Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Banana Pudding

We have this poster in our "water closet" right now; I'm not sure why. But it's a great reminder of the 10 years we spent in the South. This poster contains a lot of what we loved about the South: the quirky culture and humor (Southern Culture on the Skids has to be seen to be believed), the folk art (Dad got us this poster at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, a reason for an annual pilgrimage to Tuscaloosa), and the food. My favorite Southern culinary invention: the vegetable plate. You get to choose four or five "vegetables", which might include macaroni and cheese, cottage cheese, or cobbler. Or banana pudding. (My favorite vegetable plate, for the record: collard greens, pinto beans, squash casserole, cobbler, cornbread. Mmmm...)

So I felt a bit nervous about recreating this Southern classic in my French kitchen. No worries, though--it's really just a kind of trifle, with vanilla wafers instead of cake.

About those vanilla wafers--strangely enough, they're not available here. So I used Petit Beurre biscuits, and they were perfect--they have that nice bland flavor and are sturdy enough to stand up to the pudding and bananas.

There are lots of variations on banana pudding: a lot involve Jell-o pudding and Cool Whip. That's another side of the South. Some involve meringue on top.

This one was simple: cookies, bananas, homemade pudding. No topping, whether whipped cream or meringue. Although the pudding took a while to come to temperature and all, it was really easy: I'm pretty sure I had this made within half an hour or so.

It's day old and bold, baby! We found that after a day, the bananas do indeed get "extra funky", so this is something you should make in the morning and consume all of in the evening. Or the next morning.

Here's the recipe. Enjoy a taste of the South!

Banana Pudding

1/3 c. (1.3 oz.) cornstarch
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/4 t. salt
4 c. (I used a 1-liter bottle) whole milk
2 large eggs
2 T. (1 oz.) butter, cut into small pieces
1 t. vanilla
8 oz. vanilla wafers (you know, the yellow box) or a 200 g. package Petit Beurre
4 bananas, not too ripe

Get out a casserole or other serving dish that is fairly flat and shallow and holds at least 8 cups. Put a layer of about a third of the vanilla wafers on the bottom.
Now it's time to make the pudding. In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt; slowly whisk in the milk to avoid lumps. Put the pan over medium-low heat and bring to a boil, stirring just about constantly. This will take quite a while. While the milk mixture is heating, break the eggs into a bowl or glass measuring cup; whisk until well mixed. When the milk mixture has finally come to a boil, slowly and carefully pour about half of it into the beaten eggs, whisking all along (it's often good to have a helper when you're doing this). Then pour the egg mixture back into the milk in the pan and whisk that well. Put back over the heat and cook for 2 more minutes. The mixture will be quite thick. Off the heat, stir in the butter; when that is melted, stir in the vanilla. If you are worried about egg lumps, strain the pudding back into the bowl (washed or well scraped out) you mixed the eggs in.
Don't wait too long now: slice 2 of the bananas and spread them over the cookies. Pour half of the pudding over the bananas. Then repeat with cookies, bananas, pudding, and more cookies.
Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap, pressed down on any exposed pudding if you don't like pudding skin. Let cool on your (cold) balcony or in your refrigerator for 4-6 hours and try to serve the same day. Easy on the teeth and gums!

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