Nanna, Nanna, I want some puddin’

Published 12:00am Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Alabama Tourism Department has published brochures at all the welcome centers (and I seem to hit up a lot on my travels) about eating in Alabama and the 100 dishes you should eat before you die. They are interesting, but they have added another dimension to their advertisement by producing some really nice photos called The Art of Alabama Food. There was an exhibit of 36 dishes from Alabama restaurants in the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans last week and my husband and I made an effort to stop by and see it. We also had a sazarac at the Carousel Bar since we were in the right neighborhood!

The food looked good (enough to eat) and advertised some of my favorite chefs such as Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings. The 36 dishes featured in this exhibit represent the authentic array of food available from locally-owned restaurants across the state of Alabama. Some of these dishes you could probably guess would be part of the 36 dishes such as: Baked Grits from the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Fired Chicken from Martin’s in Montgomery, Grouper Oscar from Grille 29 in Huntsville, fried fish and cole slaw from Ezell’s in Bessemer, peach pies from Peach Park in Clanton and banana pudding from Sisters’ in Troy. If you want the complete list just google Alabama Food and the pictures of these 36 dishes will appear.

These exhibits have been in New York and have two more showings in Nashville and Atlanta. Check the web site for dates.

I was lucky enough to eat at Bottega’s in Birmingham last week (it did not get a dish in the 36) but it is still one of my favorite Frank Stitt’s restaurants. There were tornado warnings all around us on that Monday night in Birmingham, but I decided nothing could keep me away from a good meal! It did not disappoint with a wonderful parmesan soufflé as an appetizer and grilled pompano with fresh peas. With a Negroni to start it was a great meal.

The photo from the art exhibit that looked so good was the banana pudding from Sisters’ in Troy. I am sure many of you have eaten there, but I have never had the opportunity. Since Mother’s Day is this Sunday I thought making a banana pudding for your mother would be just the thing or maybe taking her to the restaurant. (Check and see if it is open, of course.) The caption under the photo says: A combination of sweet vanilla custard, sliced bananas and vanilla wafers, banana pudding has long been a Southern dessert standard. Nabisco wafers add the finishing touch on Sisters’ banana pudding, which has been touted as a perfect example of the sweet favorite. I did read where Sisters’ does not use the banana pudding instant mix. Who would want to do that? I found a very nice banana pudding recipe and decided we could not eat it all so took it to where else—coffee hour! It is gone but enjoyed by many.

Old-Fashioned

Banana Pudding

Serves 8

2 cups whole milk

6 eggs

1 ¼ cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of table salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

About 45 vanilla wafers

8 bananas, sliced ¼ inch thick

Heat oven to 350°.

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan to a simmer over medium heat. In a second saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with ¾ cup of the sugar until thick and light. Stir in the flour and salt to make a smooth paste.

Whisk the scalded milk into the egg mixture, blend well and then return the pan to gentle heat. (Make sure the cream is perfectly smooth before letting it boil!) Whisk until boiling. Continue to cook the cream, whisking constantly, until thick and creamy, about two minutes. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Strain the pastry cream into a bowl; set aside.

Place a layer of the vanilla wafers all over the bottom of a medium baking dish. Spread half of the reserved pastry cream on top of the wafers.

Place the bananas evenly over the pastry cream in the baking dish. Top with a second layer of wafers.

Spoon the remaining pastry cream over the wafers, set aside.

In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.

Gradually add the remaining ½ cup sugar, a little at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Spoon the meringue over the pastry cream and spread evenly over the entire surface, sealing well at the edges. Using a spatula make curls and peaks in the meringue.

Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.

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