Family Sunday dinner was off this week because Carol, her husband, and their daughter had an important school event. Susan and I spent the evening with our grandson, so I decided to fix one of his favorite meals, shrimp and grits. That Southern classic clearly needed a traditional Southern dessert to go with it. I thought about banana pudding ringed with vanilla wafers. What Southern cafeteria or Southern school lunchroom doesn’t have their own version? That led me to cream pie – in particular, banana cream pie – and as I was free-associating, bananas Foster. I know that shrimp and grits is very much part of the Low Country of South Carolina and Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina while bananas Foster is quintessential New Orleans and Brennan’s. Cream pie is more or less middle ground and definitely Southern, but traditional banana cream pie dressed up a bit with the flavors of bananas Foster might be tasty. This is my spin.
The topping is Swiss meringue, but you could top it with whipped cream. You could even set it ablaze with some added heated brandy like a baked Alaska. Then you would wind up with an even more authentic bananas Foster.
Bananas Foster Cream Pie
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups milk
- 5 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons banana liqueur
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 9-inch baked pie shell in a pie pan
- 2 bananas
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir to combine evenly. Gradually whisk in milk to form a smooth mixture. Whisk in the egg yolks until they are completely incorporated.
- Place the pan over medium-low heat and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir for several minutes until the mixture is thickened and smooth.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon, banana liqueur and rum.
- Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes while you prepare the bananas.
- Peel the bananas and cut into ¼-inch slices, spreading the slices across the bottom of the baked pie shell.
- Pour the cooled filling over the banana slices. Chill the pie while you prepare meringue.
- 5 egg whites
- 8 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a bowl that can be set over – not in – a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the water bath and beat with an electric mixer at high speed for 5 minutes or until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
- Remove the pie from the refrigerator. Spread the meringue over the pie being careful to completely cover the filling.
- Place the pie with topping under a preheated broiler for only a moment or two until the meringue is lightly browned. At this point it is very easy to burn unless you are paying constant attention.
- Remove the pie from under the broiler. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
For Christmas dinner, Carol made two of her family’s favorites: shrimp and grits, and pear and bleu cheese salad. She also made pots de creme in some antique pots from her great aunt. It was a delicious dinner without the turkey, but with plenty of calories.
This post, though, is about the shrimp and grits. Carol and her husband met during their graduate studies in North Carolina. Coming from Louisiana, Carol was used to southern cooking, but her future husband had grown up in New Jersey and had gone to school in the Midwest, so southern cooking had to become an acquired taste. He adapted soon enough.
A favorite haunt for the two of them was Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. There, the menu includes pulled pork and North Carolina-style barbecue. But the place has gained its international fame from its version of shrimp and grits. Part of the uniqueness of Crook’s Corner shrimp and grits is that they stone grind their own grits. In fact, Carol still orders her grits from there instead of buying inferior brands at the store. And by inferior, I do mean inferior. Properly cooked grits require at least a half hour of cooking, and old-timey grits are for the most part not to be had. The grocery shelves, even in southern cities, have been filled with “quick” grits and, worse, “instant” grits. Instant grits are in the same category as instant mashed potatoes and instant rice. If that’s all you’ve ever eaten, it’s no wonder that you don’t like them.
Carol’s recipe comes from the Crook’s Corner cookbook, so it clearly is made with Crook’s Corner grits. If all else fails, you can get your grits from there, too.
Grits starting to cook
Grated Cheddar cheese
Garlic and lemon zest
Shrimp and mushrooms starting to cook
Shrimp and grits
Pear and bleu cheese salad
Carol’s Crook’s Corner Shrimp and Grits
- 2 pounds fresh, uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces bacon
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
- Rinse the deveined shrimp in running water, and chill until ready to cook
- Bring the water and slat to a rolling bol in a deep sauce pan. Let the grits trickle through your fingers into the boiling water slowly while stirring constantly. The water will boil up and overflow unless you stir constantly, and remove from the heat as needed. When the grits have been completely added to the water, stir to remove any lumps, lower the temperature to a low simmer, and cover. Cook for at least 45 minutes. An hour is better. Stir occasionally.
- When the grits are cooked, stir in the cheese and keep warm until ready to serve.
- In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the bacon into 1 inch squares and add to the hot skillet. Stir frequently until crisp but not burned.
- Add the shrimp to the bacon and rendered bacon fat, stirring occasionally.
- When the shrimp begin to turn pink, add the garlic and sliced mushrooms. Stir occasionally until the shrimp are pink and the mushrooms are cooked.
- Serve the grits in individual soup bowls topped with the shrimp mixture and garnished with lemon zest and parsley. Pass hot sauce for those who like their shrimp and grits spicy. Seve with crusty French bread and the pear and bleu cheese salad.