"We didn't have much in the way of spices growing up, but you can't tie everything to terroir," Michel Bras says about the ingredients available to him in the Aubrac mountains. Here the chef uses an international array of ingredients, studding bananas with cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans and coffee beans, then serving them, roasted, with a cinnamony syrup scented with the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout.
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1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup roasted and skinned hazelnuts
1/3 cup unsalted pistachios
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 1/2 tablespoons of water
1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout (see Note)
18 medium bananas
72 coffee beans (3 tablespoons)
Thirty-six 2-inch-long julienne strips of candied orange peel (2 ounces)
2 vanilla beans, quartered and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
Four 1 1/2-inch-long cinnamon sticks, broken into shards
How to Make It
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water and simmer over moderate heat until a rich brown caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Add the hazelnuts and pistachios and stir to coat. Using a fork or slotted spoon, working quickly, transfer a few nuts at a time to the parchment paper and separate them. Let cool completely, about 25 minutes.
In a small saucepan, boil the water with the sugar until reduced by one-fourth, about 12 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the ras el hanout. Let cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange the bananas on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Using a skewer or paring knife, poke the bananas all over, about 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart. Stud the bananas with the coffee beans, candied orange peel, vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. Roast the bananas for about 20 minutes, until very tender.
Cut 6 of the bananas in half crosswise. Spoon the spiced syrup onto plates. Arrange a whole and halved banana on each plate. Garnish with the candied nuts and serve.
Ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice mixture containing up to 50 spices (including ginger and anise), is available from Middle Eastern markets and kalustyans.com.
Spain's Jerez region produces great sweet wines from the Pedro Ximénez grape.
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