How to Make Bananas Foster Better Than the New Orleans Original

Slate's Culture Blog
April 11 2014 3:50 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Bananas Foster

bananas_foster_mg_9811_edit_590
Bananas Foster.

Juliana JiménezJaramillo for Slate

In 1951, New Orleans restaurateur Owen Brennan became an innovator in the field of back-scratching when he named a dessert after his buddy Richard Foster from the New Orleans Crime Commission. Bananas Foster became a customer favorite and was Brennan’s most-ordered item until the French Quarter institution closed last summer. The dessert’s popularity is easy to account for: It is sweet, boozy, sticky, creamy, and flammable. Even if you don’t like bananas, you just might make an exception for bananas Foster.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

There are only two problems with Brennan’s recipe, which was actually invented not by Brennan himself but by chef Paul Blangé. The first is that it calls for banana liqueur. Have you ever had banana liqueur? If not, rest assured that it’s just as terrible as it sounds. It belongs to the family of cloying flavored brandies that, like Dan Bern’s 1997 ballad “Marilyn,” I loved when I was a teenager but now have serious qualms about. Unless you’re (a) preparing to throw a rager while your parents are out of town, (b) planning to make a Platanos en Mole Old Fashioned, or (c) both of the above, you have no business being in possession of a bottle of banana liqueur.

Advertisement

So what should you use instead? Kill two birds with one stone by using amaretto, which lends bananas Foster a pleasant almond flavor without interfering with its smooth texture, the way chopped nuts do. (Actual nuts have no place in bananas foster, which should be so soft you’d be able to eat it even if you had no teeth.)

The other problem with Brennan’s bananas Foster recipe is the way it instructs you to light the rum sauce on fire: “tip the pan slightly [into the fire of the burner] to ignite the rum.” Yeah, right—as if anyone’s ever done this without spilling hot butterscotch all over their stove, possibly extinguishing their pilot light in the process. Please, do yourself a favor and use a long match or a kitchen lighter to set your bananas Foster aflame. It’s much easier than this slight-tipping business, and much less likely to result in a visit from your friendly neighborhood firefighters.

Bananas Foster
Yield: 4 servings
Time: About 30 minutes

1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground allspice
Pinch salt
¼ cup amaretto
4 bananas, halved lengthwise
¼ cup rum
1 pint vanilla ice cream

1. Put the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a large skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the mixture begins to bubble, about 15 minutes. Add the amaretto and cook, stirring, until the mixture is smooth, then raise the heat to medium and add the bananas. Cook until the bananas are coated in the sauce and warmed through, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the rum to the skillet. Light a match or lighter and lower it to the surface of the sauce until it ignites. When the flame subsides, turn off the heat. Divide the ice cream into four bowls, then divide the bananas and sauce among the bowls. Serve immediately.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.