Monday, February 1, 2010

going bananas

A few years before opening Andre's I was having a conversation with a young cook newly graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. We were working on a new dish for the menu. I don't recall the specific protein but, she refused to try it claiming she "didn't like it". I did my best to explain that she didn't need to like it but she needed to understand it in taste, texture and presentation. So that in the future if she intended to impress a boss or customer who requested it, she could shine. Patience is always an issue with a young culinary grad that thinks they are ready to run the whole operation. Well, she wouldn't give in and came back at me with "you are a hypocrite! You don't like bananas and you never put them on the menu". So what's a guy to do? I came to work the next day with a new dessert. Caramelized Banana Tart with Coconut Ice cream. It seemed easy enough, quality ingredients, prepared with care, a crispy fillo crust, vanilla pastry cream, topped with thinly sliced bananas, sprinkled with sugar and brulee'd. A scoop of coconut ice cream to finish it off. Ready to ram straight down her throat. Well that dessert went on to be one of the most popular plates on the menu. Every time I took it off the customers would request it. So, I got stuck working with my least favorite ingredient just to prove a point. Fast forward a few years. (remember, with age comes wisdom) Me and Tracey are on vacation and I'm reading a book by Jeffrey Steingarten called "The Man Who Ate Everything" . In the book there is a story about him overcoming his own food phobias or aversions. He claims that if you eat said item eight to twelve times you can overcome your aversion. So I proclaim to my lovely wife that upon return from the sandy beach I will be consuming a banana a week for the next eight to twelve weeks. My wife, in her infinite wisdom declares me a fool, and insists on an eight to twelve DAY regimen. When we get home, true to my word I give it a go. The first banana actually took thirteen hours to eat. I do not lie! By the way I decided a long time ago that it is much cooler to eat everything than it is to be a fusspot. So I really truly want to like the thing. Anyway the guy was right, after about ten days of a banana a day I kinda got to like 'em. Sometimes now I actually crave them, with all that potassium and the disposable environmentally friendly wrapper. So it is with pride and affection that I may offer you the Caramelized Banana Tart complete with Coconut Ice Cream both here, in recipe form and at Andre's Restaurant on the new dessert menu. Oh, and the last thing on the list of things I don't like is the hard boiled egg. Which I do offer at the restaurant every now and then.And for the record I'm coming around ...

For the crust

16 sheets of fillo
1/2cup butter melted
2 tablespoons honey

combine butter and honey with a pastry brush alternate dough with butter mixture to form two sets with eight layers of dough in each set. cut each set into four even rectangles. bake in a 350 oven until golden brown.

For the pastry cream

2 cups milk
1/2 cup +2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup flour
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

bring the milk to a boil. combine flour and sugar. add yolks and vanilla, whisk to combine. whisk hot milk into egg mixture. return to heat and cook until very thick. do not boil! strain and stir in the butter. chill.

For assembly

spread an even layer of pastry cream over the baked fillo rectangles. top with 1/2 of a banana sliced very thin. sprinkle with sugar and torch or broil to caramelize the sugar. serve with coconut ice cream.

For the ice cream

13.5 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
13.5 ounces milk
1/2 cup Malibu rum
1/2 cup sugar
8 egg yolks

bring milk, coconut milk, and rum to a boil. combine egg yolks and sugar, whisk until pale yellow. Whisk hot milk into egg mixture. return to heat and cook for three or four minutes to thicken slightly. chill and follow manufacturers instructions.


  1. What an interesting concept, trying something so many times that you begin to like it. I think that's why I am so adamant about my kids trying different foods and if they don't like it the first time, trying it again down the road. Our tastes are always changing, right? I get so frustrated when they like something one week though and the next they don't (usually after I've stocked up on the item for the month!!) Luckily, they usually come around and in the end eat whatever it is again. It was definitely a goal of mine to ensure that they tried and hopefully enjoy a wide variety of foods.
    However, as far as the hardboiled egg goes--I'm with you!!! It's about the only thing on this Earth that I do not like to eat. And my biggest problem is the yolk. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat egg salad (yolk chopped up), sliced in a spinach salad, but a round, grayish/yellowish yolk full on....blek! I think it's mostly psychological, though. I mean, without getting too graphic, think about what an egg had the potential of becoming. I think I'll stop here, before I make you regress in your egg eating abilities. Thanks for the banana looks sooooooo good!!

  2. Love your blog, Andre'!

    I was going to just put my one comment:

    "Now I'm hungry!"

    ...but you got me thinking. I have NEVER liked brussel sprouts. My friends always said I just hadn't had them prepared right...and they were right!

    I want to thank you for inviting me to Thanksgiving this year. I'm assuming you made the brussel sprouts because they were delcious! But if it was a family member, that's also great. I know they're crazy good for you and now I eat them as much as I can!!
    (Could you maybe share your recipe with me?)
    I know....Funny girl....

    Marsh in Newton, NJ

  3. The recipe looks awesome!
    The image is heavenly; How could you not want to try it? But as wonderful as it is, I'm already imagining some changes. I want to make it right now, but I have no phyllo dough. Maybe I could use some of the wonderful ginger heart thins i made a couple of days ago, for the base. And last summer we experimented with the delights of roasted fruits....mmmmmm, maybe roasted/grilled pineapple instead of the banana?
    We've always enjoyed cooking and eating in our family, but Andre has taught me how to invent in the kitchen, to take a basic recipe or idea and then run with it, have fun with it; it's exciting! I'm paying attention!
    Thanks, Ange!
    From the Family unit temporarily in Florida