KITCHEN CATASTROPHE #36: Banana Boats and Elote

KITCHEN CATASTROPHE #36: Banana Boats and Elote

  Welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, the ongoing saga of Johan Guinsen’s battle with the great jotun Firffat. I’m your host Johan Guinsen. By which I mean Jon O’Guin. Today, I’m going to talk about one of my many addictions: applause, and what it has to do with cooking in general, and banana boats in particular.

No, not that kind. And don’t you start singing “Day-o”, either. That song misrepresents the dangers and hardships of working a banana boat.

When asked to describe why I do theatre, I tend to come back to a singular moment: in my second play in High School, I received a standing ovation at the end of one of our performances. And the sheer sense of support and joy it sent coursing through me would forever shape something of the person I am. Of course, it’s not difficult to see why: I was raised from a young age to try my best, expect success, and rewarded with praise. A healthy percent of my self-worth was directly tied to praise and accolades. (Speaking of which, Alan tells me we could use more Facebook visibility, and asked me to ask you guys to like our page, or share our posts, earlier in the post than at the end. I said “Sure”, because I generally just blindly agree to things Alan asks so the website doesn’t spontaneously combust. If you have a minute, feel free to soothe my ego, and Alan’s traffic numbers, by connecting with us on Social Media.)

I blame, honestly, my general utility. I figured out fairly long ago that I could do any task that required physical effort and mental acuity FAIRLY well, given time. Give me a week, and I can learn the basics of car repair, aviation, non-intrusive surgery, etc. (I can also learn humility in like, a DAY.) As an actor, my current string of performances have all been “So, Jon, we cast you as this role, can you also play this other role in the show?” to which I say “Yeah, sure.” But being alright at everything undercuts the idea of one’s unique value. So I relied on awards and praise to know which of the 18 things I was currently doing I was actually doing WELL. Why do I have a cooking blog? Because years ago people complimented me on my cooking. Why am I an actor? People applauded me as a con artist in the Wild West.

Maybe they were just applauding the bravery it took to wear that vest.

Of course, you didn’t come for a lengthy bout of introspection, you came for recipes, so let’s set the stage for this post: I moved to Leavenworth for a month, and stayed in a cabin for half that time. My cabin, unlike some of them, lacked a kitchenette, so my main cooking apparatus was a grill. I decided “Well, guess I have to find something to grill for the site”, and settled on a recipe I’ve secretly wanted to do for years: Elote.

Billy Elote, Corn Chess Champion

Elote is one of like, 9 words for Corn in Mexican Spanish. You may think that’s too many, but remember that we have “corny” “corned beef” and a couple other ideas all trapped in our one word, so glass houses, buddy. (they really only have like, 5 for the plant. Totally reasonable.) But it’s most typically used to refer to a specific dish: Mexican Street Corn, aka the mysterious “Corn on the Cob”.

MYSTERY!

Seriously, Elote is just the preferred way to serve corn on the cob in Mexico. And it’s a pretty cool system. Firstly, they have a BUNCH more toppings than we do. While your typical American just butters their corn, maybe hits it with salt and pepper, the traditional Mexican preparation is to slather it in Crema (Sour cream), chili powder, lime juice, and a crumbled cheese, typically Queso Fresco or Cotija.

Grilling the corn is pretty straightforward: I trimmed off the end of the corn because I didn’t grill mine the day I got it, meaning the ends of the silk had gotten a touch slimy. I peeled back the leaves, and pulled off the silk. I then proceeded to put the leaves back on the corn, and grilled it in them. I actually did this based on three instincts: one, corn silk is fun to pull out; two, putting straight corn on the grill seemed like a bad idea in turns of explosions of hot corn juice; and three, I wanted to watch the corn leaves burn, because I’m a pyromaniac.

Seriously, I somehow got grill marks on my own hands while making these. I’m a danger to myself and others.

Hilariously, according to at least one site, my random impulse is the best way to balance good grill flavor with solid corn kernels. Random chance for the win! (The website madeno claims that burning the corn silk did anything other than appease the voices.)

After you grill it, you slather the corn in sauce. What’s in the sauce? Well, I saw recipes call for mayonnaise, Mexican sour cream, a mixture of sour cream and mayo…I used Sour Cream, because I actually just forgot to bring the Mayonnaise. I also forgot the Queso Fresco. IMPROVISE, DAMNIT.

What if we ground up the spoon? Would that work?

So we ended up with grilled corn with a covering of sour cream, chili powder, and lime juice. How was it? Pretty damn good. The sweet corn meets the cream, with the chili and lime cutting the richness. The Queso normally adds some salt and texture, and I’d totally be for using it next time, but I didn’t particularly miss it here.

However, I felt that simply grilling corn and literally tossing toppings on wouldn’t be enough to impress you, the viewer. So I decided to use that sexiest of meals to wrap up the post: Dessert.

The Fact that I already used “Get on The Banana Boat” in a post is killing me.

So, my grilled dessert was a dish called “Banana Smore’s” or “Banana Boats”. The instructions were simple: put smore’s components in a banana, and grill it. No mucking about with this recipe. Get it in, and get it done.

I ended up cooking it twice, and vastly preferred the second way, so I’ll tell you how to make that version, despite all my pictures being of the first one. I’m capricious like that. So, the basic steps are the same, first you cut a slit into a ripe banana.

This is not what I remember the inside of bananas looking like.

Then you fill it with chocolate, marshmallows, and something crunchy. The first time I used diced nuts, but the second time I used Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and that was awesome. Then, you can either wrap the bananas in foil and toss them straight on the coals, or grill them in their skins. I found that the latter allows for more control, and was more visually impressive, since the skins blacken. IN the end, however, you’re left with a gooey banana filled with chocolate, marshmellow goo, and crunchy bits. Everyone who ate them that wasn’t a robot programmed to hate sugars loved them, and I received a ton of praise. Which is, of course, the most important part.

Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and applaud. Or, in Jeb terms: “Please clap.”

NEXT TIME: JON TALKS ABOUT FOOD CULTURE SOME MORE, WITH A FOCUS ON WHAT HE KNOWS: WASHINGTON.

RECIPES

Elote

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 ears of corn, outer leaves removed, silk pulled.

¼ c sour cream

1 lime, quartered

1 tbsp chili powder

Preparation

  1. Fire your charcoal and let your grill come to high heat. This is a great time to get your corn ready if you haven’t yet.
  2. Grill corn, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes.
  3. While corn is still hot, spread with sour cream.
  4. Dust with pinch or two of chili powder, and squeeze one lime wedge over corn.
  5. Eat warm.

Banana Boats

Serves 4-8 (depending on hunger level)

Ingredients

4 ripe bananas

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 cup chocolate chips

¼ cup Cinnamon- Sugar Cereal

Preparation.

  1. Heat the grill to high.
  2. Cut a slit on the inside curve of the banana, down into the flesh, and pull apart. Gently flatten the new “bottom” of the banana, so it will sit flat on the grill.
  3. Fill banana with as much mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and cinnamon sugar cereal as you desire (you needn’t use all you’ve prepared, but it should be enough.)
  4. Place filled banana boats onto the grill, and grill for 5-7 minutes, watching and tilting occastionally until chocolate and marshmallows have melted, and skin is blackened.
  5. Serve hot.