The first step to making the world's best banana ice cream—or at least the best one I've ever had—is to take two and a quarter pounds, that's about six large bananas, and freeze them rock hard. Then take them out and put them in a bowl and let them thaw completely.
|6 Large Bananas
I know, it seems kind of funny, doesn't it? I mean, why would you freeze something just to thaw it and freeze it again? Well there is logic here. Let's just imagine for a moment that the cells inside of a fresh banana look like this. [holds up a gallon Ziplock bag full of water] Big bags of water, okay? Now we put this into a freezer and some of that water freezes, right? Into something that looks kind of like this, right? [holds up a 2nd bag holding shards of glass] Ice crystals. Sharp, pointy ice crystals, okay? So when we thaw these bananas we get cells that look something like this. [takes the first bag with water and punches holes in it over the sink] Thoroughly perforated. The result? Very mushy bananas which is exactly what we want.
After your bananas thaw, peel them and bring them straight to your food processor. You may have to kind of break them up to get them in there. That's okay. There. Just pack them in there. The first thing I'm going to add to this is a tablespoon of lemon juice. I'm going to let that spin for a couple of seconds. Here we go. See, the lemon juice contains almost all acid, and that acid is going to interact with the enzymes inside the bananas and keep the bananas from turning brown. There we go.
1 Tbs. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
Now take off the lid and add three-quarters of a cup of corn syrup, light corn syrup in this case. And then go ahead and toss in the insides of one vanilla bean. Now if you don't have a vanilla bean in your house you could always use half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Now we start spinning this up again and then slowly drizzle in one and a half cups of cream. This is, after all, banana ice cream. Nice and slow. That will create an emulsion, almost like a salad dressing. Nice and smooth.
3/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
Before attempting to churn your ice cream, make sure you thoroughly chill your ice cream mix. There are two very, very good reasons for this. One: chilling will allow time for the flavors inside here to mellow. That's not really going to happen once this is turned into ice cream. The other reason is, the colder this is going into the churn, the better, okay? If this is at refrigerator temperature, say thirty-eight to forty degrees, it means less time churning. That means smaller ice crystals, and that means smoother ice cream. Oh, and this would be a really, really good time to make sure that your ice cream freezer's core is in the freezer.
Chill until mixture
When the time comes to take your ice cream for a churn, make sure that the
machine is running before you pour in the batter, or odds are the motor will
bind up before you get anywhere.
Now what's so special about this is that the complex chemical composition of the bananas perfectly replaces the eggs that usually hold an ice cream together and provide it with a smooth mouth-feel. Now this is going to set up really quickly because it's viscous, so don't wander away.
Ah. Hear that? When your motor starts to struggle, you are done. The mixture has taken as much air as it can. Now just fish out the dasher and then wipe off the excess. Or if you don't really want to wipe off the excess, just take your time going to the sink. Okay, so that really doesn't happen that fast, but hey, this is television. You know what I mean.
This is not, by any means, ready to serve. It still has to harden. So I'm going to move this into a container, plastic container, and it's going to go into the freezer for a minimum of three hours. Six would be even better. Your patience will be rewarded. And make sure that your lid is tight fitting because this stuff is full of fat. And fat will attract some funky flavors in the freezer if you're not careful.
No ice cream maker? Blend the mixture
on high for 30 seconds then freeze.
It won't be quite the same, but it'll still be good eats.
Although the banana is most often associated with homey-fare, it's got its elegant, sophisticated side, too. Which is best embodied by a dish that is as simple as it is delicious and as much about theatre as cuisine. I speak, of course, of Bananas Foster.
Now to properly prepare this at tableside, you're going to need either a portable butane burner, or its safer, if not less glamorous, cousin, the humble hot plate, which I am going to set to medium-low heat.
No hot plate?
Atop that you will need a wide, heavy skillet. You'll also need a spoon, and some turning and stirring tools. A waiter would just use a couple of forks like this.
|As for the software, you will need two slightly under ripe bananas, sliced in half lengthwise. I like to leave the peel on until the last minute to prevent browning. There we go.||2 Under-Ripe Bananas|
|Now for the sauce, which we will make first: 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, a quarter of a cup of dark brown sugar, a quarter of a teaspoon of ground allspice, half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon of banana liqueur, half a teaspoon of finely grated orange zest, and one-quarter to one-third of a cup dark rum depending on how much flash you want in your pan, hmm? Shall we begin? Excellent!||2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp. Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
1 Tbs. Banana Liqueur
1/2 tsp. Grated Orange Zest
1/4 - 1/3 Cup Dark Rum
First we melt the butter. And as soon as it is
melted, add the brown sugar and the spices. Just kind of work that into a syrup.
Then add the liqueur. You may have to line up the banana slices right up next to
each other in order to get them in the pan, but try to make sure there's at
least half an inch of space between for the syrup to bubble up. Now we'll let
these poach for one minute.
These bananas are already pretty tender, so just scoop up with one fork and kind of flip it over onto the other fork and lay it down gently. There. We'll let these poach for one minute.
Time to lift, and this is where the two-fork configuration really comes into its own. There we go. Now just return the sauce to the heat so that it can come back to a simmer. That is important. Ooh. It's also important to review our flambé ground rules. Okay, here we go. Let's see.
Number two: If you've got long hair, tie it back or wear a hat. Check.
Number three: Since you never know how high the flames may go, do not hold your head over the pan. Check.
Number four: When working on an open flame, be sure to turn off the flame before adding the alcohol. Otherwise it could evaporate, jump over the side of the pan, and Poof!
Number five: Always use a long stick style lighter or a fireplace match. Okay.
Six: Have a lid standing by just in case things get out of hand, which, if you've observed the first rules, won't happen.
Now make sure you have one of these [fire extinguishers] around in case things really get out of hand.
Oh, and here's my favorite rule: Remember, the dimmer the lights, the flashier the show. Lights! [the lights dim]
Ah! The sauce is most certainly back at a simmer. So we step back, we pour
in the alcohol, and ignite. There. Now the more fiercely the liquid is
boiling when you light it, the more flames you're going to have. So make sure
this is at least at a simmer. And swirl until the flames go out. Now let this
cook for about another thirty seconds just so that the sauce can tighten up a
little bit. There we go. Lights!
The final touch? The zest. Just stir that in. That'll add a little fragrant kick, and sauce your bananas, two to three spoonfuls being traditional. There you go. Now I have to tell you that sometimes I make this up for breakfast, and serve it over waffles. And of course, adding some ice cream to that wouldn't be a bad thing at all. Umm ... you ... I'm just going to try it, okay?
Thanks to the growing popularity of Cuban, Caribbean and Latin cuisines, most American mega-marts now carry plantains. Now unlike its cousin, the Cavendish, the plantain has a tough, rubbery skin. So to peel, cut off one end, cut off the other end, then make a shallow incision down one side, and then repeat on the other side. Now just take your thumb and squeeze under the edge, and peel it right off. Now as for the flesh, it stays starchy even when the plantain is ripe. And that's why they're usually cooked like other starchy vegetables. [throws plantain skins off camera] You can bake them, you can boil them, sauté them, braise them, or you can fry them. [we hear a woman slip and scream off camera] That had to hurt.
The concept of the "top banana" comes
from an old burlesque routine
in which the comic that gave the punch line received a banana.
|I'd have to say that fried plantains are probably the best food trick I know. I like them because, well, they taste good, they've got kind of a funky procedure, and you get to use a lot of tools. You are going to need one draining rack, on top of a pan with a lip. You are going to need a wide sauté pan containing at least three-eights of an inch of 325 degree vegetable oil. You are going to need an inverted pan with a little bit of parchment paper. You are going to need a wooden or plastic spatula. You will need a bowl containing two cups of water with one teaspoon of salt and three crushed garlic cloves. You're going to need a tea towel or a little pad of paper towels. And last, but not least, you are going to need some plantains. We have two of them here, cut into one-inch medallions. All of them go straight into the oil.||Rack In Sheet Pan
12-inc Sauté Pan
Inverted Sheet Pan
2 Cups Water
2 Green Plantains
There. Now once you've got them all in, and the oil looks about right, we'll let these cook for a minute and a half. Odds are good that after a minute you'll have to raise the heat a bit to replace what the plantains have taken away. Let's go ahead and roll them over. That's perfect. Just golden with a touch of brown. There we go. Let these go for another minute and a half.
|1 1/2 mins. Per Side|
Another minute and a half has gone by, and it's time to evacuate. But first I'm going to turn the oil down a bit. Not off, because we'll be back.
Now when you've got everything out of the oil, take your spatula, put it right on top of each piece, and mash. You're looking to flatten it out to about half its original height. There we go. Now as soon as you mash a few, move them to the water for a quick soak.
|Soak For 1 min.
After at least one minute of soaking, take the plantain pieces out to a
towel or paper towel, so that they can dry. And we'll pad them dry in a moment.
When your oil gets back to between 325 and about 330 you are ready to re-introduce the plantains into the oil. That's right. They're going to get fried again. Just gather them up and drop them in.
Mmm. Time to evacuate. Just take these straight over to your rack. Let them drain thoroughly. And you also want to season them well while they are still hot, just as you would French fries. Actually, these are better than French fries.
Fry for 2-4 minutes per side until golden brown.
Just look at them. It's like they were coated in batter. But they weren't.
It's another banana-based miracle.
Well, I hope that this last half-hour has made a true banana believer out of you. Yes indeed, they are good on cereal. But this plain, little yellow wrapper holds a greater culinary power. Don't let it slip away. [feigns a laugh] Heh. Slip aw ...?
Transcription by Mike DiRuscio
Last Edited on 08/27/2010