Here’s the thing: I don’t love Jell-O, and most of America does. I’d bet that even foodie elite, people who’d never be caught with a two-tone wiggler, dig strawberry banana when no one’s looking – I believe it. There are distinct groups of Jell-O lovers – 50′s kids who grew up with it, like my parents; crafty cooks who make projects of rainbow parfaits; and the rest, like my daughter, who just plain love its slippery cool. And in there, there we have it: the only time I like Jell-O is when I’m sick – when I’m good and sick and low, those unnatural tones look like comfort, and taste easy. A delightful slide down, and too smooth to refuse.
Josie had some oral surgery done last weekend, the poor thing. Whenever she’s legitimately sick or injured – antibiotics or 100 degrees, whichever comes first – she will get tucked into our bed with quilts, movies and the dog, and luxuriate in being The Poor Thing. A diminished state will also make her The Nice Thing – a fever or post-anesthetic haze will do that to a kid, I guess. She lays positively docile, sipping Gatorade and following orders, her parents stroking hair or bringing treats. A trouper we say, what a trouper.
Can we get you something, something soft? Jell-O? Okay. The lime kind, and Donald? Sure. You just wait right there.
That’s right. When in need of true comfort, dental or otherwise, we call on The Donald. Promise not to tell her friends; she’d kill me. With the spoon.
Anyway, as soon as you could say Tylenol 3, the two full days of Jell-O, soup and yogurt made her bored with movies, sick of codeine, restless and newly charged as The Crabby, Hungry Thing. She was starving, she said, we were starving her. I believe that’s called taking care of you, I said. You wanted Jell-O. Well yeah, but now – now she was just mad to have missed the whole weekend, sure that she was wasting away, and maybe she would like a large steak. Or a dozen buffalo hot wings. And celery. The dog leaped off the bed, and the spell was broken. She was feeling better.
Not wishing to undo the surgeon’s work, I nixed the chewing, but offered real food. How about…French toast?
I looked around the kitchen. A banana in the fruit bowl straightened, hopeful.
Okay. How about French toast…with caramelized bananas?
Aha! Soft for the mouth and sweet on the tongue. Now we were talking, and even better, healing. There’s still Jell-O in the fridge, and sore mouth or not, she’ll eat it. Me, I’ll wait for the fever.
Caramelized Banana French Toast
This method lets you use one pan for both the French toast and the bananas; just make sure it’s good and non-stick.
8 slices bread (I like to use stale baguette bread, cut on a thick angle)
4-5 eggs *
1/4 cup milk or cream
splash orange juice (optional)
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1 tablespoon canola oil, or butter, for frying
1-2 bananas, in thick slices
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
splash orange juice
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk or cream, orange juice, cinnamon and nutmeg until smooth. Add bread slices to bowl, turning pieces to coat with egg mixture. Leave slices in the egg mixture 5-15 minutes (thick, dry bread can take longer) or until bread is soaked through, but not falling apart.
Using a large, non-stick frying pan, melt oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add soaked bread slices and cook 1-2 minutes per side, turning, until evenly browned. Remove French toast from pan and set on a paper-towel lined plate.
Leaving heat at medium-high, immediately add sliced bananas and tablespoon of butter to the same non-stick pan, shaking pan as you add to keep bananas moving. Sprinkle sugar over bananas, then the splash of orange juice. Keep the pan moving as they cook, using a heatproof spatula to help turn bananas fast. Both sides of bananas should brown quickly, melting the sugar and juice together, about one minute total cooking time.
Set French toast on plates, spoon warm bananas over the top, and serve.
* so, what’s with “4-5 eggs?” Well, eggs will vary in size, volume, and how long they’ve been in your fridge. Start by whisking up four – if there’s enough liquid to generously cover the bread, stop there, and if not, add another.