Valerie Hill makes sure to use very ripe bananas for this version of an old Southern favorite served at Johnny's Half Shell on Capitol Hill. The pastry cream needs several hours to set.
- For the crust
- 2 cups (about 43 wafers) finely crushed vanilla wafers
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- For the pastry cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 stick (1 ounce) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the meringue
- 5 large egg whites
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 small bananas
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready an ungreased 9-inch pie pan.
For the crust: Combine the crushed vanilla wafers, sugar and melted butter, and press into the pie pan. Bake for 7 for 8 minutes until golden brown. Place on a rack to cool completely.
For the pastry cream: In a large bowl, combine the sugar, salt and cornstarch. Add the egg yolks and whisk for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is lemon-colored and somewhat thickened.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until small bubbles begin to form around the sides. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk 3 to 4 tablespoons of the warm milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Whisk the tempered yolks back into the saucepan of milk. Return the pan to medium heat and continue whisking until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to boil. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and fold in the butter and vanilla extract. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the pastry cream and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until it has completely chilled.
For the meringue: Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pan of barely bubbling water (the bowl should not touch the water) and whisk for 2 minutes, until the mixture is frothy and warm to the touch. Place the bowl on the mixer stand and beat at high speed until the meringue forms and holds a satiny peak.
When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the bananas into 1/4-inch slices and gently fold them into the pastry cream. Pour the pastry cream into the prepared pie shell, slightly mounding it in the center. Spread the meringue on the pie, making sure that the outside edge of the pie is sealed by meringue (with no crust exposed). Use a spatula to swirl the meringue into gentle peaks. Bake for 10 minutes until the meringue is golden brown. Serve immediately.
Adapted from pastry chef Valerie Hill at Johnny's Half Shell (400 North Capitol St. NW; 202-737-0400).
Tested by Candy Sagon.
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