If it’s possible to still be a Daddy’s girl at 52, then I’m as guilty as the six year-old that wears him like a badge of honor on my heart, then as I do now. He enforced strict discipline and never tolerated lies he was somehow able to sniff out like a dog on the hunt. He taught unconditional love at every turn, returning from arduous week-long business trips, always ready to give his energy to his pack of four children and our mother on weekends. These often involved long rides on our horses, tag football, and summer evenings spent watching fireflies on our country front porch. When we were really lucky, these nights ended with him recanting imagined tales of Cookie to all of us, under a “tent” in the living room. And, when the summer heat really turned on, Saturday afternoons meant cherished and rare trips to Dairy Queen for ice cream. I favored the soft serve vanilla twist cones dipped in confetti peanut/candy, but sometimes one of us, Dad included, went whole hog and indulged in a hot chocolate sauce banana split. So, even now, I can’t think of ice cream sundaes without thinking of my Dad.
Time may have softened the lines of these memories, erasing the tears from an overly tired child or admonishments from a frustrated Dad, but at their core, they remain true to the man he was and is. The best Dad I could ever hope to have and my eternal night in shining armor, still shining at 84 years of age. The recipe that follows is an adult version of a very, very indulgent sundae that far surpasses DQ’s confetti candy and moves into the realm of butter, mashed bananas, brown sugar, walnuts and rum, though the latter can be wholly omitted without really missing a beat. From my cookbook Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith), it might be just the right treat for your Dad this Father’s Day.
Mashed Bananas Foster Sundaes
(Yields 8 sundaes)
The classic brown sugar, butter and rum sauce wrapped around flash-cooked and flambeed ripe bananas was created by Chef Paul Blange at Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans in 1951. The dark brown sauce is just the right foil for the sweetness of bananas. Lightly mashed and served warm over commercial vanilla ice cream with a crumble of chopped walnuts, it is sublime and comes together in minutes. To flambe, carefully tip the saute pan to meet your stovetop gas flame, or quickly hit with a lighter flame. The flambe is important to cook off the burn of the alcohol and increase flavor, although the rum can be omitted altogether. This is best served straight from the pan, but will store refrigerated and covered for a day or two. Reheat before serving over a few scoops of ice cream.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
4 ripe bananas, peeled, halved vertically, and halved again horizontally
1/3 cup dark rum (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 quarts best quality vanilla ice cream
In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, canilla, and salt. Cook together over medium-low heat, stirring, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the bananas and gently stir to coat, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the rum, stir to combine, and flambe, standing back to avoid the flame. Gently mash into large chunks using a manual masher or wooden spoon. Remove from heat and cool slightly for 1 – 2 minutes. Serve warm in individual bowls over 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream. Garnish with a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.
Happy Father’s Day!
Sack the chili and other usual Super Bowl menu suspects and throw a pass on this classic French stew: Coq au Vin. Make it ahead, serve and hear ’em roar! This one is a winner that the whole team will love on game day, but will prove a welcome player any day of the year.
(Adapted from my next cookbook, The French Cook: Soupes et Daubes, Gibbs Smith, August, 2014)
Coq au Pinot Gris with Mushrooms, Leeks and Dijon Mustard
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
Chicken braised in wine is the basic formula for what’s called “coq au vin” (pronounced ‘coke o vaen’), which is at the heart of the cooking action in this recipe. The kind of wine, though typically a red (especially a Burgundy), can really be any grape varietal including Alsacienne-inspired Pinot Gris in this especially delicious, and slightly sweet version. Interpretations of this stunning French stew can be found throughout the France, but the classic garnishes typically include lardons (or substitute bacon), mushrooms and onions. This stew can (and really should) be made a day ahead to enrich flavors. If you choose to do so, add the cream and mustard just before serving. It’s exquisite alongside a mound of tender, buttered spaghetti.
2 large bone-in chicken breasts (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut horizontally into 4 equal-sized pieces, trimmed of excess fat, skin and small rib bones
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
1 leek, white and pale green part only, halved vertically, cleaned, and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Eight ounces (about 2 cups) white button mushrooms, feet trimmed, brushed clean and sliced about 1/4”-thick
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups good quality Pinot Gris (or substitute Riesling)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup heavy cream (Do not substitute Half & Half or milk!)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prep the chicken (being careful to remove any stray, spindly rib or spine bones) and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat the butter and olive oil in a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven over high heat. When bubbling, add the chicken in a single layer, skin side down. Reduce heat to medium high and cook for 3 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown. Turn all of the chicken pieces and cook another 3 minutes on the second side. Using tongs, remove the chicken from the pan and reserve (I always use my inversed Dutch oven lid as a “plate” for this purpose). Reduce heat to medium low. Add the onion, garlic, leek and a dusting of salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened, but not browned. Add the mushrooms, stir to combine, and cook another 3 minutes. Dust the flour evenly over the top, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute. Increase the heat to high. Add the Pinot Gris, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon to pick up any brown bits. Bring up to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the thyme. Return the reserved chicken to the pot, arranging in a single layer, about 3/4 covered with the wine. Cook, uncovered for 35 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked and free of any pink juices (insert a small paring knife in a piece to be sure), stirring once or twice. When cooked, remove the chicken and reserve. Increase the heat under the pot to high and reduce the cooking liquid/wine by about 1/3; about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. (Note: Return the chicken to the pan, cool and refrigerate overnight if serving the following day). To finish the stew just before serving, whisk in the heavy cream, parsley, and Dijon, and heat through. Serve warm over warm, buttered pasta or egg noodles. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.