Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sarah Wisseman's Oh, Bananas!

One of my favorite things to do at mystery conferences is to have a meal or two with Molly and Sarah Wisseman. Sarah is an incredibly smart lady is an author and an archaeologist (and I usually need to look up how to spell that) and at those dinners I usually laugh until I cry. I'm so glad Sarah is posting about this flaming recipe today!-AA

Oh, Bananas!

Foster, that is. The first time I ever saw this marvelous flaming dessert demonstrated was in New Orleans in 1982. My husband had a medical conference there, and a kind friend volunteered to take our nine-month-old baby so I could accompany him. While I was away, Jeannie taught my son how to safely crawl up (frontward) and down (backward) stairs in my absence, but that’s another story.

I had two blissful days to wander around the French Quarter, pausing several times to inhale fresh beignets (that dusted my front with powdered sugar) and sip the wonderful coffee with chicory. At night we tried out local restaurants, including J. Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen where the lines were long, the service casual, and the seafood and sausage spectacular.

On day three of my short holiday, the conference organizers arranged a cooking class for stray spouses. We learned about (and tasted) Jambalaya, Pralines, CafĂ© Brulot (spiced coffee with brandy and triple–sec), Bananas Foster, and at least one other dish I can’t remember. For the Bananas Foster, the cook turned down the lighting in the room so we could really experience the blue flame and cinnamon sparks in all their glory.

We were told, “DO try this at home.” But the first time I did, I didn’t get the liquors hot enough for the flaming to work properly—a sad disappointment. The second time, I used instructions from the cookbook La Bouche Creole (by Leon E. Soniat, Jr.) and it worked beautifully.

BANANAS FOSTER (serves 4 people) (photo from

1 cup dark brown sugar
½ stick of butter
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 oz. banana liqueur
4 oz. rum
½ tsp. cinnamon

Cream melted butter and brown sugar together to form a paste. Add banana liqueur and bananas. Heat and stir with a long spoon until bananas are soft and the liquid is approaching boiling, about 5 minutes. Heat rum in a metal cup or small pan, ignite and pour over bananas. Add cinnamon, stir well to blend, then serve over vanilla ice cream.

(n.b. If you add the cinnamon while flaming, it sends out blue sparks and adds to the drama)

Although I am usually a chocoholic, I recommend this dessert. After all, how can you go wrong with something that contains butter, brown sugar, and rum?

(Note to self: I really should work more cooking and eating into my mysteries. Use taste and smell more. And visions of yummy things! Make the readers hungry, make them lust after Bananas Foster and other goodies…)

Archaeologist and author Sarah Wisseman writes the Lisa Donahue archaeological mysteries. Her latest book is The House of the Sphinx. Visit her website at


Sassy Lassies Vintage Life said...

I used to make Bananas Foster quite often. Have not made it in years. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and a note to myself to make it. Once you get the hang of it, it is so easy, quick AND spectacular. The melting ice cream with the soft bananas and all that luscious sugar and cinnamon. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Sarah-great blog, wonderful recipe and memories so good there's no word for it yet. I don't fix Bananas Foster because for me, the main, wonderful things (besides what a spectcular desert is is)are the ambiance and the company and happiness - these are the main things. I never had them except with my husband: celebrating some milestone; 'eating out' and splurging, having fun; visiting New Orleans as you mentioned; and on one of the many cruises we enjoyed. My Darling Companion was wrenched from my arms June 29, 2007-the worst day of my life, aneurism on abdomina aorta(I'd have gone with him but I wasn't invited.) My place beside him is paid for but I've evidently got a few more things to do before I 'retire' LOL. Thanks for the interesting blog (I'm going to check out your books too :-)as well as our other Five * writers ) Thanks for the memories and Happy New Year,
Jackie Griffey

Molly MacRae said...

Oh, Sarah, let's make Oh, Bananas in our motel room one night when we're at Love is Murder!

On second thought . . .

On third thought, I bet Amy and Susan would join us. I'll bring the bananas.