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Chef's Hat: Sometimes life just needs the flavor of rum

Even if you don't partake in alcoholic beverages, you'll find having a bottle of rum in the kitchen cupboard comes in quite handy. Rum adds a flavorful addition to many recipes.

Just remember it has to be the "real" thing. There is no cooking rum or substitute that works as well as the real stuff.

If you are concerned your guests or family will get a bit tipsy after eating a rum-infused dish, put your worries to rest. When you cook with alcohol, the heat evaporates the majority of the alcohol. To add the most flavor to a recipe, use a dark rum or spiced rum. Light rum will also work, but it is less flavorful. The light version won't add a strong rum flavor and it won't overpower the dish - unless you add too much!

Bananas Foster is a tried-and-true dessert that originated in New Orleans more than 50 years ago and is still popular today. This dessert can be made without liquor, but it is the rum that gives this dessert its rich and luxurious taste.

Bananas Foster is typically served over ice cream, but you don't have to stop there. It goes well over pancakes, French Toast, pound cake and even over fresh fruit like strawberries.

The Pina Colada Chicken Breasts is a recipe I originally found in "Tortuga Rum Fever and Caribbean Party Cookbook." This recipe, like most in the cookbook, has that Caribbean sweet, but hint of spice, flavor. Despite being marinated and baked in rum, this dish has only the slight hint of alcohol.

The only caution about this dish: If you marinate the chicken in a plastic container, the container will smell of rum until rinsed out with vinegar. To save yourself time and cleanup, marinate the chicken in a resealable plastic bag.

Enjoy a bit of New Orleans and the Caribbean with these rum recipes. Remember to always use real rum to get the best flavor in your dish - rum extract just won't do. Enjoy and Happy Eating!

Bananas Foster

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 ripe bananas, need to be ripe, but still slightly firm (cut in half lengthwise and then cut in half again)
  • ¼ cup rum (use a dark or spiced rum)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla ice cream (for serving)

Place a large skillet on the stove. Turn the stove on to medium heat, place the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in the pan and mix well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the banana slices and cook, turning once, until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Don't overcook or the bananas will get mushy.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the rum and vanilla. Turn off the burner, then add the rum mixture to the banana mixture.

Using a long match or lighter, light the alcohol by placing the flame on the outer edge of the pan. Make sure to stand as far back from the pan as possible and keep your face and hands away from the pan. The flame will go out in 5 to 10 seconds.

Holding the pan handle with an oven mitt or pot holders, gently shake the pan from side to side to coat the bananas with the sauce.

Scoop vanilla ice cream into individual bowls. Spoon the banana mixture over the top. Serve immediately. This dish is best if used right after away. Leftovers can be refrigerated, but you'll lose some of the flavor.

Caramel Rum Dip

Adapted from delish.com

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces of caramels
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans (if desired, these can be left out)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • Cut up fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, bananas) and/or pretzels or cut up cake (unfrosted)

Melt the butter and caramels in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramels are melted, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Stir in pecans, milk and rum; mix vigorously to incorporate. Serve warm with fruit, pretzels or cake for dipping.

Pina Colada Chicken Breasts

  • ½ cup dark rum
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup cream of coconut
  • ½ cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup diced green pepper
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut into bite sized pieces

Place the chicken breasts in a resealable container or plastic bag. Pour the rum over the chicken breasts. Turn chicken so chicken is evenly coated. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Pour the marinade in a small bowl or measuring cup and save.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish or pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Liberally sprinkle the spices over the chicken breasts.

Place the butter in a medium-sized skillet. Melt over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side, just until the chicken is browned. Remove and place in prepared baking pan.

Scrap the bottom of the skillet and remove any browned or scorched bits, but leave any liquid in the pan. Add the vegetables (squash, green pepper and onion) and cook 3 to 4 minutes, just until slightly soft and tender.

Add the coconut cream, rum, lime or lemon juice and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Add the pineapple chunks and mix well. Pour over the chicken. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the chicken is fork tender.

If desired, serve over rice.

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