Grand Marnier

I don’t want to singe my eyebrows off, Chef: Bananas Foster and Johnny Iuzzini

My celebrity crushes are very different from those in my core group of friends. While they’re heading to movie theaters for Ryan Gosling and other shirtless men, concert venues for Adam Levine and Michael Buble, and Netflix for Jason Segel and Vince Vaughn, I reach for food magazines and culinary YouTube clips. Not that I can’t or won’t relate to the aforementioned lovely things.┬áMy tendencies just lie elsewhere. Something that gets me just as hot and bothered is watching Johnny Iuzzini’s pastry craziness.

Look him up if you’ve got time. He’s good cell phone wallpaper material, but his recipes and insight are just as valuable as his tattoos and smirk.

One day, not very long ago (okay, in January), I contacted him in a frenzy of nervous energy.

What’s a lady to do?

Unfortunately, a direct flight from New York City to Los Angeles wasn’t a roulette wheel option. I called my bluff and made Bananas Foster for the first time. It is now my go-to dessert for making first impressions.

It’s also fun to set things on fire and look like a beast.

Bananas Foster

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
  • salt
  • Bananas (duh)
  • Dark Rum

Melt the butter in a pan over Medium heat. Add the dark brown sugar and stir until caramelized (dark brown and ooey-gooey-looking).

Zest the orange into the pan and add the vanilla extract.

(Bonus Points: Use a peeler to peel off the orange zest in long strips, and you’ll be able to serve your dish with candied orange peel. Cue applause.)

Squeeze the juice of the orange into the pan. Then make like Bob Marley and Stir it Up, Little Darling. (I’m bad with puns. I’m working on it.) Add the Grand Marnier/Triple Sec.

Peel the banana(s) and slice lengthwise, then into chunks – quarters, thirds, whatever looks decent. Toss into the pan with a pinch of salt. (Yes, salt. Salt with sweet flavors is a necessity – it makes things actually taste sweet.)┬áBaste the pan liquid over the bananas with attention and love until the bananas are golden brown.

All right. Deep breath. Time to light the stuff on fire. Ready?

Unscrew the top of the rum bottle and prepare to play with fire – literally. Remove the pan from the heat and add a few tablespoons of rum.

(Note: You can add more rum. I definitely do. But note that it will take longer for the alcohol to burn off, and there will be a much stronger rum flavor in the sauce.)

Tilt pan away from you and light it.

But how?

Option A: Tilt the pan away from you and tip the pan liquid toward the open flame on the stove until a flame goes up.

Option B: Use a match, stick lighter, etc. and hold the open flame above the pan liquid while tilting the pan AWAY from you. Be ready to pull your hand away quickly, because the flame can go up fast.

Option C: Have your significant other or very good friend light the pan contents for you while averting your face in terror.

Once the contents of the pan are on fire, return the pan to heat and wait for the alcohol to burn off. Don’t shake the pan to rush the flames along the way all the celebrity chefs do on TV. We mere mortals have to utilize patience, since we don’t have a studio audience to appease or a timed challenge to meet.

When the flames die down, the sauce should have thickened up and look like something worthy of licking off your celebrity crush’s body. To make sure the alcohol has burned off either taste it and re-light, or attempt to re-light it and see if any flames go up. (There may be some baby flame stragglers.)

Let reduce until thick and syrupy.

Serve bananas flambe warm with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream and drizzle the pan sauces poured over the top.

Eat with your feet placed on some sort of luxurious surface and your favorite guilty pleasure TV show.

I know, I didn’t wipe the bowl. But still. There’s a profound connection with the soul that happens when I eat this.