Originally created 01/20/99

Banana cream pie gets a twist



PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- When chef Maureen Pothier isn't teaching culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University, she works as a restaurant consultant.

And it was that job for a venerable Boston restaurant that led her to a $1,000 prize in a national recipe contest.

She was helping the restaurant, Anthony's Pier 4, develop a new menu. "I was asked to create a new dessert that could be served any time of the year at the restaurant," Ms. Pothier said.

"My husband, Paul, suggested a banana cream pie. I played around with various recipes and finally came up with a coconut-rum-banana cream pie with a citrus meringue that looked like confetti."

That was a year ago. In the meantime, Ms. Pothier, who specialized in seafood, entered a shrimp dish in the Bacardi Recipe Classic, a contest for professional chefs.

"And since I already had this banana cream pie recipe perfected," she said, "I entered the dessert competition ....

"When I got the call telling me I was a finalist in the contest, I assumed it was because of my shrimp recipe. I was shocked to learn it was for my cream pie."

Ms. Pothier and nine other chefs from across the nation made it to the finals. They all had two hours to create their entries for the judges.

"I have been a judge in culinary competitions, but I had never entered a contest in my life," Ms. Pothier said. "What a difference it is to be sitting on the other side of the table."

When all the measuring and mixing, blending and baking was done, Ms. Pothier went home with $1,000 as runner-up.

Coconut-Rum-Banana Cream Pie with Citrus Meringue

Crust:

1 3/4 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening

Ice water, as needed

Preheat oven to 425.

Place sifted flour, salt, butter and shortening into a food processor and pulse until a sandy texture forms. This does not take long; be careful not to over-mix. You should still have pea-sized pieces of butter in the dough.

Remove contents of processor onto a cool surface (a marble slab works best) and form a well in the center. Put 2 tablespoons of very cold water in the well and gently fluff the flour mixture with finger tips to incorporate the water. Work quickly so the butter doesn't get too warm. The dough should not need more than 3 tablespoons of water; if it is too wet, it will not be flaky. The dough should form a ball when a handful is gently pressed together.

Using only the heel of your hand, flatten the dough by pushing it away from you a bit at a time. You will see the butter flattening. Gently gather the dough together again and repeat the flattening process until you have a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

When ready to use, roll out the dough and line a 9-inch pie plate. Cover the dough with foil and pie weights (dried beans work fine) and pre-bake, about 12 minutes at 425 F. When set, remove foil and weights, lower oven to 350 degrees and brown lightly, about 8 minutes. Cool.

Pastry cream

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1/4 cup sifted flour

2 cups scalded milk

1 package unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup rum

23 cup shredded sweetened coconut, plus 3 tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a non-corrosive saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt and flour; mix to incorporate. Slowly whisk in the scalded milk. Set over medium heat and whisk until mixture comes to a boil and thickens; use a rubber spatula periodically to clean the edges of the pan that you can't reach with the whisk. Allow the cream to boil for a minute or two, whisking constantly. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the rum and allow to dissolve. Place over hot water to melt. Add the melted gelatin-rum mixture, 23 cup coconut and vanilla to the pastry cream. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Cool.

Bananas

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon rum

2 small bananas, sliced (about 10 ounces)

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add the sugar and rum and stir until the mixture is lightly caramelized. Remove from heat. Toss the bananas in the caramelized sugar briefly and remove. Set the bananas aside to cool.

Citrus Meringue

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

6 egg whites

1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 package unflavored gelatin

Pinch salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice in a non-corrosive saucepan; set aside.

Place the egg whites (best at cool room temperature) in a clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer equipped with a whip; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon water with 3 tablespoons lemon juice; sprinkle the gelatin over the liquid and allow to dissolve. When dissolved, melt over hot water. Keep the mixture warm so it doesn't gel before needed.

Whip the egg whites in the mixer at medium-high speed. When they start to gain some volume, add pinch of salt and very slowly add the 1/4 cup sugar. Whip to firm peaks.

Cook the sugar syrup on medium-high heat to 250 degrees (a bit firmer than soft ball stage). Put mixer on low speed and slowly add the syrup to the egg white mixture, then whip until stiff peaks form again. Mix in the melted gelatin. Fold in grated citrus zest by hand.

To assemble pie: Place caramelized bananas in pie shell. Spread the pastry cream over the bananas. Spread the meringue over the pastry cream, piling it up to use all of it. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons coconut over the top. Bake at 400 degrees until meringue is browned. Chill completely (at least 6 hours) before serving. Use a hot, dry knife to cut it.

Makes 10 servings.