Here I am, convalescing from back surgery, fast approaching Christmas and figuring what to make for a family gathering that will be both easy to make and special at the same time. In talking with family members I discovered one of my brother in law's favorite dishes is Southern Banana Pudding. That is my task, to reinvent a classic and put a special spin on it. Why not a pie? I will make a crumb crust made from "Nilla Waffers" and melted butter. Instead of sliced bananas I thought back to a raw food presentation I attended where the presenter pureed ripe frozen bananas into a "banana ice cream", a cold base layer for our pie. Next we need the prerequisite vanilla pudding layer with a little toasted coconut for a twist. Let us finish with a nice browned meringue for the perfect ending. Your assignment: Pick a favorite dish from a friend or family and make it something special. Marrey Chistmas!
6 ripe bananas frozen
1 package "Nilla Wafers"
1 stick melted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean
3 Tbsp. Corn Starch
1/3 cup sugar
1Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted sweet coconut
3 egg whites
3 Tbsp. sugar
1. Puree most of the Nilla wafers retaining some for decoration adding 1 stick melted butter to create a crust. Spread mixture in a greased pie pan smoothing into a shell.
2. In a medium saucepan add 1/3 cup sugar with the cornstarch and 1/3 of a cup of the milk and whisk into a paste. Add the remaining milk and cream and heat on medium heat until the mixture thickens. Cut the heat and add the vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and add to the pudding. Cool and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
3. Skin the frozen bananas and puree or put through a juicer to create a banana "ice cream". Spread the banana mixture and sprinkle half of the toasted coconut. Spread the cooled pudding mixture evenly and sprinkle with the rest of the coconut.
4. Whip the egg whites with 3 Tbsp. sugar until stiff peaks form. Arrange the rest of the wafers around the top of the pie and top with the meringue. Brown top with torch or under broiler. Serve immediately.
I was reading "Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook" by Sarabeth Levine and came across her recipe for Hot Cereal Soufflés which started me thinking; why not a southern version made with cheese grits? But why stop there? Here in the south we love pies so why not a soufflé pie? In her version she makes a sweet soufflé with jam on the bottom but I like savory so I added some pancetta for flavor. Maybe I can make a version with a savory Shrimp Etouffé at the bottom for a surprise. My point is that inspiration can springboard from other chef's recipes so read through your old cookbook library leaving your mind open to new possibilities or in this case a new addition to your library.
1 cup stone ground premium white grits
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup diced Veleeta cheese
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 ounces diced pancetta
3 eggs separated
pinch of cream of tarter
1 deep dish pie shell
extra parmesan and finely grated sharp cheddar to sprinkle on top and bottom of pie shell
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add the butter to a large sauce pan and the grits and toast on medium heat for 10 minutes.
2. Add the milk and water to the sauce pan and bring to a boil while stirring with a whisk. Continue cooking until grits soften (about 30 minutes) adding more water if needed.
3. Sauté pancetta in separate skillet until crisp and drain on paper towels while grits soften.
4. Grate and dice the cheeses and add to grits while stirring. You can optionally add extra butter to make creamier grits. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add water to achieve proper consistency and take off heat. Stir in the pancetta into the grits.
5, Sprinkle some cheese into the bottom of the pie crust and bake in oven until the cheese melts. This will help the pie crust stay crisp.
6. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with a tablespoon of milk and whisk into the grits. In a clean bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter until glossy and stiff peaks form. Using a spatula fold one quarter of the egg whites into the grits mixture. Fold the grits mixture gently into the remaining egg whites until mixed. Fill the pie shell with the mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Cook until the pie crust is golden and the filling has risen and browned (20 to 30 minutes). Serve immediately and enjoy.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.