Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.
Bananas Foster is a classic for a reason.
When I was a kid, my dad was a fan of the classic flamed desserts and old school French flavors. He worked in a restaurant where he had to make Crepes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee and while he didn’t become a chef, I have always wondered if my love my cooking doesn’t have some roots in my dad’s early work.
Needless to say, I am a great lover of dessert and believe that it makes the meal. It is the only course of the dinner (or lunch) that really isn’t about hunger at all. It’s just about culinary recreation, great flavors and textures.
Bananas Foster has always been favorite of mine. The crunch of the walnuts and the taste combination of caramelized sugar and bananas? Sold. The ingredients are pretty simple and the taste is great.
If you’re not a fan of vanilla ice cream, sub in some rum raisin and serve vanilla for the kids. I also have subbed in lemon sorbet to lighten the dish. Or if I see those smaller bananas at the grocery store, I sometimes use them to make smaller portions.
You can make the sauce in advance and keep it warm on the stove just before serving. When you are ready to cook the bananas, just make sure you have everything else ready: serving dishes, ice cream and walnuts. That way it gets to the table piping hot and the ice cream almost sizzles and starts to form that lovely pool of flavor all around the caramel and bananas.
If you want to make this without alcohol, simply omit the rum and bump the vanilla extract up to two teaspoons.
Alex Guarnaschelli’s Bananas Foster
3 ½ tbsp. dark rum
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. molasses
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ stick unsalted butter
4 large bananas, peeled, sliced crosswise into 1-in. rounds
¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 pt. vanilla ice cream
1. Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the rum, vanilla extract, brown sugar and cinnamon. Bring to simmer and stir to dissolve the brown sugar. Shut off the heat and keep warm on the stove.
2. Just before serving: Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When the skillet feels pretty hot, add the butter and melt and allow it to brown slightly. Toss in the bananas and arrange them, with a wooden spoon, in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn them on their second side and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Pour the rum mixture over them. Stir to coat them and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.