Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bananas Foster Delicious Moments in History - New Orleans, 1951

Blogger's Note:  There are many delectable dishes that were created in New Orleans, many of them savory, but this one is sweet.  Due to the historic combination of New Orleans building the largest banana port in the world and Brennan's Restaurant needing a new dish for their holiday menu, Bananas Foster was born.  A personal favorite of this blogger, we would like to share the history and classic Brennan's recipe for Bananas Foster.

(Above): Known as the biggest banana dock in the world, the Port of Orleans unloaded between 20% to 25% of all bananas imported into the United States during the turn of the century.

From the New Orleans Public Library website:

"Bananas imported from Latin America made fortunes in New Orleans and contributed substantially to the establishment of hemispheric relations. By mid-twentieth century, twenty to twenty-five per cent of all the bananas imported into the United States came across the docks at New Orleans. 

Two rival fruit importers dominated the scene: New Orleans-based Standard Fruit, founded by the Vaccaro brothers and Salvador D'Antoni, and the giant United Fruit, which established its southern headquarters in New Orleans. From the turn of the century, when banana imports first began to flow through the port of New Orleans, until the late 1960s, when Standard Fruit moved its operations to Gulfport, the banana trade provided one of New Orleans' strongest commercial ties to Latin America.

Besides providing hundreds of jobs in the Crescent City, the banana wharves were also something of a tourist attraction in the first half of the twentieth century, as this post card collage of the docks suggests. The WPA's Louisiana: A Guide to the State, published in 1941, says, 'For sightseeing value, the river front is second only to the French Quarter,' and lists 'BANANA UNLOADING, at the Thalia Street Wharf, where the United Fruit Company unloads a large share of the 23,000,000 stems brought into New Orleans yearly' among its 'chief points of interest' along the water front.

(Above): Bananas Foster is such a well-loved dessert in New Orleans, it has inspired Bananas Foster ice cream, made locally in the Crescent City.

From the New Orleans Online website:

"In the early 1950s New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America. Owen Brennan, owner of Brennan's Restaurant, challenged his chef, Paul Blange, to include bananas in a new dessert. It was Owen's way of promoting the imported fruit. At the same time, Holiday Magazine asked Owen to provide a new and different recipe to include in an article on the restaurant.

And so was born Bananas Foster, a decadent dessert named for Owen's friend, Richard Foster, a local civic and business leader. Today, Bananas Foster is served at Brennan's and other fine New Orleans restaurants. Each year, Brennan's flames 35,000 pounds of bananas for the famous dessert.

Bananas Foster (Serves 4)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 4 bananas, cut in half, lengthwise, then halved

Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. 

When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately."