Wolfgang Puck: Go bananas!
Sunday, April 22, 2012
For deep-frying, pick firmer fruit whose peels have only just turned yellow.
By Wolfgang Puck
Tribune Media Services
  My recipe for Banana Fritters seems a perfect way to raise some smiles at the table.
  At face value, bananas are among the funniest of fruits. A cheerful yellow color when ripe, they have a shape that even looks like a smile. Peeling them can be, in itself, a silly process, sort of like a fruit striptease. And the peel itself, of course, is a staple of slapstick comedy - so take care not to drop it on your kitchen floor!
  All kidding aside, bananas make excellent ingredients. Their sweet, mellow flavor and soft, creamy texture suit them to a wide range of uses, from mashed in baked goods to diced in sweet-and-spicy curries, fried in butter as a side dish for Caribbean meals to whirled with milk in smoothies, topped with ice cream and sauces for classic banana splits to cut into chunks and deep-fried in batter.
  Though most people already know the basics, it bears repeating that bananas should be ripened at room temperature. Most of the fruit in stores is sold with the peels still green, a day or two from readiness, though you can usually sort through the bin to find a few riper specimens. The way you plan to use them will determine how ripe you want them to be. Most baking recipes call for their peels to be fully yellow with a speckling of brown spots, indicating that the fruit beneath is not only sweet but also soft enough to mash easily into a batter. For the purposes of deep-frying, you want firmer fruit whose peels have only just turned yellow.
  I usually serve the hot, crispy fritters with a dusting of confectioners' sugar. But, as an extra treat, I'll sometimes serve them with a scoop of ice cream or add a sweet dipping sauce, like the hot fudge recipe I also include here.
  Serves 6
 1 cup all-purpose flour
 1 tablespoon baking powder
 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground white pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 large cage-free egg
1 cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 pounds ripe but firm organic bananas, peeled and cut diagonally into 3-inch chunks
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
   In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, dashes of salt and pepper, and a hint of nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Whisk the liquid mixture into the flour mixture just until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the batter to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  Heat at least 3 inches of oil in a thermostat-controlled countertop deep-fryer, or in a deep, heavy pot using a deep-frying thermometer, to 350 degrees F.
  When the oil is hot, dip the banana chunks one at a time into the batter and carefully add them to the hot oil, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the deep-fryer or pot. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove using the deep-fryer basket or a wire skimmer and transfer to paper towels to drain.
  Transfer the banana fritters to a serving platter or plates. Spoon some confectioner's sugar into a small wire-meshed sieve held over the fritters and tap the side of the sieve to dust the fritters with sugar. Serve immediately.
  Makes about 2 cups
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
 In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  Add the water, cream, and honey. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the honey.
  Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour in the hot cream mixture. Leave undisturbed until the chocolate has melted, about 1 minute. Then, stir until smooth. If you like, stir in the rum.
  Serve immediately, or gently rewarm on the stovetop before use.
This was printed in the April 22, 2012 - May 5, 2012 Edition

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