Brandied Fruit Thaïs

When Brennan’s invented bananas Foster and got everybody talking about it, other restaurants reacted in two ways. First, they came up with new flaming fruit desserts with ice cream. Later, they just began serving bananas Foster. If a restaurant did both things, the dessert in step one often disappeared. That happened to this great creation of the Pontchartrain Hotel’s Caribbean Room. It’s a collection of juicy fruits (and bananas), sprinkled with brown sugar and flamed with brandy. The added touch of topping it with crumbled macaroon cookies and almonds made it both unique and spectacular. I think the problem with it was that it was too big to serve at just one table, and it wound up in the C-Room’s banquet repertoire.

Brandied fruit salad Thais.

The dish is named for the Massenet opera of the same name, or perhaps for the original book by Anatole France. Classy restaurants often made literary references in those days.

  • 2 peaches or nectarines, or 8 apricots
  • 2 ripe pears
  • 1/2 of a whole fresh pineapple, cored
  • 1 slightly underripe banana
  • 1 cup pitted and halved fresh Bing or Raniere cherries (about 15 of them)
  • 1/2 cup amontillado or fino sherry
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 oz. slivered almonds
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of crumbled coconut macaroon cookies or almond cookies
  • 1 1/2 oz. brandy
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream

1. Peel the peaches or nectarines or apricots and the pineapple, and cut it into dice the size that come with your Monopoly set. Slice the bananas about a quarter-inch thick.

2. Put all the fruits into a two-quart non-metallic baking dish. Pour the sherry over the fruits. Cover and marinate for two to four hours. Don’t refrigerate.

3. About a half-hour before you’re ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the brown sugar, almonds, and half of the crushed cookies to the fruit. Cut the butter into chips and add. With a big spoon, lightly toss the contents of the dish.

4. Top the fruit mixture with the remaining cookie crumbs. Put the baking dish into the 350-degree oven, uncovered, and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the top is browned.

5. At the table, pour the brandy over the hot fruit and touch a flame to it. (Be careful that nothing overhead is inflammable. Don’t flame if you don’t feel safe about it.) Spoon the fruit over scoops of ice cream and serve.

Serves 12-16.

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