough spoon, stir and even lift some of the sauce, dropping it back into the pan from a few inches above to create a fiery splashing effect. (If the alcohol doesn’t boil immediately when you add it, put the pan on the flame and heat it until it does before tipping it to ignite. If you’d prefer not to do that, or if you’re cooking on an electric stove, use a long match to ignite the alcohol once it’s boiling.)
- Once the flames have died, keep cooking, stirring, for a few seconds to a minute more, until the sauce is thoroughly incorporated. Serve immediately over ice cream. Feel freer and more confident.