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Oct 14, 2007 08:07 PM

Bananas Foster question

I made Bananas Foster for the first time a couple of days ago, using a recipe found here, and wow, was it good! I've never had it before, so I can't say if it was authentic or anything, but it was incredible.

But, here's the question-- I couldn't really get it to flambe much.

When I added the rum, the recipe said "add carefully" and "heat until rum is hot" but what is not specified is, does this mean I pour it carefully on top, rather than mix it in? I mixed it in without thinking, which perhaps was my error-- could only get a little flame or two. As one of the threads says, the alcohol mostly burns off anyway; and the end result was yummy.

But please help me understand how to flambe it next time!

(I followed the recipe exactly, except that I did not buy banana liqour, I just used rum instead-- butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, add rum, cook with bananas; add more rum and flambe. I doubt I am going to run out and buy a bottle of banana liquour (sp), but let me know if you think I really should. One recipe had OJ. I was very happy with the taste of my BF, but still open to suggestion.)

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  1. Did you actually bring an open flame to the liquor? Just heating it isn't enough. You have to ignite it, e.g., with a match or (preferable option) hot stick. Pro chefs tip the pan and move it back on the burner slightly, so that the alcohol near the near lip ignites and travels throughout the pan. (But that's generally a pros-only move.)

    1. banan liquer won't light easily as the alcohol content is significantly lower than the rum. the way it's done in restaurants is to add the rum when the sauce is boiling, aznd dont stir it in . after about 15 seconds(enough to get the rum hot) tilt the pan (if you're using a gas stove and pull the edge to the flame. it should ignite with no problems. If you wan't to make a real show, use 151 rum, but only use a very little bit and don't lean in or you'll lose an eyebrow. (I've seen it happen a few times and it's not a preety sight , or smell for that matter) but it will flame quickly and dramatically and burn out pretty quickly.

      1. Flambéing is a great, dramatic trick and easy to learn once you figure out what's going on. What burns is actually the "fumes" from the alcohol, not the "wet" part, so once you stir it into a dish, you're not going to be able to get a good flame. You should get the alcohol warm so that it begins to volatize and then hold a flame just above the surface of the liquid to ignite it.

        I've found the easiest (and showiest) way to do this is to put the alcohol into a small ladle or spoon and lay it onto the surface of the food you're preparing to flame, until the alcohol is very warm. The handle of the ladle will become warm where you're holding it. Then light the vapors just above the liquid. Slowly - and of course, dramatically - pour the alcohol over the warm dish. If you pour slowly, the flame won't go out and will continue to burn over the surface of the food. You can even continue to ladle it again and again if you're careful not to mix it in.

        You can practice in your kitchen with a ladle and an ordinary skillet with water in it, over a very low heat. Once you get the basic feel of it, you can pour the flaming alcohol from a dramatic height with no fear. My kids thought this was the coolest thing and loved for me to do this.
        Don't worry about setting everything on fire. As soon as the alcohol cools off, the flame goes out. There was a waiter at Antoine's in New Orleans who used to flambé the Café Brulot from about 3 feet above the bowl and would sometimes ladle the blue flames right onto the white tablecloth in the elegant dining room with a dramatic flourish. It frightened the tourists but we locals loved the show because we knew the flames would go right out with no problems. (Please don't tell your insurance company or the fire department that you read this on CH if you mess up.)

        BTW, I think banana liqueur is dreadful. If you use good bananas, there's no reason why you should use it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          Thanks, this is all very helpful! I made the mistake of mixing the rum in a bit before applying the match-- I thought I had done wrong as soon as I did it, but the recipe was vague (probably assumed everyone knew what to do!). I like the ladle idea, but I'll need to buy a metal ladle, I think-- all I've got is plastic.

          Glad to hear the banana liqueur is dreadful, it sounded dreadful, and I'm glad not to have to buy it! My end result tasted fabulous, in any case.

          Now for bonus points-- anyone know what temp alcohol burns at? I guess hot enough to singe eyebrows, from the above. But not all that hot, since I know I once was helping a kid with a science experiment and we accidentally started a mini-fire by heating alcohol in a pan and having it burst into flames.

          1. re: Anne H

            It will also burn mustaches and blister lips, as I learned from a tequila-fueled evening gone bad some years ago. I can state with some authority that alcoholic beverages that don't have a high enough content to light without heating(Kessler's 80 proof whiskey, for instance) are not good substitutes in flaming shots as ones that do, such as a 96proof tequila, as after heating sufficiently to be flammable, they don't extinguish as easily and will continue to burn upon ingestion (or at least introduction to one's mouth.) It doesn't help, either, that the decision to make such a substitution results from finishing off the third bottle of the aforementioned tequila, clearly not in the best decision-making frame of mind. But all that is by way of saying I don't know what the actual ignition point is for ethanol.

            1. re: Anne H

              The actual temperature isn't important. It just has to be warmed enough for the alcohol to begin to give off fumes - that's what burns - not the liquid. The flames are actually just above the surface of the brandy, rum, bourbon, whatever. You can use standard old 86 to 90 proof hooch.
              I read a story last year (I think on this board) about someone who blew up their oven with a dutch oven and a bit too much wine in a stew so the fumes can build up to enough for quite a dramatic effect. No need to worry with flambéing as you're not working in a closed chamber.

              Try just a little bit of whatever liquor you have around the house in a stainless steel soup spoon as a practice run. Do it by the kitchen sink and have a towel nearby to smother the flame in case you get frightened and drop the spoon with the flaming alcohol. You probably won't but it will make you feel more secure. Heat the spoon over a candle until it's warm and then the alcohol should light easily.
              With a little practice, you'll be good to go.

          2. The maitre'd at the local country club did a table side bananas foster presentation which was beautiful to watch. It included squeezing fresh oranges through linen into the saute pan. Others have suggested the flaming technique. It's hard to go wrong with all that butter, sugar and ice cream.

            7 Replies
            1. re: dijon

              Did you like the orange flavor? I saw recipes with and without OJ -- I didn't have any on hand, so I made it without.

              1. re: Anne H

                Bananas Foster was created in 1951 at Brennan's in New Orleans. The original recipe does not include orange juice. Brennan's uses 35,000 pounds of bananas each year for this dessert and I can't even imagine how many are used by the other restaurants serving Bananas Foster.
                You can find the original recipe here, along with the history of the dish.

                As I said, I skip the banana liqueur and don't miss it.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Thanks. This is the recipe I used (sans banana liqueur) but the link I found was directly to the recipe, so I missed the historical intro. Actually a pretty easy recipe, and phenomenally delicious.

                  1. re: Anne H

                    Did you use regular rum or 151? The higher proof is what my Brennan's recipe says and I think that made it possible for this flambeing novice to make. Yum.

                    1. re: girlwonder88

                      The original recipe (1951) on the Brennan's Restaurant website just says "dark rum." I've always used plain old Bacardi's since the 1960's when I first started making Bananas Foster and it works just fine.
                      Hard to believe I've been making something for 40+ years without messing with a recipe - except for dropping the banana liqueur.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        I used dark Bacardi's.

                        I never heard of the higher proof stuff.

                        Plus, this way I get to drink the rest of the bottle.

                2. re: Anne H

                  I like the OJ in it, but it is certainly fine without it. I do think i dumped in a jigger full of minute maid OJ the last time I made it, but its been years. The table side presentation by a pro was half the fun.

              2. I used to make BF for a girlfriend in college. Our kitchen in our studio apt. was literally the width of a narrow hallway, in fact it was in a narrow hallway, with a two burner gas stove. How I didn't burn that place down is beyond me.