Grilled bananas enter the repertoire of the barefoot chef

HAPPY EATER

August 26, 1992|By ROB KASPER

II grilled some bananas. For me this was a feat of derring-do. It was not something I would undertake under normal circumstances.

But I had a lot of time on my hands. I was on vacation and, as happens when you have idle hours, inhibitions start falling.

You get the idea to try all sorts of lifestyle experiments. You stop wearing shoes. You read entire books, not just chapters. And you fix recipes that require more than three ingredients, dishes like chicken breasts massaged with spices and served with grilled bananas.

Throwing bananas on the barbecue grill is not something I did right out of the chute.

I worked up to the bananas only after I had loosened up by cooking more conventional fare. I barbecued some pork ribs that had soaked for a day in the best bottled marinade in the world, Peck Wicker's Hornersville Missouri sauce.

I grilled steaks that had been rubbed with olive oil and black peppercorns.

Another night I grilled chicken parts that had bathed in a peppery soy marinade, this one made by Flower of the Flames, a Kansas City outfit.

These dishes were mixed in with my traditional time-on-my hands eats, bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches for lunch, big bowls of popcorn for afternoon snacking, a peach cobbler for dessert and homemade chocolate chip cookies for as long as they last.

Toward the end of the vacation, buoyed by good eats, good books and the pleasures of walking around barefoot, I felt ready to try something new. That is how I came to grill the banana.

It really wasn't that difficult. It was just unconventional. I took four store-bought bananas, sliced them lengthwise and popped them the barbecue grill over a medium-hot charcoal fire.

The recipe from Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughy's cookbook "The Thrill of the Grill" (Morrow $25), called for keeping the skin on the bananas, but I peeled them. I enjoyed seeing the grill marks sizzle the bare bananas. When the flat sides were golden brown, I figured the banana was done.

I was worried that bananas would be slippery, that they might behave like the national economy, and take an unexpected dive. But the bananas unlike most economic indicators, held firm.

The recipe also said that the bananas would provide a sweet, mellow contrast to the crispy chicken. I guess it did.

Not being a veteran banana-baker, I would be hard-pressed to testify that grilling the fruit gave it a different flavor than simply cooking it in the oven. But, of course, you don't get those distinctive grill marks on oven-baked foods.

And mainly, it gave me the opportunity to put another notch on my spatula. Now in addition to ribs, steak, and burgers, fish fillets, and hot dogs, I can claim that I barbecue bananas.

F: Grilled West Indies chicken breast with grilled banana

From "The Thrill of the Grill"

Serves four.

4 boneless chicken breasts

4 firm bananas, skin on, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon soft butter

2 tablespoons molasses

lime halves.

FOR THE SPICE RUB:

3 tablespoons curry powder

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons allspice

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons powdered ginger

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper

Mix spices together, rub the mixture on both sides of chicke breasts,cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Over medium fire, grill chicken breasts skin-side down for 7 to 8 minutes, until well browned and heavily crusted. Turn them and grill an additional 10 minutes. Check for doneness by nicking the largest breast at fattest point. The meat should be fully opaque, with no traces of red. Remove chicken from grill.

Rub the banana halves with vegetable oil and place them on grill, flat side down. Grill for about 2 minutes, or until the flat sides are slightly golden . Flip and grill additional 2 minutes.

Remove bananas from grill. Mix the butter and molasses together and paint this over bananas. Serve the chicken breasts and bananas together, sprinkled with lime juice.

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