I remember the first time I learned that you could utterly transform bananas into sweet, chewy, crisp, melty banana candy simply by slicing them and pan frying them with butter. I had helped my friend Kevin move, and as a thank you he made breakfast. It was either french toast or waffles, both of which I love and would have been more than satisfied with. Then he asked if I wanted bananas, and I was blown away.
Obviously, caramelized and fried bananas are hardly a culinary innovation. This is basically the same concept of Bananas Foster, without the theatrics of flambeing.
I don't add sugar when I caramelize my bananas, and they are still plenty sweet. If yours aren't particularly ripe, I suppose sugar would help, but I'd honestly advise waiting until the fruit sweetens up naturally in order to yield the best result.
There are two basic versions of this dish: thin sliced and thick sliced. Thick slices afford for the most variation in texture and flavor in each piece, as the center of a thick slice of banana will taste purely of banana. This is very good, but usually I like to slice my banana really thinly, which means that the inner banana gets very soft and almost melts away, while the exterior becomes a delicately crispy sugar shell. If you don't have enough butter in the pan, the fruit can easily stick and all the slices can quickly become a sticky caramelly mess. If that threatens to happen to you, do not fret. It's not as pretty, but it will still taste amazing.
So what can you do with these golden little beauties? They are a welcome addition to breakfasts, brunches and desserts. You could stuff them into crepes with mascarpone or ricotta, layer them with puff pastry and whipped cream, pile them atop a stack of pancakes or french toast, serve them over ice cream... The possibilities are endless.
Today, I chose oatmeal. It was an excellent way to enliven a somewhat dull breakfast food!