We called up Tuscan Table pastry chef Patrick Jones last week to ask if he would prepare us a suitably dramatic treat to eat while watching the Academy Awards on Sunday. He chose Bananas Foster, a New Orleans classic, which we think is apt on several counts: For one, any dessert that gets lit on fire counts as dramatic in our book. Add to that, New Orleans has been the setting for many a Hollywood film, and Mardi Gras alone demonstrates that the city knows how to put on a show.

Not that you need an excuse to make Bananas Foster.

Patrick Jones, pastry chef at Tuscan Table in South Portland, adds bananas to a sauté pan as he prepares Bananas Foster on Monday.

“It’s a showstopper,” said Jones, who came to South Portland’s Tuscan Table two months ago after seven years making pastry at Aurora Provisions in Portland.

Except for the rum, you may have all the ingredients you need to make it on hand. And given that Bananas Foster is just five minutes work, if that, you could fix the entire dessert during a commercial – or during one of those interminable thank-you speeches from someone you never heard of in an Oscar category you couldn’t care less about.

Jones’ own career took a dramatic turn when he was 40. He’d been working in the fitness industry, managing a gym in Chicago, when a close friend died. The friend, long a fan of Jones’ home baking, had suggested for years that Jones become a pastry chef.

So at 40, Jones traded his barbells for baking sheets and enrolled in pastry school. “I believe in the yin and yang of life,” he joked about switching from a job that emphasizes physical well-being to one that emphasizes butter and sugar.

He spent two years studying baking and pastry at Kendall College in Chicago, but he didn’t actually enter the culinary field until he moved to Maine seven years ago. “I don’t know why. I just didn’t.” His eventual career change proves, he said, that “I don’t think you are ever too old to ever change the path you are going down.”

On Sunday, Jones will be rooting for “The Shape of Water,” which, with 13 Oscar nominations, leads the pack this year. “It’s so theatrical. It’s so quirky. It’s so beautiful,” he said. “I saw it two weeks ago. Wonderful. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted it to keep going.”

Which is often how we feel about eating dessert.

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PGrodinsky

Have a pan lid handy when you prepare Bananas Foster, in case you need to quickly extinguish the flame.

BANANAS FOSTER

Recipe courtesy of Tuscan Table Pastry Chef Patrick Jones. Be sure you have the ingredients measured and ready to go – the bananas peeled and sliced – before you start to cook, as the dessert will come together very quickly. While the addition of banana liqueur is nice, Jones says Bananas Foster is still “super delicious” without it.

Serves 4

Cooking time: 5 minutes

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup banana liqueur, optional

4 firm bananas, cut lengthwise and then in half again

1/4 cup dark or light rum

4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Place the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a sauté pan over medium high heat.

Add the optional banana liqueur once the brown sugar mixture is bubbling, if using.

Add the bananas cut side down into pan. Sauté the bananas for 45 seconds and then flip and sauté for 45 more seconds.

Take the pan off the heat and add the rum. Place the pan back over heat and cook to allow alcohol to heat up. Once the alcohol is hot enough, ignite it by using a long match or carefully tilting pan toward the flame. Please stand back as a matter of safety and have a pan lid handy, if needed to clap on the pan and extinguish the flame.

Continue sautéing until the flames totally dissipate. This signals that the alcohol is completely cooked out.

Carefully remove the banana slices, divvy up and place around the ice cream scoops. Pour the hot caramel mixture over the ice cream.

Serve immediately.

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