bananas on fire

spice up your life with bananas flambé

Most of the time, I am a creature of habit. I’ve got my regular hangouts, my regular restaurant orders, and my regular old clothes that I wear over and over. I like to stick to my routines.

The same pattern usually applies to the food I eat. It’s probably not the healthiest way to operate (they say variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the key to a good diet), but it’s comforting to have my trusty fallbacks on hand at all times. I eat the same granola and yogurt concoction for breakfast every morning, have eggs almost every day for lunch, and rely on the same assortment of vegetables as my go-to dinner staples.

This might be surprising coming from a food lover and capable cook. I could make delicious three course meals every day, but most of the time I choose not to. The key to my system is this: When boredom strikes, and there is even a slight desire to mix it up, I always go big. That’s what happened when, a few weeks ago on a dark February night, I was inspired to make the special sweet wintertime treat of bananas flambé. I had a bunch of bananas that I didn’t know what to do with, and I was too impatient to wait for banana bread to bake. So I sliced those nanners in half and lit them on fire.

Flaming fruit is a pretty extreme departure from my typical low-maintenance diet. While the dish is a little unusual, it’s surprisingly easy to make. For such a seemingly fancy dessert, it’s shockingly simple—not to mention delicious. If you have bananas, butter, and brandy (the three essential Bs, I’d venture to say), you can basically fake your way through to a result that is sweet, tangy, chewy, and warm all at once.

Because I’m a Vermonter and a syrup snob, I wouldn’t dream of making bananas flambé without real Vermont maple syrup. But you could use honey or agave nectar with the same result, or even leave out the sweetener altogether if that suits your tastes.

So if you’re the kind of person who’s constantly testing some snazzy new recipe, here’s another for your list. Or if you, like me, tend to stick to the old standbys most of the time, this flaming fruit is one excellent way to mix up your food routine. Next time you’re bored and want to try something new, or you want to impress somebody, or for some reason you have a ton of bananas to get rid of—reach for the Three Bs and enjoy some bananas flambé.

Bananas Flambé

3 tbsp butter

Coarse zest of ½ orange

1 tsp nutmeg

2 ripe bananas, cut lengthwise

2 tbsp maple syrup

¼ cup brandy of any kind (bourbon works too, but the flavor can be overpowering)

Whipped cream or ice cream

The goal of this dessert is to get the bananas super soft all the way through, with a gooey crackling crust on them made by the orange and maple. Despite what you might expect, it’s actually a fairly easy thing to achieve.

Start by melting butter in a large pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, but before it has foamed, add orange zest and nutmeg. Add bananas, and coat with the butter emulsion. Increase heat to high.

Cook bananas until they are soft, flipping them only once so they don’t break apart. The outside of the bananas should be browned. When they are cooked well enough and you’re ready for the finishing touches, drizzle maple syrup lengthwise along the bananas. Add the brandy to the pan.

Now for the fire. Make sure you have a vent on and plenty of safe space around the stove before you begin. Taking care not to spill, slowly tip the pan until the flame catches the brandy on fire (this seems impossible, but I promise it works). If you have electric burners, just use a match. Gently roll the burning liquid so that it catches all the brandy. The maple syrup and orange peels will caramelize. Wait until the fire has gone out, and carefully remove the bananas. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.