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Key Ingredient: Bananas

Mark Steuer of the Bedford takes on the food he hates most

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Hot Chocolate pastry chef and owner Mindy Segal challenged Mark Steuer, chef of the yet-to-open restaurant the Bedford, to come up with a recipe using bananas for this installment of our weekly feature.

"Mindy picked bananas because she knows it's the one thing I can't stand to eat," former Hot Chocolate executive chef Mark Steuer said of his assigned ingredient. "I don't think I've touched a banana in 12 years, so this was a little interesting for me conceptually."

It's not the flavor of bananas that bothers Steuer, but the texture, which he finds "reminiscent of old lobster, like when it gets overcooked." With that in mind, he settled on a "spin on the jibarito, so it kills the texture."

Steuer didn't have a lot of other contenders in mind for the final dish. "I thought about it for a week, and I couldn't think of anything I enjoyed that had some kind of banana variant in it. And I don't like cooking things that I don't like to eat. So it was the only direction I could go," he said.

In Steuer's version of a deconstructed jibarito, fried banana slices stand in for the plantain and seared duck breast replace the traditional beef or pork; typical toppings like mayonnaise, onion, and lettuce are also tweaked slightly (garlic aioli, pickled onion, and celery leaf stood in). Since the Bedford is still being built, Steuer didn't have a professional kitchen to practice in (he used the Hot Chocolate kitchen for the demo), so he came up with the concept and hoped it would work out. Getting the fried banana right took a couple tries—the oil wasn't quite hot enough to start with—but he finally managed a brown, crispy slice of fruit.

Plating the dish, Steuer joked, "Hopefully it'll look pretty enough that it'll distract you from the fact that it's not traditional." He topped the fried banana and slices of duck breast with jalapeño and fresno peppers and pickled onions to cut through the fattiness of the duck and aioli; he chose scallion and celery leaf "instead of the lettuce you'd normally find, because iceberg lettuce is boring."

"It's actually really good," he said after tasting it. "I taste the banana, but it's crispy on the outside, and the inside's almost molten, so I guess I succeeded in killing the texture that I hate. It tastes like a jibarito to me, despite it being duck and not pork—there's that fattiness and crispiness on the skin, and the aioli makes everything creamy. The chiles come through and add a nice little bit of heat, and the herbs cool it down. I think it's pretty close to what a jibarito should be."

Who's Next:

Stephanie Izard of the Girl and the Goat, cooking with confectioners' sugar. "I know she hates making pastry, so we're going to challenge her to use confectioners' sugar," Steuer said. "I can't think of one application that's savory to do with that. I just hope it's tough for her."   

Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon

Banana Jibarito

Confit Garlic Aioli

2 cloves roasted garlic

2 egg yolks

1 T lemon juice

Sea salt

blend oil

In a food processor, blend garlic, egg yolk and lemon until fluffy. Slowly drizzle in oil until thick and totally emulsified.

Fried Banana

Slice banana lengthwise into quarter-inch-thick slices. Place in freezer until you are able to handle easily, then dredge in flour seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a little cayenne, and fry in 350-degree oil until lightly browned. Drain on a perforated pan or paper towel.

Duck Breast

Season duck with salt and pepper and place in a cold, dry pan, skin side down. Heat on medium low, slowly rendering out the fat until the skin is crispy, about six to eight minutes. Flip duck and finish in a 375-degree oven for two minutes. Remove and allow to rest for several minutes, then slice thinly.

Vegetables

Fresno peppers

Jalapeño peppers

Pickled red onions

Scallions

Tomatoes

Micro-cilantro

Celery leaves

Thinly slice peppers, red onions, scallions, and tomatoes and place in cold water to hold. Pick micro cilantro and celery leaves and set aside.

Plating

Place fried banana on plate and top with slices of duck, folding duck in half for height. Dollop aioli in three or four spots along sides of meat. Garnish with vegetables and sprinkle plate with paprika.

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