In honor of Mardi Gras, I decided to try a fresh take on a classic New Orleans dessert — bananas Foster.
Bananas Foster is the luscious indulgence created at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans during the 1950s. It's hard to beat sauteed bananas doused with rum and brown sugar, then topped with vanilla ice cream. So I decided to keep most of the classic elements, but wrap the bananas in a crepe topped with ice cream and toasted walnuts.
My real agenda? To help folks get over their fear of making crepes. Because once you master this simple, classic technique, you'll wish you'd done it long ago.
Making the batter is easy. Throw all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Then let the batter rest for half an hour. This ensures tender crepes.
Making the crepes requires one key tool — the right pan. I use a stick-resistant ceramic or enamel pan. A non-stick pan also will do the trick. Just don't overheat it; this prevents you from being able to swirl and spread the batter as needed for a perfectly thin and evenly cooked crepe.
Transporting the batter from the bowl to the pan can be messy. I keep the mess to a minimum by setting the measuring cup on a plate placed right next to the stove, then pouring out the batter a 1/4 cup at a time.
Now it's the moment of truth. You can't hesitate when making crepes. After the pan is properly heated (you'll know it is ready when a bead of water drizzled into the pan skips across its surface), you dump in the measured batter, then immediately lift up the pan and tilt it all around so that the batter completely covers the bottom. After only 30 to 45 seconds, you peek under the crepe with a spatula to see whether it has browned. If so, gather your courage, slide the spatula under the crepe, and quickly flip it over.
Transfer the cooked crepe to a rack, where it'll cool off slightly. Then, as you make more, you can stack them. Fear not, they won't stick to each other. One last note: A crepe's pretty side is the first one you cooked. When you roll up a crepe, keep the pretty side on the outside (which means place it on the plate pretty side down before filling and rolling).
Admittedly, making crepes takes a little bit of practice, but you'll be a pro after knocking out two or three of them. You also can make the crepes ahead of time, then cool, stack and wrap them in plastic. If you are going to freeze them, wrap them again in foil and label them well. Contrary to popular myth, you can stack the crepes and they won't stick as long as you let them warm to room temperature before using. Or, alternatively, remove them from the plastic, wrap the stack in foil and heat in a low oven for a few minutes.
Once the crepes are made dinner or dessert is just minutes away. It's so easy it may start to make every day feel like Mardi Gras.
BANANAS FOSTER CREPES
Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (40 minutes active)
For the crepes:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon table salt
For the filling:
2 slightly green bananas
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup dark rum
Coffee or vanilla ice cream, to serve
Chopped toasted walnuts, to serve
To make the crepes, in a 10-inch nonstick or stick-resistant skillet over low heat, melt the butter. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to a ramekin and set aside. Pour the rest of the butter into a blender. Set the skillet aside, but do not wipe it out. To the blender, add the milk, flour, eggs and salt. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, then cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, heat the skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir the batter and ladle a scant 1/4 cup into the pan, tilting and rotating the pan until the batter evenly coats the bottom. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds, or until the surface of the crepe looks set and the bottom is barely golden.
Flip the crepe and cook for 30 seconds more on the second side. Transfer the crepe to a cooling rack, then repeat the procedure, brushing the skillet as necessary with some of the reserved melted butter, until you have used up all of the batter. You should end up with 8 to 10 crepes. Once they are cool, set aside 4 crepes. The remaining crepes can be wrapped in plastic, then refrigerated or frozen for another use.
For the filling, peel the bananas, cut them in half lengthwise, then into quarters crosswise. In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Cook, stirring, until melted. Add the bananas and cook, gently turning over 1 or 2 times, until the bananas are just golden at the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the rum. Stir well, then return the skillet to the heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook until the sauce is the consistency of honey, turning the bananas often to coat them with the sauce.
Arrange 1 of the 4 reserved crepes on each serving plate. Spoon a quarter of the banana mixture down the middle of each crepe, then roll up the crepes to enclose the filling. Turn the crepe so the seam is on the bottom. Top each filled crepe with a scoop of ice cream, a drizzle of sauce from the skillet and a sprinkling of walnuts.
Nutrition information per serving: 640 calories; 320 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 36 g fat (19 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 190 mg cholesterol; 62 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 35 g sugar; 11 g protein; 240 mg sodium.