Thursday, July 20, 2006
Banana-bo-bana, Bonana fanna fo...or something like that
Yesterday, I mentioned bringing banana pudding to school, so I thought that might be a good topic for today. In my years of observation, there seem to be two schools of thought in the South on banana pudding: The Cooked and The Uncooked. Each kind has its rabid devotees, and while some of us can cross over the lines, because we'll eat anything with 'Nilla Wafers, the debate rages on.
And, heaven help you if you take a box of Jell-O instant banana-flavored pudding and plunk a few bananas in it along with a few vanilla wafers and present that as "nanner puddin'"...that amounts to treasonous blasphemy, and you will be summarily executed by both camps, and you will be deemed to be unfit and (gasp) a bad cook. And no one will ever ask you to a barbecue again. Ever.
See, banana pudding doesn't really contain a banana-flavored base pudding. It starts with some sort of vanilla-based concoction, to which you add bananas and vanilla wafers. Hence, the undisguised contempt for instant banana-flavored pudding. To me, the cooked variety is sort of "old school," in that most of the ones I have come across were prepared by the proverbial little old ladies. It involves cooking a custard and making meringue and baking/browning the meringue. Way too much work for me...plus it looks really ugly the next day.
My favorite version is the uncooked one developed by the good folks at the Borden Test Kitchen (producers of the delectable and delightful Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk)...at least I assume that's how they did it. I got the recipe from the can label, and it is a bonafide, no-fail, people will love you for-evah if you bring this to the next potluck, kind of dessert. Plus, it is so very easy that anyone can do it...including people who don't normally cook (i.e., can't cook) and are relegated to bringing soft drinks to potluck gatherings.
Creamy Banana Pudding
1 14-oz can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed milk (NOT the evaporated kind)
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 4-serving size package of instant vanilla pudding mix (Jell-O is my preferred brand)
1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream, whipped
1 box of vanilla wafers--I use either 'Nilla Wafers or the Keebler ones
4-6 or even more bananas, sliced (you can toss them in lemon water if you want, but this pudding won't last long enough for them to turn brown)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, water, and the pudding mix; chill for at least 5 minutes. I usually throw it in the fridge while I beat the whipped cream. Fold the whipped cream in to the pudding mix and blend thoroughly. Mixture will be sort of light and fluffy. Line the bottom of a footed trifle bowl with a layer of vanilla wafers. Place some of the sliced bananas on top of the wafers. Spoon in about 1 cup of the pudding mixture. Top that with another layer of wafers, bananas and pudding. Repeat twice. Garnish the top with a layer of vanilla wafers and chill until ready to serve.
You don't have to use a trifle bowl, but it does make a nice presentation, and looking good is always half the battle. And, I always buy the name brand version of the ingredients. Especially the wafers. Nabisco's 'Nilla Wafers are the preferred, and the elves over at that Keebler joint make a pretty good version, too.
Of course the key to this dessert is the Eagle Brand. Whatever you do, don't buy the low-fat version (or the non-fat version of the damned!) of the sweetened condensed milk. This is dessert! It is an indulgence! Eat smaller servings if you must, but don't skimp on the flavor! Besides, it has bananas in it, so it should count as a fruit serving. Take that, USDA food pyramid!
Besides, how many times do you get to legitimately lick the Eagle Brand can? I have to really make myself take a rubber spatula and scrap out the can to get every drop to put in the bowl. I war with myself every time about leaving some in the can to eat, and I've come way too close for comfort to the slicing of my tongue than you really want to know. Sometimes, you just have to lick the damn lid.
Hell yes, I know it's a diabetic coma in a can, but...but...but it's so very yummy. And the voices in my head told me it was okay to lick the lid. Honest. I bet your voices would tell you the same thing.
The fine folks at Eagle Brand have a whole bunch of recipes chock full of the fine and tasty stuff. The Coconut Custard Pie looks worthy of a whirl. And, the Eagle Brand fudge is the easiest fudge in all the land, and is also fantabulous!
The most entertaining thing about the actual can of Eagle Brand is the statement on the label that warns you not to cook the unopened can. Boiling a can of Eagle Brand until it makes a sort of creme caramel is one of those things that I long to do, but am extremely afraid to do...something about exploding cans of hot caramel napalm. There's some alternatives to this method on the Eagle Brand website, but where's the fun in that? Danger Cooking Theater! Maybe the alternative is to sucker a friend into doing it in his or her kitchen. Yeah, that's the ticket!!