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    REALLY GOOD BANANA PUDDING
    from "Seasoned in the South" by Bill Smith and Lee Smith

    Banana pudding has been around forever, and most people use the recipe on the box of vanilla wafers, but for some reason I can never quite ignore the taste of raw flour in the custard, and I've always disliked it. But people love this. The custard absorbs the flavor of the bananas and properly sogs out the cookies. Magically, the cornstarch keeps the bananas from blackening.

    I cook the meringue separately so I can cool the pudding quickly, but at home you may brown it on top in the traditional manner.

    Serves 10 plus
    INGREDIENTS (CLICK TO BUY)

    4 cups half-and-half
    1 vanilla bean
    6 tablespoons cornstarch
    4 large eggs
    1 cup sugar
    8 tablespoons (1 stick), unsalted butter
    1 box natural vanilla wafers
    2 1/2 pounds ripe bananas
    Meringue (recipe follows)

    MERINGUE
    2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup egg whites (from about 8 large eggs)
    1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
    1 cup sugar

    Print recipe
    PREPARATION

    Scald 3 cups of the half-and-half with the split vanilla bean in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it just steams and begins to form a skin, about 5 minutes. Do not boil.
    Meanwhile, beat the cornstarch into the remaining cup of half-and-half to dissolve it. Then beat in the eggs.
    Whisk the hot half-and-half into the egg mixture in a slow stream. Strain all of this back into the heavy-bottomed pot, returning the vanilla bean.
    Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. In 3 to 5 minutes, the custard will begin to thicken and tug at the whisk. Continue to stir for a few minutes more, being sure to move the whisk over the entire bottom of the pot. When the surface begins to steam a little, gradually stir in the sugar. Be careful, because this will make the custard more likely to burn on the bottom.
    Remove from the heat and beat in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir constantly so that the butter is absorbed before it separates. This will temporarily thin the custard. Discard the vanilla bean.
    Pour a cup of the hot custard into a 9-inch glass deep pie pan or casserole. Line the bottom and sides with vanilla wafers. (Do not use artificially flavored wafers.) Slice the bananas over the cookies, then layer any remaining wafers over the bananas. Gently fill the pan or casserole with the rest of the custard.
    Meringue (Makes enough for 1 pudding)
    While the pudding is settling, prepare the meringue. Put the vinegar and salt in a mixing bowl. Swirl the bowl around and dump it out over the sink. The vinegar and salt that cling to the bowl will be the right amount.
    Add the egg whites and begin beating with a mixer at medium speed. Add the cream of tartar. Increase the mixer speed a bit and drizzle in 1/4 cup of the sugar. When the sugar is absorbed, increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form.
    Spread the meringue over the top of the pudding with a spatula, making lots of dramatic swirls and curlicues. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar evenly over the top.
    Bake for 30 minutes at 300°, checking from time to time for browning. When it begins to color, turn up the heat to 325° and cook for 10 minutes more or until the points are toasty.
    Serve hot, warm or cold. Can be served at once or day-old.


    Product nutrition and information
     Quantity Ingredients Est.Price
      Organic Valley Half & Half - $4.49/ea
     1 quart
     
      Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans - $9.99/ea
     2 beans
     
      Nabisco Nilla Wafers - $4.99/ea
     11oz
     
      Yellow Bananas - $0.88/lb
     Farm Fresh
     
      Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar - $2.89/ea
     32oz
     
      FreshDirect Cream of Tartar - $3.99/ea
     3.75oz
     
    You May Already Have
      Argo Corn Starch - $1.99/ea
     16oz
     
      Nature's Yoke Natural Cage-Free Large White Eggs - $3.69/ea
     1 dozen
     
      Domino Granulated White Sugar - $2.49/ea
     2lb box
     
      Breakstone's All-Natural Unsalted Butter - $2.49/ea Save! 2 for $4.00
     2 sticks  
     
      Morton's Regular Salt - $0.99/ea
     26oz
     
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